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More details on South Africa’s new visa rules revealed

More details on South Africa’s new visa rules revealed
20 September 2018 – Bus Tech
South Africa’s cabinet decided to loosen visa rules and scrap a controversial travel requirement for children as it seeks to attract more investment and tourists, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The measures are among a series of initiatives to be announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday as he intensifies efforts to revive economic growth, said the people who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public yet.
Africa’s most-industrialised economy entered its first recession since 2009 in the second quarter.
South Africa is particularly targeting travellers from China and India, two of the world’s fastest-growing outbound tourism markets, News24 reported in July, citing Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom. China accounted for 130 million travellers globally, with India forecast for have 50 million people traveling abroad by 2020, it said.
The number of visitors to South Africa from outside the continent declined 1.5% year-on-year in the first seven months of this year, according to Statistics South Africa data.
The government will ease work-permit requirements for scarce skills and simplify the process for business and leisure travellers to obtain short-term entry documents, the people said. Multiple-entry visas and electronic-visa applications will also be introduced, they said.
A requirement that traveling children be accompanied by one natural parent and that they have a full birth certificate stating the names of both parents is being scrapped. The measures, introduced in 2014 to reduce child trafficking, led to a drop in the number of visitors to South Africa.

Mauritius tourist arrivals show 9.3% growth

Mauritius tourist arrivals show 9.3% growth
19 September 2018 – Tourism Update

International arrivals to Mauritius showed steady growth in August 2018, with China up 10.7% for the month.
The number of foreign visitors to Mauritius rose by 9.3% year-on-year to 109 471 in August 2018, compared with 100 191 for the same period in 2017, with notable growth from key source markets.
The largest increase in recorded arrivals for August 2018 compared with the same period the previous year were: India, up 18.2% with 6 714 visitors (5 681 previously); China, up 10.7% with 10 371 visitors (up from 8 619); Germany rose 10.5% with 8 010 visitors (up from 7 250); South Africa rose 20.3% with 10 371 visitors (up from 8 619); and the UK up 0.2% with 14 088 visitors (14 061 previously).
However, for the same period, the US was down 17.2% with 647 visitors compared with 781 previously; Spain down 1.3% with 2861 visitors (down from 2 899); and France, down 0.7%, with 19 003 visitors (19 138 previously).

The number of foreign visitors to Mauritius grew by 4% for the first eight months of the year.

Rule changes for travelling minors to SA planned ahead of busy December holiday season

Rule changes for travelling minors to SA planned ahead of busy December holiday season
2018-09-20 12:25 – News 24
and waivers will soon be announced – including changes to requirements for travelling minors in SA – to be officially gazetted in October.
Cabinet received a joint report from the Ministers of Home Affairs and Tourism – Malusi Gigaba and Derek Hanekom – which laid out many visa-related reforms that will make it easier for tourists, business people and academia to visit South Africa.
The biggest issue is the hoops foreign tourists have to jump through when travelling with minors and obtaining unabridged birth certificates, and changes to this regulation will also be included in the reforms, the state has confirmed.
There are also negotiations on visa waivers and relaxation of visa requirements from certain countries which are being finalised, and further details will be announced later this week.
This is expected to include China and India, as part of high-level agreements between the countries and South Africa that was announced in July during the BRICS summit.
According to the latest StatsSA figures for May 2018, compared to May 2017, Indian tourist arrivals to South Africa was down 12%, while China was up by 5%.
While the details of the Chinese visa agreement is not confirmed, Hanekom did mention that one of the options being considered was a “multiple entry Visa” that would be valid for five years and offer tourists up to 90 days in the country.
South Africa is also rolling out e-visas soon, set to be a gradual roll-out starting with “Phase 1, Release 1, for applications for temporary residence visas, adjudication of temporary residence visas, applications for waivers, notifications to the applicant via email and biometrics captured at the Mission.”
The ePermit will be piloted at one Mission or local office in the last quarter of the next financial year by 31 March 2019. This is to ensure system stability. Once stable, more offices locally and abroad can then be gradually brought online, says the DHA
This is sure to make travel to South Africa much simpler and less complicated once it is up and running.

Decline continues for SA arrivals

18 September 2018 – Tourism Update
Statistics SA has released the final numbers for South Africa’s July tourist arrivals. Overall, 2018 thus far is fairing slightly below 2017, with overall arrivals dropping by 2%.
Continuing from June’s poor performance, the European market has also shown a decline, delivering 876 884 arrivals so far in 2018, 2% down from last year. Arrivals from key markets are consistent with the overall year trend, generally showing declines across the board:
1. UK (246 063), down 5%
2. USA (218 277), up 1%
3. Germany (176 740), down 1%
4. France (101 936), down 3%
5. The Netherlands (77 198), down 7%
6. Australia (63 130), no change
7. India (57 219), down 3%
8. China (55 058), down 2%
9. Brazil (40 120), up 4%
10. Canada (36 570), no change
Despite the overall decline, certain source markets have shown growth in 2018. Belgium has grown by 6%, meaning 30 644 visitors this year. Italy and Austria are also reflecting growth of 3% and 2%, respectively. Visitor numbers from Japan have also shown small growth of 1%, translating to 14 658 visitors in 2018.
Notably, the South American market continues to grow, seeing a 7% increase this year, translating to 4 487 more visitors in 2018 than in 2017. Brazil has grown 4%, while Argentina has risen 28% to 12 996 visitors this year to date.
In a recent examination of the market, Tourism Update asked industry leaders to reflect on the markets as they stand. Overall, the feeling was positive but realistic, with many people pointing towards visa issues and the Cape Town water crisis as reasons for the decline. Special Advisor to the Department of Tourism, Gillian Saunders also noted: “Canned hunting and international feelings towards hunting are also starting to affect our reputation. Safety and security continue to be a concern, particularly service delivery protests. News of land grabs and the land question have also affected us, but we are drafting messaging around that to help reassure the trade.” Saunders also notes that often changes happen very quickly, and that the country is slow to react, particularly with regards to adjusting marketing tactics.
However, both SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona and Saunders told Tourism Update that bookings for 2019 are already reflecting an uptick in numbers, and are expected to grow more as news of stable water levels in the Western Cape spreads.
South Africa’s largest market overall continues to be SADC countries, with Zimbabwe topping the pile.
The top five SADC source markets are:
1. Zimbabwe (1 266 681), up 1%
2. Lesotho (1 093 341), up 1%
3. Mozambique (800 688), up 3%
4. Swaziland (494 318), no change
5. Botswana (363 240), up 2%
OR Tambo International Airport remains the key port of entry for foreign visitors, with 224 549 travellers arriving in Johannesburg. Cape Town International Airport saw 51 780 arrivals while King Shaka International Airport in Durban saw 5 018 arrivals. According to the report, 1 016 506 people arrived by road and 3 367 arrived by sea.
The country remains predominantly a leisure destination with 96% of visitors coming to South Africa on holiday, 3% on business travel and 1% arriving to study for the month of July.

Visa changes, new laws, and the other major announcements you need to know about

20 September 2018 – Biz tech

South Africa’s Cabinet met on Wednesday (19 September 2018) at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to discuss the state of South Africa.
In a follow-up statement published on Thursday, cabinet outlined its discussions and made a number of major proclamations on everything from the economy to new BEE laws.
BusinessTech looked at the biggest announcements below.
Stimulus package
Cabinet deliberated and approved the proposed stimulus package which proposes measures to reignite our economy from a number of related portfolios.
It confirmed that a media briefing led by President Cyril Ramaphosa will be held on Friday (21 September) to present this package.
The economic stimulus package adopted by the nation’s cabinet is aimed at boosting economic activity and confidence in sectors affected by regulatory uncertainty, president Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said on Sunday.
“The stimulus package will include a set of economic reforms covering mining, telecommunications, tourism and transport industries” the presidency said.
“The stimulus package will re-prioritise government spending, within the existing fiscal framework, toward activities that will stimulate economic activity.”
Visa related reforms
Cabinet also received a joint report from the Ministers of Home Affairs and Tourism respectively, on a number of visa-related reforms which will make it easier for tourists, business people and academia to come to South Africa.
The reforms include amendments to the regulations applying to foreign minors travelling to South Africa, which is expected to be gazetted in October.
Negotiations on visa waivers and relaxation of visa requirements for certain countries are also being finalised. Further details will be announced this week.
In line with President Ramaphosa’s call for a moratorium on job cuts resulting from the economic conditions in the country, Cabinet reiterates its appeal to employers that retrenchments must be a last resort, and that other available and innovative ways to contain costs be thoroughly explored to sustain jobs.
Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo has previously refuted media reports that government plans to retrench 30,000 public servants to cut costs.
New legislation
Cabinet approved the following bills for publication for public comment:
• Employment Equity Amendment Bill of 2017 – The amendments seek to strengthen the compliance mechanisms and will allow for the setting up of employment equity sector-specific numerical targets. The Minister of Labour, in consultation with the sector’s stakeholders, will be able to set employment equity sector-specific numerical targets.
• Financial Sector Laws Amendment Bill – The amendments seek to strengthen the curatorship provisions for banks, including mutual and cooperative banks, and certain non-banks. The changes will ensure that should these financial institutions experience difficulties, they can be assisted in a way that protects vulnerable depositors with minimal disruptions to the financial system and broader economy.

#GuptaLeaks: How Sahara handed SA jobs to foreigners

2018-09-20 – News24
Gupta agents Ashu Chawla and Naresh Khosla fraudulently orchestrated South African work permits for Indian nationals by falsifying and backdating the Indian employment contracts on which these permits hinge.
This administrative sleight of hand allowed the Guptas to import and employ foreign labour at the expense of local jobseekers, and conveniently sidestepped the onerous legal red tape meant to protect South African workers from being overlooked in favour of foreign employees.
Chawla was a key Gupta lieutenant and director of the now-bust Sahara Computers (Pty) Ltd (Sahara Computers), as well as its counterpart in India, Sahara Computer and Electronics Limited (SCEL).
Khosla was Chawla’s co-director at SES Technologies, another Indian company belonging to the Guptas. The #GuptaLeaks show how the pair abused their positions as directors to sign off on the dodgy contracts.
Home Affairs
As Parliament’s home affairs committee last week heard officials explain the intricacies of the Gupta family’s dubious early naturalisation, it also emerged that scores of their non-South African employees were working locally using “intra-company transfer visas”.
Department of Home Affairs director general of immigration Jackson McKay told committee members in his written answers that none of the foreign employees employed by ANN7, or any other Gupta company, were working in South Africa using visitor or tourist visas.
Instead, these Indian nationals were issued with “intra-company transfer” permits. McKay told the committee that an earlier raid on the Gupta-owned television station found 31 Indian nationals working for ANN7 under such permits. A further nine were in South Africa using visitor’s permits, but only to attend meetings.
This means at least 40 foreign employees were working at ANN7 alone.
In March this year, former ANN7 editor and Gupta-employee-turned-whistleblower Rajesh Sundaram published his book, Indentured: Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV. In it, he tells of his turbulent months working for the Gupta family as they tried to get the fledgling television news station off the ground. He also directly implicates Chawla in circumventing visa requirements.
“I had heard his (Chawla’s) name mentioned for the first time when I was asked to apply for my temporary residence permit under the intra-company transfer process before I left India for South Africa,” Sundaram wrote.
Sundaram tells of how an Indian executive of one of the main shareholders of Infinity Media, ANN7’s holding company, lamented the difficulties in obtaining a work visa for foreigners in South Africa.
“It can take months to get a South African work permit. It is a cumbersome process. We have to advertise the position in South African newspapers and then wait for six months, after which we provide evidence that we have not found a suitable local candidate. Only then can we start the process of getting a work permit. Even so, if there is an official who does not agree, the request for a work permit can still be rejected.”
But they had a plan.
“But Ashu-ji (Chawla) is a genius, and he has found a way around it. We will show the visas of people going to work in South Africa as intra-company transfer. Just fill in the visa form, get police and medical clearance and get back to my office. My office will issue papers certifying that you are an employee of Essel Media being transferred to South Africa.”
Later in the book, Sundaram asked the same Indian executive a question that hinted at how the operation worked:
“But all the people I have recruited to be the core team to launch ANN7 have got contracts from Infinity Media [in South Africa] and not Essel Media [in India]. They have never worked for Essel Media. I hope this is not illegal?”
Legal hoops
The Immigration Act, 2002, and its regulations require a South African business seeking to employ a foreign national to first jump through a plethora of legal hoops before the foreign employee can take up work in a local business.
Björn van Niekerk, operations director for Intergate Immigration, told News24 that a local employer needs to consider South African applicants for the position first.
“An employer intending to employ a foreigner is required to confirm that that they have first made a reasonable effort to find, interview and consider South African applicants for the position that is required to be filled. The employer must confirm that:
• they have conducted a diligent search for a suitable South African candidate;
• they were unable to find a suitable South African with the relevant skills, experience, etc.
The lengths to which the employer went to advertise the position nationally, how many South Africans were interviewed, and why the South African candidates interviewed were not considered would all be taken into account.
“These efforts are assessed by the Department of Labour which will offer a recommendation based on whether they consider the need for a foreigner to be employed, over any potential South African, to be justified. The applicant also needs to have their qualifications assessed and evaluated by SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority).”
These requirements are meant to protect South African jobseekers, and to prevent employers from simply shipping in cheap labour from overseas to do jobs local citizens can perform.
But the Gupta family found a way to circumvent these requirements.
Intra-company transfers
By claiming that the applications were for “inter-company transfer visas” instead of “general work visas”, Chawla and his Sahara Computers only needed to show that these employees had been in the service of one of their Indian sister companies for a period of at least six months.
They did this by falsifying and backdating the Indian employment contracts struck with these workers.
The fraud was trivialised because Chawla was also the director of the Indian companies creating the forged records, as well as the South African Sahara Computers that employed them locally. The same occurred between Essel Media and Infinity Media, where the directors of the two companies arranged employment contracts for ANN7 staff from India.
Karan Singh
The documents and emails contained in the #GuptaLeaks shed some light on the logistics of the scheme. Between October 15 and December 15, 2014, 22-year old Karan Singh visited South Africa from his home country of India on the invitation of Sahara Computers and Chawla. He was later joined by his parents and sister: Sunil, Sunita and Vidushi Yadav were also invited by Sahara Computers on tourist visas from December 4 to 10, 2014.
The invitation letter to Singh’s parents claimed that Singh was an intern at Sahara Computers. This is despite a tourist visa prohibiting a foreigner from being employed in the country while issued with such a visa.

During his time in South Africa, Singh also met with Jitendra Tiwari, the human resources professional for Sahara Computers. Tiwari was responsible for the majority of the employment agreements between the foreign employees and Sahara, and the #GuptaLeaks show he was involved with most of the visa applications contained therein. Flight bookings contained in the #GuptaLeaks show that Tiwari accompanied Singh and his family on a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town and back between December 8 and 10, 2014.
On December 16, 2014, the day after their return to India, Chawla forwarded Singh’s passport to Tiwari, who responded with a draft employment contract between Singh and South African Sahara Computers, appointing him as a “project manager” from January 12, 2015.
Shortly afterwards, Chawla sent an email to Khosla, a fellow director at SES Technologies in India, containing the passport of Singh.
“Please send me an appointment letter in SES for about eight months before as a project manager and I am doing inter-company transfer for him (sic).”

Khosla responded within hours, attaching a backdated appointment letter stating that Singh was appointed as a project manager at SES Technologies. SES Technologies is an Indian company of which Chawla and Khosla were co-directors.
Although the letter was backdated to May 16, 2014, the pair made a mistake. Singh’s commencement date with SES Technologies would only be on July 21, 2014, an error that was picked up on by the South African consulate. They refused Singh his visa on the basis that he had not been employed with SES Technologies for long enough, and on January 11, 2015, Singh wrote to Chawla:
“I will submit [my visa application] tomorrow. They had rejected the application before because the letter [you] had send earlier had date of joining as 21 July 2014, so [they rejected] it as it was not completing 6 months. Will submit it again tomorrow attaching the letter u had again sent me showing 21 May 2014 as the joining date for 6 months in India. Hope the embassy will not complain for the change in date (sic).”

The consulate didn’t complain, and Singh obtained his visa. He landed at OR Tambo International Airport on February 8, 2015. Two days later – on February 10, 2015 – Singh sent Chawla an email containing a scan of his passport and work permit, proudly displaying the words “intra-company transfer permit”.
Esheetaa Gupta
A second example originated late in March of 2014. Chawla received an email from Mr Sanjeev Gupta, enclosing his daughter Esheetaa’s resume and payslip for April 2014. Sanjeev Gupta, while unrelated to brothers Tony, Atul and Ajay, was closely connected with the Bank of Baroda’s chief executive officer in South Africa, Murari Lal Sharma. So close, in fact, that Esheetaa Gupta’s resume used Sharma’s mobile number as her South African contact number.

Esheetaa Gupta, an intellectual property lawyer working for a Wipro Technologies in India, was seemingly keen to secure work in South Africa.
On April 4, 2014, Chawla forwarded Esheetaa Gupta’s passport, CV and payslip to his secretary. Later that same day, she scanned and forwarded a bundle of documents signed by Chawla.

Among these was an employment agreement between Sahara Computers and Esheetaa Gupta, confirming she would be appointed as an “IP analyst” from May 15, 2014. It contained a letter from Sahara Computers to the South African consulate, stating the following:
“This letter serves to confirm that Ms Esheetaa Gupta will be transferred from SES Technologies to Sahara Computers (Pty) Ltd for a period of 24 months. This transfer qualifies as an intra-company transfer since these companies form part of the same global group. Esheetaa Gupta holds a foreign contract of employment with SES Technologies in India.”
It also contained a letter dated April 4, 2014, to the South African consulate (erroneously referred to as an “embassy”) from SES Technologies, the same company used to fabricate the employment contract for Singh. The letter from SES Technologies was also signed by Chawla and contained an exact copy of the paragraph confirming that Esheetaa Gupta was employed by SES Technologies.
These documents were sent to Esheetaa Gupta’s father on the same day. Esheetaa Gupta responded to Chawla on May 8, 2014, requesting additional documents, and in particular she required a “job offer letter from Indian company provided earlier at the time of employment”.
A comedy of errors and mistakes followed, as Chawla and his secretary compiled the documents requested by Esheetaa Gupta.
The pair could not keep their story straight. Suddenly, the employment confirmation letters and backdated employment offer, previously done on the SES Technologies letterhead, resurfaced sporting SCEL letterheads, Sahara Computer’s sister company in India.
The initial set of documents also claimed that Esheetaa Gupta had started working for SCEL as an IP analyst in 2010, a peculiar oddity considering that her resume claimed that she only began working in the intellectual property field a full year and a half later, in June of 2011. Her resume stated that at the time she was employed as a project trainee at Nucleus Software Exports Limited.

The final backdated employment offer sent to Esheetaa Gupta had a more reasonable commencement date of June 27, 2013, although this still does not explain why Esheetaa Gupta’s resume sent to Chawla in April 2014 does not mention either SES Technologies or SCEL in either her employment history or references.
It also does not explain how she obtained a payslip for April 2014 as an employee of Wipro Technologies, if she was an employee of either SCEL or SES Technologies at the time.
Comment requested
Both Esheetaa Gupta and Karan Singh were sent detailed questions regarding these allegations. They were asked to confirm their employment history with either SES Technologies or SCEL, and the reasons for the subsequent intra company transfers.
Despite follow-up requests, neither Singh nor Gupta have responded to our requests for comment.
Khosla was also requested to provide comment on the evidence contained in the #GuptaLeaks but did not respond to our questions.
Questions were also emailed and sent via WhatsApp to both Chawla and his wife, Harsh Chawla. No response has been forthcoming.

Returning emigrants are not looking for a red-carpet, just fairness

18 Sep 2018, The Irish Times

Opinion: No justification for denying them maternity benefit or third-level fees for kids
In 2015, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade published Ireland’s first official policy on diaspora issues, stating it is “important that moving or returning to this country is as easy a process as possible”.
The policy identified a number of barriers to returning emigrants, including recognition of qualifications and driving licences, lack of affordable housing, and job opportunities.
While these were correctly highlighted as issues facing returning emigrants, they are factors that beset other residents in the State. Soaring rent costs, for example, affect a broad swathe of Irish society, not only new arrivals; and recognition of qualifications and driving licences are hurdles faced by all types of newcomers to Ireland, regardless of their nationality.
At the time that policy was published, there were approximately 23,000 more Irish citizens leaving the country annually than returning. Three years later, and for the first time since 2009, Ireland is now welcoming more of its citizens home than the number departing the country.
I say welcoming, but the individuals and families returning to live in the country they grew up in do not necessarily feel welcomed.
Since going live last month, – a new website set up to offer practical information for people planning to return or relocate to Ireland – has received remarkable feedback from individuals and families who, in one way or another, have encountered obstacles, foreseen and unforeseen, on their return to Ireland. Two issues stand out in particular: access to maternity benefits, and the cost of third-level education.
One of the biggest shocks that many Irish women and families encounter upon returning home is the news that they may not be entitled to paid maternity benefits.Although public maternity care is available to all expectant mothers who are “ordinarily resident” in Ireland – referring to someone living in Ireland and who intends to do so for at least the next 12 months – the eligibility threshold to receive maternity benefit is set far higher.
Maternity benefit is available to women who are on maternity leave from work and have paid a minimum of nine months’ PRSI contributions in the 12 months before their first day of maternity leave, the most recent of which must have been paid in Ireland.
Even if a pregnant returning emigrant finds work before her baby is due, she would not be able to make enough PRSI contributions within that period to qualify for maternity benefit. Moreover, her previous contributions date back to whenever she was previously working in Ireland, which may have been a number of years ago.
The upshot is that families affected by these conditions may have to rejig their plans, either by making do upon arrival in Ireland, or by not coming home at all. The loss of an expected weekly maternity benefit of €240 can tip the balance in a family discussion of whether or not to return home.
Third-level fees
Many returning families with older children, as well as returning emigrants who wish to expand their skills within a competitive job market, also have to come to grips with the fact that they are effectively treated as non-Irish when it comes to third-level education.
In order to qualify for the “free fees” initiative, a prospective student must have been living in a European Economic Area (EEA) member state or Switzerland for at least three of the previous five years. Irish citizens who left for a non-EEA destination, even for a couple of years, are unable to access free fees for third-level tuition in Ireland upon their return.
Returning Irish citizens who do not qualify for free fees may still be eligible for EU fee rates, which are set by individual institutions. Students from an EEA state who have spent five years in primary or secondary school in Ireland may qualify for these rates, which, though cheaper than fees paid by students from outside the EEA, are nonetheless more expensive than the free fees enjoyed by Irish or EEA-based students who can prove the requisite residency conditions.
Some returning emigrants are faced with the prospect of paying colossal sums for continuing their education in Ireland, as much as €200,000 for a four-year course. This is the case even if they completed secondary school in Ireland before living on temporary status in a non-EEA country.
By mitigating these obstacles, Ireland would be able to attract even more emigrants back home, as well as make the lives of those who have already moved back more straightforward. Failure to do so is a failure to fulfil the legitimate expectations of people who are committing to an uncertain future.
During the process of researching content for, and through speaking with Irish candidates for the company’s Canada-based recruitment agency (Outpost Recruitment) for construction professionals, we have listened to countless families who are considering returning home but are put off, at least for now, by the prospect of having to raise a newborn entirely on their own dime, or sending a teenager to university without public assistance. These individuals and families have successful careers abroad and would, over time, inject far more in tax contributions than they would receive in benefits soon after returning.
Ultimately, there is no sound argument, ethical or economic, to denying returning citizens access to maternity benefits and subsidised third-level education on the same terms as those who have been residing in the State. Returning emigrants are not looking for the red-carpet treatment on their return, just fairness and common sense.