Jun 27, 2014 - General, Visa    No Comments

New SA Immigration Act: What a clever law. Not.

2014-06-26 News24

 

Cape Town – News24 Travel reader Ross Hutchinson says he shudders to think what will happened when his family heads to the UK in August, as he has been waiting more than three months for his temporary resident visa.

“We are in a similar position and anticipate the worst unless an intelligent judge brings Home Affairs to its senses. I am married to a South African and we have a four year old boy born in South Africa. I am British.

I have had a temporary resident visa since 2010 which had to be renewed. 3 months later I am still waiting for it. We are supposed to be going to the UK in August for a month. I contacted Home Affairs who would not give any information on my visa – I was just told to ”call back in a month”.

I was also told that if I did not have one I will not be able to come back into the country and will face a fine. Obviously we can choose not to go to avoid being split up, however we cannot get the cost of plane tickets back (this a lot of money). Also, we would really like our family to see our son. We have decided that if the visa does not come through we will all go back and live in the UK.

My partner and I are both tax payers here and we have a business which employs about 10 staff. We will have to close the business. I fail to see how I am deemed undesirable when I am bringing up a South African citizen, paying tax and creating employment for others. South Africa will lose tax income and 10 people will lose their much needed jobs – all of our employees have families. Plus the government will lose the tax and VAT our business pays. I never thought as a tax payer I would be called ‘undesirable’ .

It also means that other South Africans and their foreign spouses will never return to live here, meaning key skills will not come back to this country. I also expect people in a similar position to us will choose to leave too. Very sad.

Jun 27, 2014 - General, Visa    No Comments

Why was there no transitional period for new visa rules?

2014-06-26 News24

 

Cape Town – My name is Joachim Schuckmann, I am Immigration Direction at Initiate Immigration (Pty) Ltd.

I would like to comment on the feedback and information some immigration agents and immigration lawyers have been sharing with the public over recent weeks.

Although change in the immigration legal framework was necessary for a number of reasons (marriage of convenience, child trafficking, and corruption at Home Affairs) the processes which the Department of Home Affairs have chosen, have proven to be greatly misguided. This has repeatedly been seen over the past 2 weeks and has fortunately also been picked up by the media.

Most stakeholders within the industry, barring the Department of Home Affairs it seems, agree that proper planning and a transition period would have been beneficial to allow the public an opportunity to familiarise itself with the new laws and processes. Some individuals and families have now been adversely affected by the Department’s blind determination to push through changes within a very short period of time.

This lack of appropriate planning and consultation has led to Home Affairs’ officials not being prepared or trained and thus not being in a position to answer any questions the public might have had regarding the new laws. This in turn has led to a great number of immigration agents disseminating incorrect interpretations of the law, which has created a certain degree of panic due the information and feedback from Home Affairs and other agents being inconsistent.

Every decision the Department of Home Affairs has taken over the past 3 weeks has affected thousands and perhaps millions of lives (unfortunately the Department of Home Affairs has no official or unofficial figure of the amount of foreigners in the country). But with virtually no warning or consultation, in some cases not even a 24 hour notice, rumours are very quickly distributed as fact as uncertainty reigns.

Change in the law was needed and it is a view shared by most of the reputable consultancies that the majority of changes which have been proposed in the new regulations are consistent with immigration and visa laws around the world, and so offer balance for the need to attract foreign skills as well as protect the local labour force and the population of South Africa as a whole.

A number of immigration agents will, however, not be able to cope with the changes and their claims that the laws are unconstitutional are based on the fact that they will not be able to adapt. “Making a plan” by making false claims in applications, abusing legal loopholes or worse paying officials to ensure the issuance of a visa, will not be possible anymore and immigration service provider will need to start adding real value instead of exploiting the system.

What is undoubtedly a disgrace and in some cases unlawful, perhaps even unconstitutional, is the manner in which the Department has decided to roll out the changes. And thanks to the media the shortcoming have been highlighted and the impact was instant.

I thank you for the work you have done, continue to do, and the opportunity to provide you with my opinion.

My life has been turned upside down by this new immigration rules

2014-06-26 News24

 

I married my Nigerian husband (who has been in the country for more than 12 years) in February 2014 in a church ceremony in a Western Cape town. The minister who performed the ceremony is a legal official for the Dept of Home Affairs… immediately after our wedding he submitted the documents to the department following procedure.

However we were then a week later called in to be told that our marriage can’t be registered as my husband and I did not go to the Home Affairs Dept before we got married. Whilst all this is happening he had been waiting since 2013 for his renewed business plan and every time we followed up on it – results would be pending.

Recently he traveled only to be told that he is not to come back as scheduled for this weekend-as  he is undesirable for the republic.

Yes this new act is very xenophobic and does not think of the well being of its own people. Surely the minister can not think or believe that making drastic changes like these would reduce the corruption in his department.

Our lives are shaken by this and so will the economy be. And his officials will continue to be corrupt and greedy.
Zintle

Immigration: A lack of commitment

18 June 2014, News24

Hey,
I’m Dutch and work in South Africa. My visa has expired due to the lack of commitment of the department of Home Affairs.

We run a company that brings students from overseas to help with NGO projects and community upliftment projects on a voluntary basis. This means that when they stay longer than 90 days we extend there visa for an other 90 days.

But the average waiting time for a new visa is 120 days. Now all the volunteers that go back are registered as UNWANTED. This is unheard of and a major blow for volunteer tourism and upliftment of the smaller communities.

I will now wait until I hear that it is “safe” for me to go back to the Netherlands, that I can come back after a couple of months. Otherwise I will follow the experts opinions and stay here in South Africa until the visa stories are sorted our.

Protest against new immigration rules

June 25 2014
By SAPA

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Immigration practitioners are losing their jobs because of revised immigration regulations, they said. Picture: Angus Scholtz

Johannesburg – Immigration practitioners are losing their jobs because of revised immigration regulations, they said in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

“We want our jobs back! We want our bread back!” they shouted as they marched from Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown to the home affairs department in Harrison Street.

“We have people we took from the streets, helped them to get these jobs that include queuing and applying for permits on behalf of our clients, they rely on this income to put food on the table,” said Pitsho Nkoy, who has been a practitioner since 2005.

An amendment to the Immigration Act, which was signed into law on June 2, had removed section 46 which acknowledged the practitioners, they said.

Practitioners assist foreign nationals to apply for work, visiting, study, or business permits in South Africa by doing the administration, standing in the queue, and collecting the documents at a fee.

They say they wrote exams at the home affairs department at a cost of R3000 to qualify as practitioners.

“We wrote exams but they don’t recognise our certificates anymore. They cannot take our jobs and give them to foreign companies.

“The act was amended during minister Naledi Pandor’s term and it removed us from section 46. Regulations were signed without our permission,” Mimi Molwane said.

She has been a practitioner since 2009.

The group said they were thinking of suing the department for loss of income.

She said initially practitioners would deal directly with the department. But with the scrapping of the practitioners in the act, their clients were now forced to use an agency to apply for permits.

The agency is apparently foreign-owned and charged extra costs.

Home affairs Johannesburg office head Khehla Miya was handed a memo.

“We accept people’s views and concerns. I will forward this and give feedback to the address given,” he said.

Sapa

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba faces prison time after being found in contempt in a court case involving a stateless man.

Gigaba faces jail for contempt

Dominic Skelton | 24 June, Times Live

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba faces prison time after being found in contempt in a court case involving a stateless man.

The Pretoria High Court ruled yesterday that Gigaba was in contempt of an August court order directing him to decide within 30 days whether or not Frederik Ngubane, who is stateless , could become a permanent resident of South Africa.

Ngubane was born in South Africa in 1990, spent much of his young life in Kenya and Uganda, and has no papers. His parents are dead.

Gigaba has been given a five-day grace period to reach his decision.

The ruling comes after Lawyers for Human Rights, for Ngubane, 23, acted after Home Affairs failed for almost two years to decide on the case. The original order was against former minister Naledi Pandor.

The lawyers said if Gigaba fails to act they will ask the court for jail time rather than a fine.

Ngubane said: “I am excited that something is happening. Just to know my way forward is great. I am trying to be hopeful, as for the last year nothing has happened.”

 

Visa services under investigation

Visa services under investigation

27 Jun 2014  Lynley Donnelly –  Mail and Guardian

Market dominance is killing smaller companies, the Competition Commission has been told.

The Competition Commission is investigating allegations of market dominance by VFS Global in the visa support services market to foreign embassies.

The firm, through its local arm, VFS Visa Processing, is also the sole channel through which foreigners in South Africa and locals with foreign family members must apply for visas or permits. This followed the introduction of new immigration regulations by the department of home affairs earlier this year.

The commission confirmed that the allegations were being investigated.

The commission’s screening unit had completed its preliminary investigation and submitted its report, the commission’s spokesperson, Themba Mathebula, said. It recommended further formal investigations into VFS, which the commission would decide on next week.

Jaco Badenhorst, the managing director of Visa Request, brought the initial complaint, alleging that the exclusive rights obtained by VFS to provide visa support services to a growing number of foreign missions was threatening a number of smaller independent service providers, such as his business.

No alternative
South Africans wishing to travel to countries such as Canada, Sweden or Saudi Arabia had no alternative but to use VFS, thanks to exclusivity arrangements, he said.

He also claimed that in many cases VFS charged more than others.

Rishen Mahabeer, VFS general manager of operations in Southern Africa, said the company was not an immigration adviser and was not taking over that role.

He said VFS did not have a monopoly over visa facilitation services to diplomatic missions in South Africa either. He said there were a number of companies that provided this service, including Teleperformance, which served the Swiss, British and Australian missions, and Visa Integrate, which provided support services to Germany.

A multi-entry visa application for Canada costs R980. To this, VFS adds a R307 service fee; a R116.05 self-service fee to use their computer terminal to complete an application online, if required; a R222.43 fee for help in using the self-service terminal; and a R246.27 fee for the secure transmission of a passport to the embassy at the request of its visa office.

Badenhorst hopes his complaint will result in foreign missions allowing other qualified visa facilitations companies, besides VFS, to assist applicants.

VFS centres
This month, home affairs opened the first of 11 VFS Global visa facilitation centres countrywide.

To process any visas or permits, VFS charges a fee of R1 350, over and above the fees charged by the department, which range from R450 to R1 520.

Critics complain that the charges are prohibitively expensive for many foreign applicants.

VSF said that the tender, awarded in December last year, was based on a user-pays model, involving zero cost to the government or the taxpayer.

In the case of foreign missions such as Canada, Mahabeer said self-service terminals were part of the contractual obligations required by the Canadian government. Fees charged were market-related and, where applicable, based on the relevant exchange rates.

The department said VFS’s services were free to the state and its fees were “not excessive” considering they had to establish 11 centres, employ staff and deploy online and biometric technology.

Make a profit
The Immigration Act did not require the gazetting of administrative costs, only visa and permit fees, and VFS had to recover its costs and make a profit, the department said.

The powers of adjudicating applications remained with the department and were not delegated to VFS or its officials.

VFS also rendered services to a many other countries, including some local foreign missions.

Home affairs director general Mkuseli Apleni said the introduction of VFS was not a new idea and it operated alongside a number of similar companies.

He said the tender to provide in-country services had been open and it was not clear why local service providers had not made a bid.

Furthermore, applicants were still able to, and did, use the services of immigration practitioners, although they were now required to go to the centres personally to capture their biometric data, Apleni said.