Jun 5, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Renewing general work visas challenging in South Africa

Renewing general work visas challenging in South Africa
29 May 2017 By: Stefanie de Saude
General work visas are proving virtually impossible to renew, since the implementation of the current immigration laws on 26 May 2014, when the Department of Labour took on a more significant role in the process.

Holders of general work visas, the most commonly sought visa for foreign professionals working and living in South Africa are finding it practically impossible to renew their visas.

Applications are regularly rejected for reasons not given or because the Department of Labour has found that issuing the visa could discriminate against South Africans, even in cases where the applicants’ jobs depend on them being fluent in a language not spoken in South Africa.

The Department has added layers of bureaucracy and inconsistency in carrying out directives and applying the law, compounding delays in a process already fraught with hurdles.
Stefanie de Saude, hears reports almost daily of professionals who have lived and worked legally in South Africa for years, now denied renewed work visas and facing the prospect of losing their homes and jobs and disrupting their families.

The law requires the Department of Labour to assess each application it receives to determine whether it complies with the regulations 18(3) (a) to (e). These regulations require, amongst other things, that a diligent search is carried out for a job candidate in South Africa before a foreign applicant is appointed, and that the skills or experience of a suitable South African is not available in the labour market. Thereafter the Department of Labour will issue a certificate of recommendation to the Department of Home Affairs.

In theory, this should be a relatively simple process taking no more than around 30 days. In practice, however, the assessment runs to site visits, SARS checks and more, and can take in the order of seven months to complete. In many cases, the Department of Labour rejects the application at which point, Home Affairs rejects it too, citing a ‘negative recommendation from the Department of Labour’ without providing adequate reasons for the rejection.
Limited scope to appeal

There is limited scope to appeal when the reason for the application being denied has not been disclosed.

“Indeed, in our work on numerous such applications, we have only twice been told why the certificates were not issued – and in both cases, the Department of Labour had found that the foreign language requirements discriminated against South Africans. Unfortunately, for the employers and applicants concerned, those foreign language skills were vital in order to carry out the work,” explains de Saude.

The gap between theory and practice is confusing for all concerned. In a recent High Court judgment, the applicant in the case applied for a waiver of the need for a Department of Labour certificate. He was rejected, for reasons that we have seen before – in essence, the decision maker reiterated the basis of the requirement of the Department of Labour certificate, without considering whether a waiver from the usual rules was deserved in this case. On review, the judge found that that the decision maker had misapplied his/her mind, and had been needlessly rigid.

Despite this judgement, we still receive waiver refusals for exactly the same reason and the outcome of work visa applications has begun to look like a foregone conclusion – bad news for applicants.
Critical skills also affected

These challenges are also affecting critical skills visas to some degree. Where once, applicants in possession of scarce and critical skills might have been issued with five-year visas, without the need for an employment contract at the time of application, they are now being issued with 12-month visas, bound to particular employers, so undermining the country’s efforts to bring important skills resources into South Africa and support much-needed skills transfer. The list itself lacks clarity and fails to support the intentions of the law. For example, the Department of Home Affairs incorrectly interprets the BPO category as covering only call centres and no other BPO services, therefore any critical skills applicants in this category would have to work in a call centre in order for the visa application to be approved. The emphasis is therefore not on the skill at all but rather the sector.

May 26, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Woman with no fingerprints battles to get ID

Woman with no fingerprints battles to get ID
Daily Voice – 25 May 2017
Cape Town – This Cape Flats woman has been battling to get a new identity document from the Department of Home Affairs because she has no fingerprints.
On Friday, Sandra Horne, 38, from Athlone hopes to write her matric exams but is afraid she will be booted out without a new valid identity document.
Sandra suffers from a rare skin disease, which has robbed her of her fingerprints, her hair and now possibly her education.
ShSandra Horne, 38, is struggling to get a new ID as she doesn’t have fingerprints.
She was only two weeks old when doctors diagnosed her with Epidermolysis bullosa dystrophica – an extremely rare skin disease which leaves the skin fragile and blistering easily.
In severe cases, like Sandra’s, the patient has no epidermis, resulting in non-existent fingerprints and baldness.
Kids with this disease are referred to as “butterfly children” because their skin is delicate like that of a butterfly.
Sandra receives treatment at Groote Schuur Hospital.
“It is a rare skin condition; we all have three layers of skin, but I only have two layers, I don’t have an epidermis,” she explains.
Sandra Horne is unable to get a new ID from the department. Picture: Jack Lestrade
“This takes over my whole body and I am left with blisters. I don’t have fingerprints and I don’t have hair.”
In March, she visited Home Affairs in Wynberg and paid R140 for a Smart ID card.
She has an old ID book which she got as a child.
But now, two months later, she claims authorities have been giving her the run-around, questioning why she has no fingerprints.
“They told me there is a problem because they cannot find my fingerprints on the system.”
“I even sent them emails saying I would obtain a police affidavit as I do not have fingerprints and they said they would overwrite the system,” she says.
Instead, she was told not to worry about getting a Smart ID Card, but to use her old green one.
“I cannot understand it when this is the way of the future, having a card instead of the book, and I have to write my Senior Certificate [tomorrow]. I hope my old identity document is still valid,” she says.
Thabo Mogola of the Department of Home Affairs says Sandra’s case is receiving special attention.
“The matter has been referred to the provincial manager for Home Affairs in the Western Cape for investigation with a view to resolving the issue,” he says.
“An official will contact the client to attain all the necessary information that may assist in this regard.”
Sandra says by Wednesday she had not received any feedback.
Daily Voice

May 26, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Massive strike looming at Home Affairs

Massive strike looming at Home Affairs
May 25, 2017, 9:46 a.m. | By JacarandaFM News
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) and the Public Servants Association (PSA) are threatening to down tools at Home Affairs over working conditions.
According to Fedusa’s Frank Nxumalo says they will shed more light on the industrial action at a press conference this morning.
“Collectively Fedusa and the PSA represent almost 700 000 members that will join in on the strike as a result of working conditions and corruption within government departments,” he says.
He says public servants are being blamed for mismanagement and corruption in government departments, while they are “simply following instructions”.
“Those disobeying instructions are slapped with disciplinary charges and the effectiveness of the Protected Disclosures Act (whistle blowing legislation) is placed in doubt,” PSA General Manager, Ivan Fredericks says.
Fedusa is also demanding that the pensions and investments of public servants be protected at all cost.
“National Treasury should consider including the PIC (Public Investment Corporation), the custodian of the Government Employees Pension Fund, as a possible partner to recapitalise SAA,” the union says.

May 24, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Three generations kept from school due to not having ID’s

Three generations kept from school due to not having ID’s
Vryheid News – 23 May 2017
Three generations, stuck at home, unable to apply for anything, not even a basic education.
The Speaker of eDumbe, Cllr ST Hlatshwayo, with Siphiwe Ndwandwe, Home Affairs’ supervisor DB Kubheka and Mr M Mbatha from the eDumbe Head Office. (Photo submitted)
THE importance of having an ID cannot be stressed enough, as the failure to have one can have an impact on more than one’s life.
This is the lesson that was learned by 65 year old, Siphiwe Cynthia Ndwandwe, from the Eskhaleni area, in Paulpietersburg.
Miss Ndwandwe was identified by the Sukuma Sakhe group in eDumbe, as a member of the public who had never been in possession a birth certificate, let alone an ID.
“This matter went on to have an impact on the lives of her four daughters and six grandchildren as none of them could not obtain birth certificates. None of her four daughters have been able to get jobs nor were they able to apply for social grants because they had no IDs,” said Bheki Kubheka, who is the supervisor at the local Home Affairs office.
Three generations, stuck at home, unable to apply for anything, not even a basic education.
Three months ago Siphiwe obtained her first ever birth certificate through the help of Home Affairs.
Although the late birth registration process is an extremely difficult one, members of Sukuma Sakhe worked tirelessly to ensure that they helped this woman and her family.
On Wednesday, April 26, she was given her very first ID book.
With this having been done, Sukuma Sakhe will set to work getting IDs for Siphiwe’s children and, thereafter, her grand-children.

May 24, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

‘I’m not dead’

‘I’m not dead’
Germiston City – 24 May 2017
Primrose’s Hendrick van Niekerk has been battling to prove he is not dead for several years.
Hendrick van Niekerk has been battling for years to prove that he is still alive.
It sounds like something out of the movies, but for Hendrick van Niekerk, of Primrose, it is very much a reality.
In 2012, when Hennie, as he is known, went to open an account at a local bank, the teller informed him that there was something very wrong, “She turned her screen so that I could see it and there, in black and white, it stated I was deceased.
“I asked her: ‘Do I look dead to you?’” said Hennie.
After some digging, he discovered that 18 months after receiving his new identity document (ID) in 2004, another man, from Paarl, had received the same ID, same name and same ID number. All that was different was the photo.
“I have no idea how he got my ID book,” Hennie, now a pensioner, said.
The Paarl man had died and a death certificate was issued to the ID number, which meant, according to home affairs, Hennie was dead.
“I began writing to everyone I could think of, from ministers of home affairs to presidents, including former president Nelson Mandela.
“Though I did not receive a reply to all the letters, I received a letter from Mandela asking me to forgive him, and to assure me that he was trying his best to help.
“It seemed he was hitting as many brick walls as I was trying to sort the problem out,” he said.
Hennie further claimed that no matter how many times he goes into the home affairs offices in Benoni, where he was told to go to handle the issue, no one can give him answers.
“They keep telling me that they are still investigating.
“But how can it take this long to investigate?” he said desperately.
Though Hennie and his family try to stay positive and handle the situation as best they can, making light of the situation through jokes, it is no laughing matter.
“I don’t believe in being a negative person, it will not do me any good to sit at home and be depressed about the situation,” he said.
However, despite his best efforts, some situations still upset him.
One such situation came when he suddenly stopped getting his pension from his former employer.
“I worked at the company for 23 years and when I retired I began to receive a pension.
“One month, however, my pension was late.
“I waited a few days and realised that it wasn’t coming so I called the woman who had always handled my pension to ask what was happening,” he explained.
When he said “hello” there was no reply so unsure if she had heard him or not he greeted her again.
“When she did answer she questioned why I was playing a bad joke.
“When I asked why, she explained that she had received all the paperwork claiming that I was dead and that she was currently working out a pay-out for my family,” he said while fighting back tears.
He told her to stop everything and explained the situation.
Hennie deals with daily struggles, related to the death notice that hangs over his head, and cannot open accounts of any kind.
And though he tries not to let these worry him, he does worry about his family’s future.
“What if I do die?
“How will my family claim any of the pay-outs on my policy or move the house out of my name?
“They will be left with nothing,” he said emotionally.
The GCN sent a query to home affairs in an attempt to get some clarity on the situation, however, despite receiving confirmation that they received the email, no comment was received.
The GCN continues to seek comment on the matter.

May 24, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Home affairs on course to digitise records

Home affairs on course to digitise records
ITWeb – 23 May 2017

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will step up the digitisation of records using the earmarked R10 million per annum received from National Treasury. This is the word from minister Hlengiwe Mkhize, during a presentation of the DHA’s budget vote in Parliament.
According to Mkhize, among the factors impacting proficient provision of public services has been a lack of efficient records management, which is why the department has prioritised digitisation of records.
Last year, the DHA introduced its digitisation project through a partnership with Statistic SA. At the time, the department said it planned to digitise 286 million records, of which 90% were still in paper format.
Most of these are records of births, marriages, deaths, ID applications, naturalisation and permitting, and date back to the late 1800s, as pointed out by the department.
The aim of the project is to make records more easily accessible, and modernise the department using the most modern, innovative technology and management approaches to fulfil its mandate.
The department said as part of this digitisation process, it will prioritise birth certificates, of which there are 110 million records, by digitising 5.8 million birth records a year.
It stated records will be indexed by ID number for easy retrieval and will be able to be accessed immediately, irrespective of office location. Electronic records can be viewed and accessed by more than one person simultaneously, eliminating the reliance on individuals for knowledge as the document is accessible by multiple staff.
Commenting on the department’s digitisation project, Mkhize stated SA has the capacity to modernise.
“Using technology as an enabler, we transformed our office in Marabastad, which was notorious for being overcrowded, into the world-class Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre, launched by president JG Zuma early this year. It is fitting that we named the centre after an icon of human rights.
“The centre is now conducive for DHA officials to improve services as a result of cutting-edge technologies installed. Overcrowding has drastically decreased and efficiency improved.”

May 19, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

South Africa: SA ‘Working On Scrapping Visa for All African Citizens’

South Africa: SA ‘Working On Scrapping Visa for All African Citizens’
15 May 2017 – News24Wire (Cape Town)
South Africa is working towards allowing all African citizens to enter the country without visas – but at first “trusted travellers” like diplomats, officials, academics, business people and students will be the only ones to benefit.
The Department of Home Affairs outlines the steps that will be taken towards scrapping visa requirements in its latest White Paper on International Migration, which was adopted by cabinet six weeks ago but not made public yet.
The African Union’s Agenda 2063, championed by former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, calls for the scrapping of visa requirements for all African citizens travelling on the continent by 2018 based on the views of the African Rennaissance.
The African passport was launched with great ceremony by Dlamini-Zuma and Rwandan President Paul Kagame at last year’s AU summit in Kigali.
According to the White Paper, South Africa “fully supports the vision of an Africa where its citizens can move more freely across national borders, where intra-Africa trade is encouraged and there is greater integration and development of the African continent”.
It said the current status was untenable. “For instance, on average Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other African countries. They can get visas on arrival in only 25% of other countries. Finally, they do not need a visa to travel to just 20% of other countries on the continent.”
Security-based approach
But the White Paper, which moves South Africa’s approach to immigration from a purely administrative one to a security-based approach, warns that the scrapping of visas needs to happen with caution.
South Africa’s risk-based approach “advocates for an incremental removal of migration formalities for frequent and trusted travellers including diplomats, officials, academics, business persons, students, etc.”
The policy is envisaged as follows: African citizens can enter South Africa visa-free where there are reciprocal agreements.
Visas will only be needed when there are risks of foreign nationals overstaying, security risks like organised crime, terrorism and political instability, civil registration risks, i.e. fraud by foreign governments in issuing documents or an unable or unwillingness to identfy their nationals when requested, and for countries “with a high number of nationals who abuse the asylum system”.
One of the countries identified elsewhere in the document as doing such is Zimbabwe.
Key elements of the visa-free regime would be visa-free entry for visits up to 90 days, recognition of visas for third parties, for example regional visas, agreed standards on immigration and border management, agreed standards on civil registration and “sophisticated, real-time risk management, information and intelligence sharing”.
Where visas are required “South Africa should make it as easy as possible for bona fide travellers to enter South Africa”, by standardising and expanding the use of long-term, multiple-entry visas for frequent travellers, business people and academics, according to the White Paper.
A list will be developed of countries whose visa adjucation systems are trusted and recognised by South Africa, and technology will be used to establish trusted traveller schemes.
Free movement of African citizens
At regional level, South Africa “should continue to advocate for a free movement of African citizens,” the paper states.
It also says, however, that there has been a large influx of semi-skilled an unskilled economic migrants who couldn’t get visas and permits through the “mainstream immigration regime”.
These had some negative consequences, such as the asylum seeker management system being “abused and overwhelmed by economic migrants”, and then these migrants, and by extension also South African workers, being abused by “some unscrupulous South African employers”.