New Immigration Regulations in Force

New Immigration Regulations in Force

In a rather surprising move, the Minister announced at a media briefing last week, that the new Immigration Regulations of 2014 have come into effect on 26 May 2014.

Effectively, this marked the commencement of the Immigration Amendment Acts of 2007 and 2011 and the new Immigration Regulations, 2014.

The following is a short summary of the most important points:

  • Under the new regulations the word “visa” replaces the word “permit” except for the permanent residence “permit”. For example, a visitor’s permit will now be called a visitor’s visa, a work permit will now be called a work visa and a study permit will be called a study visa.
  • This means that under the new regulations there will be a clear distinction between shortstay visas and longstay permanent residence permits.
  • The Act now requires that every child must possess his/her own passport.
  • A person who is on a visitor’s or medical treatment visa may not change his or her status whilst in the Republic except in exceptional circumstances. This means that a tourist can no longer apply for i.e. a 4 year retired visa in South Africa and has to return abroad to submit the application.
  • Study visa will be issued for the duration of the study or course.
  • Life partners have to prove that their relationship has existed for at least 2 years (reduced from the proposed 5 years) at the time the application is submitted. Separate interviews are conducted at the same time with each applicant.
  • Where parents are travelling with a child, they must produce an unabridged birth certificate of the child and if travelling as one parent only, the consent of the other parent.
  • An application for an extension or change of status in South Africa has to be submitted at least 60 days prior to the expiry of the current visa.
  • No incomplete applications will be accepted and no outstanding documents can be submitted afterwards.
  • The minimum income/pension for the pensioner’s visa has been set at R 37000 p.m. per person.
  • Financially independent applicants need to provide a net worth of at least R 12 Mio. and pay a fee of R 120’000 to the department.
  • Residents have to show a financial assurance of R 8500 for their family members on a relatives visa.
  • No business visa may be issued or renewed to a foreigner who intends to establish or invest in a business that is listed as undesirable business undertaking. The list of such businesses will be published shortly.
  • A person issued with a business visa must employ or prove that 60% of the total staff complement is South African citizens or permanent residents. The visa is issued for a maximum period of three years and needs to be extended thereafter.
  • The minimum amount for investing in a new or existing business still needs to be gazetted.
  • Quota work permit and exceptional skills work permits have been repealed.
  • A critical skills work visa has been introduced into the Act and can be issued for up to 5 years. The new critical skills list with the 100 most required professions is currently in circulation for comment.
  • An intracompany transfer work visa will be issued for a period of four years and is not renewable.
  • A work visa can be issued up to 5 years.
  • A corporate visa will be issued to South African corporate applicants to employ a number of foreigners for a period not exceeding three years, after showing the need for employment of such foreigners.
  • An exchange visa (for persons under 25 years) will not be granted to conduct work pertaining to an undesirable work as published by the Minister in the Gazette, after consultation with the Minister of Trade and Industry.
  • An asylum transit visa issued at a port of entry will be valid for a period of 5 days to enable the holder to report at a nearest Refugee Reception Office.
  • Crossborder and transit permits have been repealed.
  • Persons who overstay the validity of their visa will be fined up to R 8000 and immediately be declared as undesirable. The periods of prohibited entry into South Africa range from 12 months to 5 years.
  • Owners of or persons in charge of conveyances will be required to provide, through Advance Passenger Processing (APP), passengers’ information prior to departing for South Africa.
  • Section 46, which dealt with Immigration Practitioners, has been repealed as applicants will now be required to apply in person at the Mission in the country of origin or where they permanently reside. Practitioners are still allowed to consult and accompany their clients.
  • No more repatriation deposits are required.
  • Hotels, guesthouses, apartment rentals etc. have to keep a record for two years of foreign guests that contain the full names, the copy of passport, the residence status in the Republic, their normal residential address and signature.
  • Certain institutions like banks, insurance companies, estate agents, hospitals, learning institutions, employment agencies etc. that conclude a commercial transaction with a foreigner, have to ascertain that such foreigner is legally in the Republic.
  • The government has appointed a worldwide company, Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) as the place for first applications. The offices of the Department of Home Affairs are no longer providing that service (s. attached notice click here). The application process is online, the fees have to be paid upfront and an appointment is booked online. No cash is handled at the VFS offices.
  • First time application for visa will be made at the Mission and only renewals or extensions can be made in the Republic (all via the VFS Offices).
  • The holder of a visa or permanent residence permit who changes his or her address or other contact details must inform the DirectorGeneral within 14 days of such changes and use a prescribed form.

Comment ››

Many of the changes are welcome and in line with international standards.

The new Regulations will need some time getting used to and the first teething problems have already occurred. Some of the changes are ambiguous and we are not sure how the Department will keep them under control, knowing how the Department functions.

In the long run, we hope that the VFS offices will provide a better and more efficient service than the Department itself.

We would like to advise those clients that stay in South Africa for more than 3 months, to carefully consider if the extension of this visa is the best solution. This has to be done 60 days prior to the expiry of the current visa. You further require a medical, radiological certificate and if you stayed longer than 12 months in SA, you also need a local police clearance certificate. With current processing times of over 3 months for temporary visas, you will be declared undesirable if you leave South Africa without a valid permit, even if you can prove that you have submitted the application for extension in time!

We recommend that you consider a 4 year retired visa (no age restrictions apply and a simple proof of funds is sufficient) or even a permanent residence permit, which does not compel you to stay in South Africa all the time.

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require further information. We will gladly assist you with your immigration and worldwide tax planning matters.