“The recent announcements by the Department of Home Affairs are a welcome relief to the expat community and the international mobility industry,” says Moeketsi Seboko, Immigration Manager at Xpatweb.
Home Affairs Minister Mr Aaron Motsoaledi delivered the Department’s 2020/21 budget speech during a virtual debate before the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on 22 July 2020.
His speech addressed the revision of the Electoral Act, the signing by President Ramaphosa of the Border Management Authority Act, the support for economic recovery, war on corruption, and extension of validity of visas.
Border Management Authority Act
President Ramaphosa signed the Border Management Authority Act into law on 21 July 2020, which took immediate effect. This act addresses the need for an integrated and well-coordinated border management service that ensures safe travel and promotes licit trade.
The Act will see the various independent agencies currently managing SA’s borders falling under a single authority: the Border Management Authority.
This means the country’s borders now have an overarching law that regulates how they are controlled and managed. The Minister said the Department will begin implementing the Border Management Authority Act requirements immediately.
Expats May Travel Under Special Conditions
The Minister also confirmed that the Department is currently processing visas under special lockdown regulations. This will allow highly skilled expats to enter the country and help with the rejuvenation of the economy.
“We have seen some clients who are categorized as critically-skilled expats being authorised to enter the Republic and others being granted visas to travel to the country to take up essential work. All this taking place during the lockdown. So we are grateful to the Department for their efforts to keep the economy running,” says Seboko.
Stamping Out Corruption
The Minister said the Department is continuing to fight systemic and entrenched corruption by some officials that has historically plagued it. He called the three main culprits - bribery, fraud and corruption - “the terrible triplets”.
He highlighted the recent discovery of a fraudulent visa scheme, perpetrated by Home Affairs’ first Secretary for Civics and Immigration Services at its Namibian mission.
The official was found to be selling visas to non-qualifying people in Pakistan and Bangladesh, enabling them to gain access without even travelling to Namibia to obtain the documents.
This was just the tip of the ice berg, he told the Portfolio Committee.
The Minister also confirmed that the Department had revoked 100 visas obtained in this manner. In addition, there have been recent reports of officials being arrested from other offices of the Department for selling birth certificates, IDs, visas and other documents.
“With more of these anti-corruption measures taking place, we hope to someday see a corruption-free Department of Home Affairs,” comments Seboko.
Foreign nationals stranded in South Africa and unable to travel back to their home countries can breathe a sigh of relief.
In his address, the Minister said that Home Affairs will extend all permits and visas that were due to expire in the COVID-19 lockdown from 31 July 2020 to 31 October 2020. He further reported that he will be signing a Government Gazette to amend the current regulations, definitely giving effect to this before 31 July 2020.
“We are aware of the fears among those stranded in-country on the legality of their status after 31 July 2020. One thing is certain though - visas will be extended until 31 October 2020,” says Seboko.
However, those affected will have to wait for the amended regulations to be Gazetted to know if submission of visas will be allowed for those working, studying or accompanying spouses in the Republic.
Seboko believes that the address by the Department was positive overall and welcomed its intent. “One can only hope that Home Affairs succeeds in overcoming challenges in its obligations to the citizens of this country and foreign nationals legally admitted in the Republic,” he concludes.
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HOLISTIC EXPATRIATE SOLUTIONS
The Xpatweb group has been in existence for over 14 years and includes over 90 professionals, including immigration specialists, mobility practitioners, tax practitioners, attorneys, and chartered accountants. They offer holistic, client-centric, and fully compliant expatriate and work visa solutions. Clients can expect an exceptional end-to-end service that starts with an initial technical meeting to discuss any past challenges, a recommended optimal solution, and the creation of a roadmap and protocol for service delivery. They also offer an on-premises immigration audit service to confirm expatriate employees hold legally obtained, valid visas, and that their duties align with their visa conditions. In addition, their unique online immigration tracking system helps you to easily manage and track expatriate assignees across the globe, is fully customisable and dashboard-driven, and provides a secure repository for storing assignees’ documents.
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