SA visa rules

New SA visa rules: 6 major changes

2014-05-27 18:00

Cape Town – The newly gazetted immigration rules have been called unconstitutional with considerable legal upheaval expected.

While government believes it has drawn a clear distinction between short-stay and long-stay permanent residency visas, Robbie Ragless, CEO at New World Immigration believes these changes have been implemented too hastily.According to Ragless, a clear outline of the costs for each visa has not been made available and the involvement of the Department of Labour and the Department of Trade and Industry in certain application processes means it has become extremely cumbersome and riddled with delay opportunities – already an issue for the industry.The Department of Home Affairs has contracted VFS to receive all applications but was reportedly still accepting applications until the official handover has taken place.

Following is an outline of the key issues surrounding the major rule changes:

1. Life Partner and Spouse Visas

Initially, government wanted proof that spouses or life partners have been together for at least 5 years before an application for a permanent or temporary residency could be made. This has since been changed to 2 years. Life Partners will however need to attend an interview “on the same date and time to determine the authenticity of the existence of their relationship”.

Issues arise when changes or extensions have to be applied for – with certain applications only eligible if done from the person’s original country of residence.

2. Changing Visa status while in South Africa

The application period has been changed from 30 days prior to the expiry of the current visa to 60 days. According to New World Immigration, Home Affairs is already plagued with visa application backlogs and this new period would negatively impact the approval process.

The new regulations also state that a person cannot change from a visitor’s visa into another type of visa and these applications for change of conditions must be made at a mission abroad – ie an embassy or consulate.

Under the “old legislation”, it was possible to apply for a temporary residence permit whilst using a visitor’s visa but the “new legislation” now prohibits any foreigner from applying for a temporary residence permit using a visitor’s visa.

Those who are using a visitor’s visa in South Africa would now need to leave and apply in their own country of residence.

If a person’s visitor visa has expired, they would need to seek legal advice about exiting South Africa as immigration officials have been advised to ban any foreigners for overstaying – by making them an undesirable person for 1 year, 2 years or 5 years.

3. Business Visas

This visa sees a more forensic approach in the new application process. Businesses will now need to get a recommendation letter from the Department of Trade and Industry and business visas will only be granted for 3 years at a time.

4. Critical Skills Visa

The Quota and Exceptional skills work permits have been replaced by the Critical Skills permit but the list of Critical Skills has not been published.

5. Intra-Company Visas

The employee will need to be employed with the foreign office for no less than 6 months before being eligible for transfer to South Africa. The visa will now be available for 4 years.

6. Fines

There has also been a massive increase in the administrative fines to be issued to those who overstay and any other persons who are in contravention of the act. Also, if a visa has expired foreigners face a ban labelling them an undesirable person for 1 year, 2 years or 5 years.

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