October 23, 2014

Five months after the new amended Immigration Act came into effect it has become clear that the new regulations have created a very challenging corporate immigration environment. Requirements to obtain work authorization have tightened, processing times have increased and confusion is commonplace.

One of the biggest obstacles is the new requirement to apply for a recommendation from a governmental department or relevant board, body or council before the application for a visa can be submitted:

• Business visa applications require the approval from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The DTI uses strict requirements and at the moment is taking several months to issue a recommendation. Especially people wishing to conduct their own business in South Africa are having difficulties meeting the requirements set forth by the DTI.

• General Work Visa applications require a recommendation from the Department of Labor (DOL). Their approval process includes an extensive labor market search and an inspection of the sponsoring company’s premises, which also results in processing times of several months.

• Critical Skills Work Visa applications require the recommendation of a relevant board, body or council (e.g. Engineering Council for an application by an Engineer). However, these institutes are not always fully aware of this new responsibility and therefore it is not uncommon for them not to be willing to provide any recommendation – positive or negative.

The employee is informed when the recommendation is made to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), so that he or she can proceed with filing the visa application. However, the employee is not informed of the content of the recommendation – in other words, only after he or she has submitted the visa application will the employee find out whether the recommendation was positive or negative.

These and other concerns have been brought up to the DHA in the months following the implementation of the amended Immigration Act. In response to the voiced concerns the Minister of Home Affairs has announced the formation of a task force who will review the implementation of the new regulations. No indication has been provided within what time frame the taskforce should present its recommendations.

In the meantime, the South African government has shown its willingness to listen to and act upon concerns that are brought forward. Last month it announced the delay of the implementation of a new regulation that requires children travelling abroad or entering South Africa to carry not only their own passport, but also an unabridged birth certificate and written permission to travel from both parents or guardians (if not accompanied by both parents/guardians) (see our blog of September 26, 2014).

Pro-Link GLOBAL will continue to keep you updated on any relevant news regarding South Africa’s immigration regulations.