Immigration Reforms Unpacked

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New re-entry bans in force for visa overstays

Previously visa overstays were only subject to fines. Under the new legislation, foreign nationals who overstay their visas in South Africa are now subject to bans on re-entering the country, according to an internal directive from the Department of Home Affairs.
The length of an individual’s re-entry ban will depend on the length of their overstay:

  • a foreign national who overstays for 30 days or less will not be able to enter South Africa for 12 months;
  • a foreign national who overstays a visa for the second time within a period of 24 months will not be able to enter for 2 years; and
  • A foreign national who overstays for more than 30 days will be subject to a 5 year ban on entry.

List of occupations qualifying for critical skills visas

The Department of Home Affairs published the skills list used to determine which occupations qualify for the critical skills visa and permanent residence permit in GN 459 dated 3 June 2014. This means that foreign nationals can now apply for the critical skills visa.

The critical skills list is comprised of over 100 occupational categories spread out across 12 industry sectors, together with the requirements to qualify in each occupation or under each critical skill. It should be noted that there are no limits to the number of applications that will be accepted for each occupation.

Strict travel document requirements for children postponed

Children under the age of 18 travelling internationally to and from South Africa will not have to present their unabridged birth certificates and other documents to prove parental consent of travel until June 1 2015. This requirement was initially due to be implemented on October 1 2014 but was postponed, according to a Parliamentary announcement by the South African Minister of Home Affairs on 16 September 2014.

The rule, which is aimed at combatting international child trafficking, applies to South African citizens and foreign nationals. There is one set of requirements for children travelling with their parents and a more burdensome set of requirements for children travelling without their parents, including the requirement to obtain written permission from both parents or guardians authorising the travel. The Department of Home Affairs still plans to implement the new rule to combat international child trafficking, but has delayed the effective date to accommodate accurate and timely communication to South African missions abroad, travel operators and prospective travellers, and to give parents more time to obtain the required documents in time for their children’s travel plans.

Foreign nationals and South African citizens should therefore, obtain unabridged birth certificates well in advance of any international travel to or from South Africa.

Extending intra-company transfer work visas

The Department of Home Affairs stated in May 2014 that foreign nationals could return home and obtain a second intra-company work visa, in the same manner as those applying for their first intra-company work visa. In August 2014, the Department reversed this decision, directing that a foreign national could not obtain a new intra-company work visa if they had been granted an intra-company work visa prior to the new regulations coming into force.

In response to complaints of inconsistent treatment, the Department then confirmed that foreign nationals issued with intra-company transfer work visas, prior to the implementation of the Immigration Regulations, 2014 can apply for a second intra-company transfer work visa, valid up to 4 years. Applicants must apply at a South African mission in their country of nationality or residence and must meet all eligibility requirements.

In an even later directive, the Department went on to state that intra-company transferees granted status prior to the implementation of the Immigration Regulations, 2014 can now renew their status in South Africa. In this case as well, their total stay cannot exceed 4 years (this includes the validity period of the previously-issued intra company transfer work visa), and the foreign national must meet all relevant eligibility requirements.

Souce: Alexia Prior
Alexia Prior is a Client Services Advisor of Government Strategies and Compliance based in the Johannesburg office of Fragomen Africa (Pty) Ltd. She advises clients on the various African immigration procedures as well as other compliance aspects, including minimum salary requirements, same-sex partners, local sponsor requirements and corporate documentation requirements.

Alexia is also one of the contributors to LexisNexis Practical Guidance Immigration, a newly launched online product that helps you find everything you need to know about immigration, quickly and conveniently.