New immigration law to draw skills
Zibonele Ntuli6 July 2005
New immigration regulations which came into effect this month are designed to attract the foreign skills and investment necessary for South Africa's economic growth, says Home Affairs spokesperson Nkosana Sibuyi.
They also reflect South Africa's commitment to human rights and the security of those living within the country's borders.
Sibuyi said the amended immigration regulations will discourage illegal migration, especially of people from poverty-stricken countries, by creating a wider array of permits to legalise entry.
"As a country we have an obligation to regulate or facilitate movement of people, goods and services into and outside South Africa," Sibuyi said.
"If somebody wants to visit South Africa, he or she must have a passport and apply for a visa if so required.
"A potential investor, tourist, student or diplomat should apply for a relevant permit to legalise his or her stay in the country."
Sibuyi explained that under the new regulations, if a foreigner wants to start a business, he or she is expected to apply for a business permit and should have R2.5-million to invest.
Applicants without these funds must convince the government that the business will be viable in South Africa.
"We need to strike a balance in terms of scarce skills," Sibuyi said. "We must capacitate our own people first before we attract skills from foreigners, so that we get a cross-pollination of ideas to empower our country."
He said the regulations would create an enabling environment for direct foreign investment in South Africa, and attract skills needed by the country's economy.
The new National Immigration Branch, launched in April, has trained 106 officials to control the entry, stay and departure of foreigners in the country, as regulated by the Immigration and Refugee Acts.
"The training takes at least a year," Sibuyi said. "We want our officials to understand the Act, immigration regulations and how to fill forms so that travellers do not have to go through this burden at immigration offices.
"We want to ensure that people who come to the country can do so conveniently."
The new regulations also clamp down on marriages of convenience, where foreigners pay local people to marry them and then use the marriage certificates to apply for citizenship.
"The amended Act makes it a requirement that any foreigner who wishes to marry a South African and thereby obtain permanent residence in the country should have a marriage in good faith to such a South African citizen for at least five years before the status can be granted to them.
"This will help our fight against the problem of fraudulent marriages," he said.
Almost 2 000 marriages were recently denied legality following a department investigation into marriages of convenience.
With the new regulations, students from Africa will no longer be required to pay deposits before getting study permits, provided their governments submit written undertakings to pay deportation expenses for such students should this become necessary.
Entry and transit visas, renewal of visitors' permits, study permits and medical treatment permits will now cost R425.
Business permits, work permits and permanent residence permits each cost R1 520. The certificate of confirmation of permanent residence is R100.
The amended Act also benefits workers from neighbouring countries: they will no longer have to leave the country immediately after being retrenched or dismissed from their jobs.
"Now that there so many permits, there is no need for people - especially those from neighbouring states - to come to South Africa illegally," Sibuyi said.
He said the Southern African Development Community was currently discussing free movement within member states, referring to the recent agreement between South Africa and Mozambique to waive visa requirements.
On the question of asylum-seekers, he said South Africa was guided by United Nations policies and the African Union Convention on Refugees.
"We do not expect asylum-seekers to come to here with all the required documents, because of the conflicts in their countries," Sibuyi said. "When they come here they should go to the nearest refugee reception and apply for asylum."
Refugee smart cards printed by Home Affairs will be given to refugees.