Its been 3 weeks since the country moved to level one of the lock-down and a little over a week since the borders reopened to international travel. While there have been some teething issues with the reopening of the borders which resulted in airlines cancelling all flights to South Africa early last week the chaos has since subsided somewhat. In this week’s piece we examine the immigration regulations published on the 30th of September and what they mean for life under lockdown level 1. The amendments to the regulations are no more than just 6 sections, however, to make sense of them they need to be read conjunction with the other regulations published since the 26th of March to make
When the country went into lock down , all visas that had been issued to persons from high risk countries were revoked and a procedure for entering the country on exceptional circumstances was introduced in terms of regulation 5 and 23 respectively. Those regulations have been repealed meaning that travel to the country will be allowed for anyone holding a valid visa to enter the country or a person from a visa exempt country not listed as a high-risk country.
Although the suspension of visa exemptions contemplated in regulation 6 remains in place several countries have had their visa exempt status reinstated by the Minister on the 4th of October. These countries include South Korea; Spain; Italy; Germany; Hong Kong; Singapore; USA; UK; France; Portugal Iran. An extensive list was published under Immigration directive 14 of 2020
Of these countries several are listed as being high risk meaning that while citizens from countries such as the US, UK, France, Portugal, Iran and Italy may be visa exempt, they can only come into the country in terms of an existing long-term visa or in terms of regulation 23A for business travel. Leisure travel is not permitted.
In the past week we have received inquiries from persons in high risk countries looking to depart from a low risk country to attempt to enter the country. Our assessment of the regulations reveals that this strategy may not be sound. For starters if the traveller is from a country whose visa exempt status has not yet been reinstated, it means that person does not hold a right of entry into the republic.
In the same manner, citizens from the USA and UK whose visa exempt status has been reinstated but travelling from a high-risk country for leisure will not be allowed in. It is also likely that travelling from a low risk country would also not mean guaranteed entry for leisure. Regulation 23A and the minister’s announcement make it clear that the concessions are for business travel only.
So before jumping on a flight to South Africa it is important to understand whether you hold a right of entry. While the Immigration officers have been advised to assess the country of origin and not citizenship the regulations will apply regardless. The list of visa exempt and low risk countries will be reviewed every 2 weeks and with that more clarity on the movement of persons in and out of the republic.
The final amendment is the insertion of paragraph 17G dealing with the additional services offered by DHA during level 1. These services include all temporary residence visa applications, appeals and exemption applications in terms of section 31(2)(c) commonly known as waiver applications. Applications for permanent residence and rectifications are still suspended.
For assistance with any of your immigration inquiries please do not hesitate to contact us.