2018 has been off to a flying start.  We are now in March and we have a new President and a new old  Minister of Home Affairs. What these changes mean for the Immigration landscape, only time will tell.   It has been almost 4 years since the wholesale changes to the Immigration Act and Regulations and this means that this year will see many permits coming to an end.  The average work permit is issued for a period of up to 5 years, this means that last people whose permits were applied for under the old Immigration Regulations will be coming to grips with the new immigration regime when attempting to renew their permits.  In this week’s piece we try and highlight some critical aspects of the new visa regime in the hope that many will avoid the pitfalls that many encountered when the immigration regulations were abruptly introduced on 26 May 2014.

Time is your friend.

Previously one was required to apply for their visa 30 days before it expired.  Under the new Immigration regulations, you must submit your application 60 days prior to the visa expiring.  This of course does not mean that you start the process with 60 days remaining, but rather earlier.  The renewal processes for many work visas such as the General work visa require at least 6 months for the Department of Labour process to be completed. This means you have to start the renewal process with 8 months to go before your visa expires.  Whether you opt to apply for a waiver of the labour certificate or apply for a labour certificate, the processes are a bit cumbersome and it is advisable to get professional assistance.  Under no circumstances must you allow your current permit to expire before you have submitted the renewal as the consequences are rather serious.

Persons on Work Permits.

I could write a book on this issue but the key issue to note here is that the quota and the Exceptional Skills Permits were replaced by the critical skills work visa.  A number of the skills listed on the quota list are no longer on that list.  For example, Maths and Science Teachers and Economists. So, the solution in this instance can be to either apply under the appropriate skill on the critical skills list or to make an application for a general work visa.  I have repeat what I said earlier the sooner you start this process the better.

The General work visa now requires a certificate from the Department of labour confirming that the employer has conducted a diligent search of the labour market and has not been able to find a suitably qualifies citizen or permanent resident to take up the post and that the foreigner is employed in line with labour conditions.  As previously stated the process will take anything from 4 -6 months to complete. So you will need familiarise yourself with this process and start the process to renew your visa much earlier.

Changes to the Business Visa

 The process of renewing a business visa is also significantly different.  The capital requirements have doubled from 2.5 million to 5 million rands.  In addition to this you have to get a Letter of Recommendation from the Department of Trade and Industry on the feasibility of the business and the businesses contribution to the National interests of the Republic. A very vague and unusual concept as I believe any new business would contribute positively to the national interest of the Republic, but that is a story for another day.  Another key issue here is that on renewing the visa you have to show that you complied with conditions endorsed on the business permit, i.e.  that you registered with all the relevant statutory bodies, you employed the 5 SA citizens and Permanent residents and critically that you did in fact invest the 2.5 million.

Other relevant changes

 There were other changes to the relatives visa, Study Visa and Retired person Visa, but theses visas would have been up for renewal much earlier than the ones above.  I think the most important take away from this article is that when renewing you Visa you need to start the process as early as possible so as to avoid the risk of overstaying and becoming an undesirable person or falling into the trap if quick and easy solutions. There is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to South African Immigration issues.

For assistance with your immigration matter you can contact us at our offices and speak to one of our specialists.

Munyaradzi Nkomo

Lead immigration specialist at Strategies Migration Services SA

Email: munya@immigrationspecialists.co.za

Cell: +2774 337 0269

tel : +2711 463 5011