MINISTER NALEDI PANDOR’S ADDRESS TO THE HOME AFFAIRS WEEKLY MEDIA BRIEFING, 28 FEBRUARY 2014, PRETORIA
Let me take this opportunity to welcome you all, thank you for making time for our media briefing. Today I will focus on (i) the draft Regulations to the 2011 Immigration Amendment Act (ii) the roll-out of the Smart ID card (iii) 2014 national elections (iv) and permitting issues.
We published the Draft Immigration Regulations in the Government Gazette on 14 February 2014 and invited public comment by 28 February. We have decided to extend the public comment period for a week in response to requests. The closing date will now be Friday 7 March 2014.
DRAFT IMMIGRATION REGULATIONS, 2014
Under the current regulations there are about 14 different types of permits that cover all categories of persons wishing to enter and live in the Republic on either a temporary or permanent basis.
Under the new regulations the word “visa” replaces the word “permit” except for the permanent residence “permit”. For example, a visitor’s permit will now be called a visitor’s visa, a work permit will now be called a work visa and a study permit will be called a study visa.
This means that under the new regulations there will be a clear distinction between short-stay visas and long-stay permanent residence permits.
All applications for visas will be made at our missions by the applicants in person.
The current regulations allow travellers on a visitors or a medical permit to change their status or conditions while in the Republic.
Under the new regulations this is no longer allowed. They will have to make an application from outside the Republic.
Under the new regulations study permits will no longer have to be renewed annually as they will be issued for the duration of study.
Under the new regulations the feasibility of the prospective business venture and the benefits it would have for the South African economy will be assessed before a business visa is granted. This means that a recommendation from the Department of Trade and Industry forms part of an application.
The Act further requires that the Minister should occasionally and after consultation with the Minister of Trade and Industry gazette a list of undesirable businesses. In this way, no business visa may be issued or renewed for a business that is on the list of undesirable businesses.
Under the current regulations there are four types of work permits (quota work permit, general work permit, exceptional skills work permit and intra-company transfer work permit). Under the quota work permit, the current law requires the Minister of Home Affairs to publish in the Government Gazette the specific occupational classes and specific professional categories at least annually.
After consultation with the relevant departments and in light of the Employment Services Bill introduced in Parliament by the Minister of Labour, it was decided to repeal the quota and exceptional skills work permits, and to introduce a critical skills visa.
We have responded positively to complaints from various companies regarding the period of two years for intra-company transfer work visas in that the new regulations are proposing a period of four years.
Currently, within the list of ‘undesirable persons’, there is no inclusion of “outstanding warrants or convictions in the Republic or foreign countries” against certain persons for offences relating to human smuggling and trafficking.
The new regulations address this. The convictions for human smuggling and trafficking have now been included alongside genocide, terrorism, murder, torture, drug related charges, money laundering or kidnapping.
Currently people who overstay their permits are fined. However, this is not a strong enough deterrent. The fine is only enforced when a person applies to return to the Republic and not immediately upon detection of the over stay.
We have introduced an amendment to the effect that any person, who overstays for a particular number of days at a time, will now be listed as an undesirable person.
In sum, the new regulations will bring the Immigration Amendment Act of 2011 into force and usher in a new era of secure, efficient and sound management of international migration.
ROLL OUT OF THE SMART ID CARD
We thought we should use this opportunity to also give an update on the roll-out of the smart ID card.
We are happy to report that since October 2013 to date we have processed over 80 000 smart ID cards. In this regard, we are on course to meeting our target of issuing 100 000 smart ID cards by the end of the financial year – 31 March 2014.
We have also now increased the number of our offices earmarked for processing of applications from 28 to 30 across the country. It is our hope that by April we would have 70 offices ready nationally for this purpose.
We are ready to invite the elderly, 60 years old and above, born in the month of March to start applying for their smart ID cards.
We encourage those who have not collected their IDs to do so as a priority. Similarly we advise all citizens who have applied for the new Smart ID cards to visit offices of application to collect them. At this stage we already have a total of 16,541 uncollected smart ID cards in our offices and of these 2,062 have not provided the department with contact details.
In this context, we wish to inform the public that it takes 10 days only to process a smart ID card application and delivery to the applicant. Citizens are therefore urged to respond positively to sms messages from the department urging them to collect their smart ID cards.
Remember the current green bar-coded IDs, smart ID cards and Temporary Identity Certificates will be accepted by the IEC as legal forms of identity.
We call on all people to participate in the forthcoming national elections to choose a government of their choice and as part of efforts aimed at the consolidation and strengthening of the gains we have made during the 20 years of peace, freedom and democracy.
STATE OF PERMITTING
Our challenges in this area have included the need to address backlogs in applications and ensure smooth processing of applications to protect our system from abuse.
The DHA has successfully tackled the permanent residence backlog from 2009 to 2013 through the Permanent Residence Backlog Project. The project was able to finalize 25 381 PR applications between September and December 2013.
Although the project was successful, there are still applications that the Department is finalizing as part of a mop-up operation to clean all applications that were lodged before May 2013. We ask clients who are affected to approach the Department for finalization of their outstanding permanent residence applications which fall in the period before May 2013.
As a measure to sustain the success of the Permanent Residence Backlog Project, the Department is presently working on recent applications from June 2013 onwards, to avoid any future backlogs. Although more capacity is required within permanent residence, there are 20 fulltime adjudicators employed to specifically manage this environment.
The Department will incrementally provide capacity in order to adequately manage permanent residence. I have also instructed the separation of permanent from temporary residence management, including adjudication.
As a result of the upgrade of the Track&Trace system in June 2013, temporary residence was negatively affected. Applications were adjudicated but they could not be issued out to provinces. The Department has cleared these applications in January 2014. I have instructed the Immigration Service Branch to earnestly work on the temporary residence project to stabilize this area same as the permanent residence area.
I will be closely monitoring the performance of this area, and I have withdrawn the Directive 43 of 2010. This Directive allowed foreigner nationals to leave the country on expired permits using proof of application. This practice was illegal and it encouraged a lethargic approach to the adjudication of temporary residence.
On this note I thank you and I am ready to field your questions.
Transcript Copy; Weekly Media Briefing; Minister Naledi Pandor; 28 February 2014
Question: How true is it that the five-year co-habitation rule will come into effect as opposed to the three months that was in place? ...Minister Naledi Pandor interjects to clarify…It is the requirement that you prove that you are in a permanent relationship and it has existed for five years or more…
Answer, Immigration Management Services Deputy Director-General, Mr Jacky Mckay: It is five years, it was never three months.
Question: In terms of the smart ID cards, what if I lose my ID book now? Can I apply for the smart ID card or do I have to wait until I am invited to apply? Also, in terms of the fines for overstaying your permits, how much is that? Is it within someone’s means to pay? How much was it before it was taken out?
Answer (Mr Mckay): The fines are between one and three thousand Rand and if you have overstayed for more than a month you will be charged the maximum fine of three thousand Rand …Minister responds to the question on Smart ID cards… For the moment we are not extending applications for the smart card to categories that fall outside our pilot pool. I believe we will be able to extend once we have seventy offices available but with the current thirty we cannot manage the numbers. From Pretoria News, you will recall the scene we had a week ago which was quite chaotic – and that was only senior citizens – so clearly, until we have grown the office numbers to a level that allows us to have a wider call we will still stick to the pool. From 01 April we are going to go wider than we have at the moment. So if you lose it, I suggest you wait until April but in the interim you will have to apply for the temporary ID or a green ID book. I am trying to assess whether we have sufficient capacity to actually stop some offices from accepting green ID book applications so that we entrench the smart card more into our society and systems.
Question: With regards to the draft regulations for the visas, I am going to concentrate on the business visa; I know that there are foreign nationals who have come to South Africa and have set up successful businesses and who might be deemed undesirable, what is going to happen to them? Are you going to ask them to reapply for their business visas? Maybe some of them may not even have visas to be in South Africa.
Answer (Minister Naledi Pandor): If a foreign national who does not have a legal permit has a business, they are illegal in the country and this is one of the areas I referred to in the cluster of government statement earlier this week; that because of poor capacity in immigration, particularly Inspectorate, we have allowed a number of illegal practices to continue to exist in the country. And, we have to develop the capacity in immigration to be able to address illegal practices. We have allowed illegal migration, we have allowed persons to set up businesses without permits, we have allowed persons to get work permits fraudulently, employers are employing persons who do not have legal status; all of these things have to be attended to and addressed by strengthening immigration in South Africa because no country allows itself to have immigration laws abused and neglected in the way that, to some degree, South Africa has allowed things to happen. It is an area that I believe we have to give attention to. Any person who holds a permit that is going to expire has to apply for renewal in terms of the new regulations.
Question: About the work permits, to they still need to advertise the positions in the publications or is that going to fall away?
Answer: Advertising is a requirement, obviously all over the world this is a normal practice. Some countries are far stricter because they ask you to provide them with a list of applicants and so on; we have not gone there yet but I think we have been less than attentive to the issue of whether the jobs have been advertised. What we may need to consider in future, is looking at electronic advertising but, of course, not everybody enjoys access to the web and so on…but it is an area that is increasingly being used by many young people who are looking for work. I think we have got to be modern as a Department but yes, there would have to be advertising.
Question: In terms of the situation at the Byron Place office with the senior citizens last week, I know that the DG of the Department was there but I have not visited the offices myself again, has the situation been cleared up? Have the elderly citizens been attended to?
Answer: The situation was attended to and it has improved…I was there on Monday…the numbers are still significant but I thought it was a far much better treatment; they had benches and the managers were out managing the queues far better…I think we have improvement. I was at Akasia on Monday…I actually worked behind the counter myself and many of the senior citizens were appreciative…but I still noted that they were standing and I think we should look at whether we should have benches as a temporary measure. We also had a problem where we had one cashier for what is a very busy office so we put in an extra cashier desk at the frontline counters…in fact I got exhausted working there but I spent the whole day and it was very interesting to observe our management of what is a very big project.
Question: How difficult, under the new draft regulations, is it to get a visa to come to South Africa? Does it become easier or difficult to an extent that we see a spike in illegal immigrants?
Answer: South Africa is a very accessible country…if you apply for our permits you get them…and as you know, unlike many countries, if you are on a visitor’s visa, you are able to extend your visa while in the country…so that has been the practise but anyone can come and visit as long as they are not a terrorist, a human trafficker, a murderer or wanted via Interpol for a range of crimes. We are a very accessible country, our immigration laws are very progressive and you will see from the growth which is outside world growth numbers of tourists that we are a very popular and accessible destination. I think part of what Government needs to do is to see immigration as an opportunity but also to be clear that you can have security threats as we saw in Kenya for example. You cannot be lax about immigration and to some degree our borders are a threat…they are porous, we need to ensure that our ports of entry are well managed…there are challenges in the system but I think we are very progressive and open as a country and as a society. ENDS