User-friendly laws and predictable processes needed to attract foreign skills and investment beyond 2010
By Leon Isaacson
Millions of people worldwide will watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup events and many different countries will be introduced to South Africa over this extended period, but the big question is how Home Affairs will attract foreign skills and investors beyond 2010.
The first thing that could be looked at is the introduction of user-friendly immigration legislation and a predictable permit application process, as the current legislation is a deterrent to skilled foreign workers and investors wanting to establish businesses here. The existing legislation is due to be amended to clarify certain categories of permits and to extend inter-company transfers from two to four years. This has been pending for six years.
Among the issues that need to be clarified are the quota lists, which for the past few years have not reflected the cumulative skills requirements for the country. Each year's quota list is issued without due regard to the previous year's lists. In most economies skills shortages last for less than one year, but in South Africa skills deficits are systemic in nature and should be viewed over a period of three to five years.
Another issue is that Home Affairs offices around the country currently take from three weeks to six months to process permit applications for foreign workers or investors, and vary in the requirements that they say should be met.
Most people who are going through an international investment or immigration application process want to have a predictable set of rules to follow and a predictable timeframe for the outcome to be decided. The inconsistencies between the various Home Affairs offices create despondency and frustration, and often lead to investors and skilled personnel looking to other countries for investment opportunities and jobs. This could be overcome by more training and better working conditions, including better salaries, for Home Affairs staff.
A pilot project has recently been introduced involving the centralisation of permit applications from three Home Affairs' offices in Gauteng at the Pretoria head office. While this type of processing could work, we have observed delays in the processing times of applications submitted by our Gauteng branch. The quality of the decision-making by the Pretoria Home Affairs staff has also declined noticeably since the launch of this project.
The three offices now being adjudicated at the head office are Pretoria, Germiston and Springs: busy offices that probably handle about 5 000 applications a month in total. Currently the Pretoria head office is understaffed, and this is unlikely to change rapidly as the process of staff selection and training takes longer in government than in the private sector. As a result of the centralisation process, the Pretoria head office started off with a backlog of about 8 000 applications, to which an additional 5 000 applications will be added every month. If declined applications become appeals, the appeal system will also soon be backlogged.
Although Johannesburg is the next busiest office, Cape Town has been targeted as the next to be centralised in Pretoria. The Cape Town office handles between 6 000 and 6 500 applications a month, so this number will be added monthly to the understaffed hub and backlog in Pretoria. Already most staff members at the Cape Town branch are putting in several hours of overtime daily to deal with a backlog of some 5 000 applications.
My company has applications that have been held in Pretoria for the past five months, although the existing laws state that Home Affairs must make a decision on every permit application within 30 days. In other cases, we have not even had an acknowledgement of receipt for applications submitted to Pretoria six weeks ago.
We believe that Home Affairs should be held accountable: if the department says it is going to take 30 days to issue a permit, then at the end of 30 days there should be a predictable outcome. In dealing with the British High Commission, for example, when handling matters such as South African investment into the UK, my company knows it will take five to 10 working days, like clockwork, for a permit to be issued.
The Forum of Immigration Practitioners, of which Global Migration is a member, recently started lobbying the Portfolio Committee to address immigration issues of this kind, and did a presentation to the committee in mid-March. This was not to attack Home Affairs: we believe the committee needs our perspective as it does not get reports of service on the ground, and we will continue to build that relationship.
If the pilot project is extended further, it can be expected that processing times will increase and that decision-making will continue to be poor. We suggest that the results of the current pilot should be carefully examined before any further centralisation takes place.
* Leon Isaacson is the MD of Global Migration, a national immigration company, which advises corporates and individual clients about immigration options and opportunities in South Africa. Phone 021 4190934 or visit www.globalimsa.com.
To all Businesses in the Transport Industry
The Department of Home Affairs has notified us that their Border Control Immigration officers will, as from 1 July 2010, not permit the entry of any foreign driver/staff member on the vehicle who does not have a work permit for South Africa. The previous arrangement was that foreign drivers would be allowed to enter the country on a visitor's visa for 30 days, and do what they needed to do and then leave. For a short while, Home Affairs granted a Visitor Permit with permission to work, but they say that this is not ideal as the foreigner should actually be on a Work Permit.
Two scenarios generally occur:
- Foreign Drivers on a Foreign Registered Truck: There drivers will have to carry the required documentation with them and on production the documentation and application at the Border Post, the Immigration Offices will issue them with a Visitor's Permit with Permission to Work (probably for 30 days). If the correct documentation is not presented, the permit will not be issued and the driver will not be permitted to proceed across the border into SA;
- Foreign Drivers on a South Africa registered truck: These drivers will need to show a Work Permit or if the permit has not yet been issued, proof that the application has been submitted and is pending at Home Affairs. For most transport companies, the best option would be a Corporate Permit, which would allow the company, with the pre-approval of DTI and Labour, to be granted sufficient permits (no limit to staff numbers, each permit issued for 5 years per staff member. This option is recommended to avoid any repeated problems with permits at the ports of entry). The main ports of entry would be Beitbridge, as well as the Namibian, Botswana and Mozambique entry points into South Africa.
Global Migration SA has extensive experience in doing these applications and we would like the opportunity to discuss the provision of this service to your company to avoid any delays and ensure the smooth running of your cross border activities after 1 June 2010.
Please contact us for further information on how we can ensure that your activities are not hampered by this change.
Leon Isaacson, Managing Director
National Number: 0861-644-728 (from inside SA only)
International: Head Office: 0027-21 -419 0934
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UK Visas: New Government, New Rules
The new Government in the UK, which is a coalition between the Conservative
and Liberal Democratic Parties, is likely to make changes to UK Immigration
Policy.In the current environment where unemployment is high, one should
expect the Government to protect the jobs of UK Nationals.
UK needs a flexible immigration policy for skilled migrants
The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Nick Anstee, has said the UK needs a
flexible immigration policy for skilled migrants to ensure the future of the
City as a major financial and decision-making centre.
The City needs flexible UK immigration, the Lord Mayor of London has said.
In the Lord Mayor's comment piece for the City AM newspaper he said it is
clear that the City lies at a crossroads and what is needed now was
certainty, clarity and confidence in the business environment when it comes
The new government provided some much needed detail on this front last week
by publishing its coalition agreement, he said.
"We welcome the Chancellor's commitment to create the 'most competitive
corporate tax regime in the G20', and one that underlines the fact that
Britain is open for business. Only by continuing to attract the top
institutions and individuals can we maintain our position in the
This is the reason why the country needs a flexible UK immigration policy
for skilled migrants capable of filling gaps in the labour market. Turning
away talent makes little business sense, the Lord Mayor added.
People from across the globe gravitate towards the City because of the
financial and professional services cluster and foreign direct investment
contributes more than a quarter to London's economy, generating over £52bn
Whilst some people view the predicted shift in the financial centre of
gravity towards Asia as a threat to London's position, the Lord Mayor said
he prefers to see it as a great opportunity for closer partnership and
(source : Newsnow.co.uk/Visabureau)