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South Africa set to introduce visas

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SOUTH AFRICA plans to introduce a raft of immigration law reforms that could have a bearing on thousands of Zimbabweans who continue to trek to the neighbouring country in search of jobs.

NQOBILE BHEBHE\
NQOBANI NDLOVU

South Africa suspended the cumbersome visa regime in 2009 after talks between the two countries under the Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security that began in November 2007.

It replaced the visas with a 90-day authorisation for Zimbabweans visiting South Africa and afforded them an opportunity to also apply for casual work and obtain a work permit while in South Africa.

However, this will no longer be possible under proposed amendments to that country’s Immigration Act released last week.

Under the proposed amendments, any foreign national who applies for and gets a job during a visit to South Africa will now be required to return to their country of origin to apply for a visa.

“One will not be allowed to change their status from a visitor visa to another type of visa.

“One will need to return home and make an application in their home country. This is a major change and will drastically change the way the immigration industry has traditionally worked,” reads part of the proposed amendments.

“On January 23 2014, a presentation was held describing what is likely to be a certain change in the Immigration Act of South Africa.

“In approximately 30 days, the announcements will be made and published for public comment, and based on the response over this period, gazetted and inscribed into South African immigration law.”

Under the proposed changes, categories “initially termed as “permits” would now be called “visas”.

The only category that would make use of the word “permit” would be the permanent residency permit.

The proposals are likely to spark panic among Zimbabweans who flock to South Africa every year in search of greener pastures.

An estimated three million Zimbabweans are believed to be living and working in South Africa with the majority having crossed into that country illegally. A large number claimed they were fleeing political persecution and sought asylum.

However, South Africa considers most of them economic migrants.

Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi yesterday told Southern Eye that he had not been apprised of any changes to the existing agreement.
“I am not aware of that. I will have to find out,” Mohadi said.

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