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MPs Concerned About Home Affairs’ Contract for Visas

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs wants the renewal of a contract to outsource the processing of visas reviewed, likening it to the controversial Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract.

The committee recently resolved to write to Minister of Home Affairs Siyabonga Cwele to review the contract with VFS Global.

The committee heard that the contract with VFS Global was renewed for two years in December, without it going through the open tender procurement process. The department initially contracted VFS Global in 2010.

Chief director of immigration services at the department Richard Stolz said the extension of the contract “was legally provided for”. He said there would have been an “immense” reputational risk to the department if there was a discontinuity in their operating model.

But MPs are highly critical of the deal.

DA MP Haniff Hoosen said it destroyed job creation in South Africa because the deal meant that several local companies providing visa services had to close their doors.

ANC MP and chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Tourism Lusizo Sharon Makhubela-Mashele, who also attended the meeting, likened it to the South Africa Social Security Agency’s (Sassa’s) controversial dealings with CPS.

Committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke also subscribed to this idea.

“The extension creates a perception of another Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), which was the only service provider at the South Africa Social Security Agency said to have the capacity to render services. It is even more concerning that the department has extended the scope of work of VFS to establish services in countries it did not have previously,” Chauke said in a statement released after the meeting.

Several MPs said it seemed like the law was amended to deliberately give VFS Global a monopoly.

“Maybe, if we can’t conclude these issues, we must refer it to the Zondo commission [into state capture]. It is part of state capture,” Chauke said.

“Deliberately, you have amended legislation to create this monopoly. It killed all the small players.”

After being castigated by the committee, deputy director general of immigration services Jackie Mckay said: “We note all of the issues that are raised here.”

He acknowledged that it was not the first time that the committee had raised it.

“We take note of it.”

He said before the contract expired, they had started with an open tender process, but in April last year received a legal opinion to not follow such a process.

“That threw a spanner in the works,” Mckay said.

“We have no interest in who is delivering the service, as long as the service is delivered to us.”

Mckay said “serious, serious capacity problems” had been the bane of his existence.

“We just don’t have the staff.”

He said they had approached Treasury on several occasions, to no avail. This did little to appease the committee.

In his statement, Chauke said the committee would like to hear from Cwele about the possibility of going out on an open tender process and his plans to build capacity within the department to quickly process visa applications.

Cwele will be expected to respond to the committee within a week to ensure that the matter is dealt with before Parliament rises.

“While the committee acknowledges that Parliament has no right to inform the department on whom to contract for services, it would be a dereliction of its duty if it did not highlight cases where the department is deliberately breaking its own rules and guidelines,” read the statement.

“It is even more concerning that capacity in key tourism markets, such as Nigeria and India, is lacking, leading to few processed applications impacting on the numbers of tourists coming into the country,” Chauke said.

VFS Global describes itself as the “world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide” on its website.

“The company manages the administrative and non-judgmental tasks related to visa, passport, identity management and other citizen services for its client governments. This enables them to focus entirely on the critical task of assessment.”

The company’s headquarters are in Dubai, its parentage is Swiss and it is a portfolio company of EQT, a global private equity firm headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden.

Last week, the committee also asked Cwele to investigate the department’s contract for the automated biometric identification system with technology company EOH.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: PhilippN [1], [2].

Richards Bay Home Affairs Faces More Complaints

The Richards Bay Department of Home Affairs has once again come under the spotlight from disgruntled members of the public, who say the systems are constantly off-line, whether during load-shedding or not.

People wanting to make use of the department’s services, including obtaining ID books or smart cards, birth and death certificates or passports, are left standing in the late summer sun when the systems are down, sometimes with no time frame as to when they will be online again.

One member of the public said this issue has been ongoing for the past two weeks.

‘Many people do not have the money to make the trip numerous times.’

The department acknowledged that load-shedding has contributed to some downtime experienced at the Richards Bay branch, but that this is not continual, nor has the system been offline for two weeks.

‘Apart from that, there is a problem with the central IT server at the department’s Pietermaritzburg head office.

The spokesperson said there is nothing that each individual home affairs branch can do to rectify the problems with the central server, but that the Richards Bay technicians are hassling the technicians in Pietermaritzburg in their bid for feedback.

Five things to do to make your trip to Home Affairs easier:

1. Phone the branch beforehand to ensure it is operational

2. Find out the quietest time of day or quietest day of the week

3. Do as much of your application online as possible

4. Apply for your document in good time

5. Ensure you arrive at the office early in the morning

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Countries South Africans Can Visit Without a Visa in 2019

Arton Capital, a provider of residency and citizenship solutions, has released its latest Passport Index – a system that ranks travel documents by the number of countries that can be visited without having to apply for a visa.

In a surprising shake-up, the United Arab Emirates has replaced Singapore as having the most valuable passport in the world.

Recently, four new countries were added to its visa-free list bringing the total to 167.

Singapore (167) and Germany (166) round up the top three, with the top of the list dominated by European countries.

While South Africa ranks 44th on the overall list, it has shown steady annual improvements – rising to 94 countries in 2018 from 90 countries at the end of 2017.

This number could increase even further in 2019 as the Department of Home Affairs plans to implement a range of visa changes to encourage foreign investment and travel.

South Africa is negotiating visa waiver agreements for ordinary passport holders with a number of countries, as well as simplifying visa requirements for countries such as China and India.

This may result in reciprocal arrangements which could see these countries lower the requirements for South African tourists.

Below is a list of the countries South Africans can currently visit without a visa.

Visa-free for 30 days

  • Angola
  • Costa Rica
  • Guyana
  • Lesotho
  • Panama
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Dominica
  • Haiti
  • Macao
  • Paraguay
  • Tanzania
  • Argentina
  • Dominican Republic
  • Honduras
  • Malawi
  • Peru
  • Thailand
  • Bahamas
  • Ecuador
  • Hong Kong
  • Malaysia
  • Philippines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Barbados
  • El Salvador
  • Indonesia
  • Mauritius
  • Qatar
  • Tunisia
  • Belize
  • Eswatini
  • Ireland
  • Micronesia
  • Russian Federation
  • Uruguay
  • Benin
  • Fiji
  • Israel
  • Mozambique
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Vanuatu
  • Botswana
  • Georgia
  • Jamaica
  • Namibia
  • Saint Lucia
  • Venezuela
  • Brazil
  • Grenada
  • Kenya
  • Nicaragua
  • Singapore
  • Zambia
  • Chile
  • Guatemala
  • Kosovo
  • Palestinian Territories
  • South Korea
  • Zimbabwe

 

eVisa/Visa on arrival 

  • Armenia
  • Ghana
  • Nepal
  • Togo
  • Azerbaijan
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Oman
  • Turkey
  • Bolivia
  • Iran
  • Palau
  • Tuvalu
  • Cambodia
  • Jordan
  • Rwanda
  • Uganda
  • Cape Verde
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Samoa
  • Comoros
  • Laos
  • Senegal
  • Cuba
  • Madagascar
  • Seychelles
  • Djibouti
  • Maldives
  • Somalia
  • Ethiopia
  • Marshall Islands
  • Tajikistan
  • Gabon
  • Myanmar
  • Timor-Leste

To view the interactive Arton Global Passport Index, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

15 Destinations South Africans Can Visit Visa-Free in 2019

Residence and citizenship planning company, Henley & Partners, recently published its Passport Index for 2019. With its citizens enjoying visa-free access to 101 countries in total, South Africa is the third highest African country on the index.

The number of counties is down from 102 in 2018, with South Africans now requiring a visa to enter Turkey – although this can be done through a simple online process designed to issue your visa within 48 hours.

Below are 11 countries South Africans can travel to visa-free right now.

1: Panama (Visa-free for 180 days)

Panama is a country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. The Panama Canal, a famous feat of human engineering, cuts through its center, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route. In the capital, Panama City, modern skyscrapers, casinos and nightclubs contrast with colonial buildings in the Casco Viejo district and the rainforest of Natural Metropolitan Park.

2: Peru (Visa-free for 180 days)

Peru is a country in South America that’s home to a section of Amazon rainforest and Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan city high in the Andes mountains. The region around Machu Picchu, including the Sacred Valley, Inca Trail and colonial city of Cusco, is rich in archaeological sites. On Peru’s arid Pacific coast is Lima, the capital, with a preserved colonial center and important collections of pre-Columbian art.

3: Philippines (Visa-free for 30 days)

The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country in the Western Pacific, comprising more than 7,000 islands. Its capital, Manila, is famous for its waterfront promenade and centuries-old Chinatown, Binondo. Intramuros, a walled city in colonial times, is the heart of Old Manila. It’s home to the baroque 17th-century San Agustin Church as well as Fort Santiago, a storied citadel and military prison.

4: South Korea (Visa-free for 30 days)

South Korea, an East Asian nation on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, shares one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders with North Korea. It’s equally known for its green, hilly countryside dotted with cherry trees and centuries-old Buddhist temples, plus its coastal fishing villages, sub-tropical islands and high-tech cities such as Seoul, the capital.

5: Thailand (Visa-free for 30 days)

Thailand is a Southeast Asian country. It’s known for tropical beaches, opulent royal palaces, ancient ruins and ornate temples displaying figures of Buddha. In Bangkok, the capital, an ultramodern cityscape rises next to quiet canalside communities and the iconic temples of Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Emerald Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Kaew). Nearby beach resorts include bustling Pattaya and fashionable Hua Hin.

6: Macau (Visa-free for 30 days)

Macau is an autonomous region on the south coast of China, across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong. A Portuguese territory until 1999, it reflects a mix of cultural influences. Its giant casinos and malls on the Cotai Strip, which joins the islands of Taipa and Coloane, have earned it the nickname, “Las Vegas of Asia.” One of its more striking landmarks is the tall Macau Tower, with sweeping city views.

7: Hong Kong (Visa free for 30 days)

Hong Kong is an autonomous territory, and former British colony, in southeastern China. Its vibrant, densely populated urban centre is a major port and global financial hub with a skyscraper-studded skyline. Central (the business district) features architectural landmarks like I.M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower. Hong Kong is also a major shopping destination, famed for bespoke tailors and Temple Street Night Market.

8: Fiji (Visa-free for 120 days)

Fiji, a country in the South Pacific, is an archipelago of more than 300 islands. It’s famed for rugged landscapes, palm-lined beaches and coral reefs with clear lagoons. Its major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, contain most of the population. Viti Levu is home to the capital, Suva, a port city with British colonial architecture. The Fiji Museum, in the Victorian-era Thurston Gardens, has ethnographic exhibits.

9: Chile (Visa-free for 90 days)

Chile is a long, narrow country stretching along South America’s western edge, with more than 6,000km of Pacific Ocean coastline. Santiago, its capital, sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes and Chilean Coast Range mountains. The city’s palm-lined Plaza de Armas contains the neoclassical cathedral and the National History Museum. The massive Parque Metropolitano offers swimming pools, a botanical garden and zoo.

10: Belize (Visa-free)

 

Belize is a nation on the eastern coast of Central America, with Caribbean Sea shorelines to the east and dense jungle to the west. Offshore, the massive Belize Barrier Reef, dotted with hundreds of low-lying islands called cayes, hosts rich marine life. Belize’s jungle areas are home to Mayan ruins like Caracol, renowned for its towering pyramid; lagoon-side Lamanai; and Altun Ha, just outside Belize City.

11: Bahamas (Visa-free for 90 days)

The Bahamas is a coral-based archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. Its 700-plus islands and cays range from uninhabited to packed with resorts. The northernmost, Grand Bahama, and Paradise Island, home to many large-scale hotels, are among the best known. Scuba diving and snorkeling sites include the massive Andros Barrier Reef, Thunderball Grotto (used in James Bond films) and the black-coral gardens off Bimini.

12: Indonesia (Visa-free for 30 days)

Indonesia, a Southeast Asian nation made up of thousands of volcanic islands, is home to hundreds of ethnic groups speaking many different languages. It’s known for beaches, volcanoes, Komodo dragons and jungles sheltering elephants, orangutans and tigers. On the island of Java lies Indonesia’s vibrant, sprawling capital, Jakarta, and the city of Yogyakarta, known for gamelan music and traditional puppetry.

13: Ireland (Visa-free for 90 days)

The Republic of Ireland occupies most of the island of Ireland, off the coast of England and Wales. Its capital, Dublin, is the birthplace of writers like Oscar Wilde, and home of Guinness beer. The 9th-century Book of Kells and other illustrated manuscripts are on show in Dublin’s Trinity College Library. Dubbed the “Emerald Isle” for its lush landscape, the country is dotted with castles like medieval Cahir Castle.

14: Singapore (Visa-free for 30 days)

Singapore, an island city-state off southern Malaysia, is a global financial center with a tropical climate and multicultural population. Popular attractions include Gardens by the Bay, Universal Studios Singapore, Chinatown, the Singapore Zoo, the Merlion statue, Clarke Quay, and the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

15: Argentina (Visa-free for 90 days)

Argentina is a massive South American nation with terrain encompassing Andes mountains, glacial lakes and Pampas grassland, the traditional grazing ground of its famed beef cattle. The country is famous for tango dance and music. Its big, cosmopolitan capital, Buenos Aires, is centered on the Plaza de Mayo, lined with stately 19th-century buildings including Casa Rosada, the iconic, balconied presidential palace.

 

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Octavio Fossatti [1], [2], Cahal Pech Village Resort [3], Florian Wehde [4], Dennis Rochel [5], Fancycrave [6], Leighton Smith [7], Sander Crombach [8].

5 New Visa Changes South Africans Need to Know About Before Heading to the UK

UK immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, recently made a number of surprising announcements as the country prepares to make visa reforms.

Below, Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants broke down some of the most important changes and what they will mean for South Africans.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa to be replaced by innovator route

The current Tier 1 Entrepreneur route will be replaced by a new Innovator route, for more experienced business persons.

It will have a “similar emphasis on endorsement by a business sponsor, who will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability”.

“We subsequently encourage applicants who still want to apply under the current Tier 1 Entrepreneur route, to contact us without delay,” Breytenbachs said.

New start-up visa route

Earlier in 2018, the UK Government announced that it will establish a new Start-up visa route. This route will build on the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route.

Applicants under this new route will have to be endorsed by either a business or higher education institution sponsor.

No clarity on Tier 1 investor route

The UK Government announced on 6 December 2018 that the Tier 1 Investor route is suspended.

It added this route will from 7 December 2018 no longer be open for applicants to apply, and that new rules will be put in place sometime during 2019.

However, the Home Office has since released an official statement to the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) stating the following:

“The Tier 1 (Investor) visa is not currently suspended. However, the Government remains committed to reforming the route. A further announcement will be made in due course.

“Any suspension would be implemented through changes to the Immigration rules.”

Tier 1 exceptional talent extended to architects

The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route will be expanded to provide for the inclusion of leading architects.

These architects will have to be endorsed by the Royal Institute of British Architects, under the remit of the Arts Council England.

Tier 5 religious and charity workers

Tier 5 Religious Workers and Tier 5 Charity Workers will in future have a cooling off period.

This cooling off period will prevent them from returning to the UK for 12 months, on another Tier 5 visa. This step is taken to underpin the fact that this is a temporary route.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].