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Opinion: South Africa Needs More Visa-free Agreements if it Wants to Stop Losing ‘Passport Power’

Although the South African passport has lost 10 positions over the last decade on the latest Henley Passport Index, the country could play catch-up if a concerted effort is made to secure mutual visa waivers with so-called “high quality nations”.

This is the view of Amanda Smit, managing partner and head of South, Central and East Africa at the UK-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners.

South Africa ranks 56th on the latest index, which ranks passports in the world according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. It is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The UAE, for example, managed to increase its passport’s position on the index by 47 places over the last 10 years to 18th place, Smit told Fin24 on Wednesday.

Looking specifically at the BRICS countries, of which SA forms part, Smit said that, while Brazil and China improved their positions on the index over the past 10 years by nine and sixteen places respectively, India and Russia have also seen the power of their passports decline during that time, dropping by seven and two places respectively.

Smit says one might think the SA passport’s visa free or visa on arrival access to 100 destinations is a lot, but compare that to the Japanese passport (ranked in first place on the index) which offers 191 visa-free destinations.

On top of that, none of the 100 visa free destinations for an SA passport are in what Smit describes as the “most popular” destinations. In her view, that makes it more difficult to be “mobile” for business or leisure purposes.

She also argues that, while other African countries’ passports mainly remained static on the index, the SA passport lost ground.

Among African countries, the Seychelles remains the regional lead, ranking 29th globally with a visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 151, while Mauritius retains second place with a visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 146.

“My advice is that, if SA wants to improve the strength of our passport, we must be more proactive to obtain mutual visa agreements with other countries – preferably ‘high quality’ nations,” Smit says.

 

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Home Affairs Gazettes New, Tougher Laws for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has gazetted the Refugees Amendment Act, which came into effect from 1 January.

The amended act has new rules for refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa.

Speaking to Clement Manyathela on the Xolani Gwala Show, Dr Motsoaledi explains the new rules in the act. “We have added more exclusions on when can you get exclude for applying for asylum. In the new act we expel you if you commit fraud because when you defraud documents, you destroy the sovereignty of the country and undermine everything Parliament has done”, Motsoaedi said.

Motsoaledi says changes to the laws are much broader than what has been covered in the media. He explains that the act includes several updated definitions, including what it means to classify as a dependent.

According to Motsaoledi, applicants will be excluded if:

  • They have been involved in Schedule 2 crimes
  • They have fraudulent documentation
  • They were involved in war crimes
  • They enjoy protections from another country

 

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

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SA Home Affairs Has Extended Business Hours for Part of January

The South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has announced that it will be extending its operating hours from 2 – 11 January 2019 to keep up with demand over the busy holiday period. In a statement released recently, the DHA said that several of its offices across the country will operate from 07h00 to 19h00.

The department said the decision to extend operating hours came after long queues were experienced in some centers at the same time last year.

“Extending office hours at large offices and selected medium offices will help ensure citizens and clients are not turned away before receiving the services they require,” said department spokesperson Siya Qoza. “This will assist also in managing queues so that people do not spend a long time waiting to be served.”

Qoza further urged citizens to use this opportunity to collect their Smart ID cards if they have received a notification.

“Those who have not applied for their smart ID cards are encouraged to capitalize on the extended hours and accordingly apply with speed, ahead of the general elections,” he said. “All other services will be offered, including applications for and collection of passports and registration of births, marriages and deaths”.

You can find a full list of offices which will offer extended business hours here.

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

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South Africa’s e-Visa Pilot Is Live

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has started with the testing and piloting of the electronic visa application system, the e-Visa.

The DHA revealed their plans at a briefing recently.

This follows President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise at this year’s Africa Travel Indaba in Durban, to introduce a world-class e-visa system and reduce the red tape that travellers face when visiting the country.

Ramaphosa said at the time: “We must reduce the onerous and often unnecessary bureaucratic red tape that tourists who want to visit our countries face. This requires us to streamline our tourist visa regimes.

“As South Africa, we are committed to working towards the African Union’s goal of visa-free travel and a single African air transport market. We are in the process of radically overhauling our visa dispensation for the rest of the world and introducing a world-class e-visa system. The challenges are going to be ironed out,” he said.

DHA revealed in a statement that the decision to introduce the e-Visa provided many benefits. “It is reliable, client-friendly and convenient for visa applicants, airlines, trade partners and Home Affairs officials.

“Once fully rolled-out, prospective visitors will apply online for visas, at home, office or place of work. It will lessen administrative burdens, including those involved in receiving applicants at visa offices, printing visa stickers and returning passports to applicants.”

It also revealed that the department was testing the new system with Kenya.

“As part of the pilot, a team of DHA immigration and IT officials visited Kenya. This team is scheduled to return to Kenya next week, on December 9, 2019. The first Kenyan tourist who applied for the visitors’ visa on the new e-Visa system arrived yesterday (Saturday) afternoon and more are expected this week as part of the pilot.

“We are continuously monitoring this pilot process to ensure that user experience is not compromised,” the statement revealed.

China, India and Nigeria will be included to the pilot early next year, which will run until March 2020.

 

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

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

SA President Visits Home Affairs Head Office

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the Home Affairs head office in Tshwane recently, as part of his commitment to promote good governance and professionalism in the public sector. Click here to view the video.

On the back of bilateral talks with Nigeria, the President visited a Department of Home Affairs to ensure that asylum seekers were treated properly.

The department had been accused of being slow to issue asylum or other documentation, forcing foreign nationals to live as illegals.

Ramaphosa addressed staff and senior managers at Home Affairs in Tshwane.

“We are about to demonstrate to South Africans and the world that Home Affairs is at that top-level when we introduce the e-visa system which is world-class by any means that you can describe. But at the same time, the people of our country and the rest of the world will be expecting Home Affairs to continue to push the boundaries and push the limits and demonstrate that it can do even better than what we are doing now,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa met with his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday during a state visit.

The presidents of the continent’s two biggest economies reached 32 bilateral agreements following the gathering.

While Ramaphosa said that the recent xenophobic violence did not represent the values of either country, Buhari urged his citizens living in South Africa to adhere to the law.

Ramaphosa said South Africa and Nigeria agreed to elevate their co-operation to presidential level to revive relations that were battered by the recent violence.

Flight expenditure for undocumented migrants

Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi confirmed that R8 956 713.41 has been spent on charter flights and/or airlines by his department to deport undocumented migrants for the period April 1 to August 31 this year.

The minister made the revelations in a parliamentary reply to a question asked by DA MP Joseph McGluwa.

McGluwa asked Motsoaledi about the details of the charter flights and airlines as well as the total amount paid in respect of the deportations in both the 2018/19 financial year and since the start of April this year.

For the 2018 to 2019 financial year, R33 070 629.90 was spent on flights for the deportation of undocumented migrants.

DA MP Adrian Roos asked Motsoaledi whether he would engage with the executive mayors of metropolitan municipalities to conduct raids to combat illegal immigration.

To this, the minister replied that he “… has engaged with municipal structures on matters of migration and will do so on a continuous basis”.

“Joint and special operations to combat illegal migration are planned and conducted by law enforcement agencies at national, provincial and local level through inter-governmental security structures. All metro municipalities are represented in local security, provincial and national structures such as the provincial joint operational structures and the national structure,” Motsoaledi added.

 

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