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Immigration rules won’t change: Gigaba

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The new immigration regulations will not be changed but home affairs will deal with problems which have arisen since their implementation, minister Malusi Gigaba said on Monday.

“We are willing to engage with anybody who has concerns about the implementation,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.

He was speaking at the opening of the Johannesburg Visa Facilitation Centre in Rivonia.

“There are things in the immigration legislation which cannot be up for discussion. I think we need to remember… nothing is in the regulations which has not been raised in legislation.”

He said there had been enough time to raise concerns about the new regulations before they were passed into law.

The regulations, which came into effect in May, introduce a new visa regime for South Africa. They distinguish between short-stay visas and long-stay permanent residence permits.

Visa applications need to be made by applicants in person. People wanting to change the status of their visa can no longer do so in South Africa, but have to do so at missions abroad.

The new regulations also have strict rules applicable to children, defined as anyone under the age of 18. Children travelling to and from South Africa have to produce an unabridged birth certificate with the names of both parents.

A child not travelling with both parents has to supply either an affidavit from both parents giving them consent to travel, a court order indicating guardianship, or the death certificate of the other parent, copies of the parents’ or guardians’ identity documents or passports and their contact details.

On Monday, Gigaba said child trafficking and kidnapping was an international problem and South Africa had obligations and would not compromise on security.

“We need to know who is visiting so we can protect our country.”

He said the home affairs department was aware of problems, including lack of internet access and people not having their original birth certificates.

“We are ready to discuss the implementation and how to deal with the challenges experienced,” Gigaba said.

He said the tourism department and immigration officers had gone to his department and raised issues.

In June he announced that VFS Global, a worldwide outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments, had been appointed to receive and manage visa and permit applications in South Africa.

Eleven centres have been opened countrywide — in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, George, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Kimberley, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Rustenburg, and Port Elizabeth.

The centres were opened after the department realised the previous visa and permit processes were not working.

He said the new system eliminated corruption and improved turnaround time.

“We urge all applicants for visas to bear with us as this system is still new and is bound to confront some technical glitches. This is only natural and, with time, it will be addressed and everyone will be happy,” he said.

Gigaba said the centres received 4000 applications in June.

On Monday, Gigaba took a walk around the centre and spoke to employees.

VFS general manager of operations in Southern Africa, Rishen Mahabeer, accompanied him and answered questions.

In June, Brent Johnson and Cherene Delorie took the department to court to challenge what they called “unconstitutional legislation” governing visa applications.

Their foreign partners were branded undesirable and barred entry into South Africa. Home affairs said this was after they failed to follow due process when renewing their visas earlier in 2014.

Judge James Yekiso ruled the status of undesirability over Johnson’s wife and son, who are in Denmark, and Delorie’s husband, who is in Zimbabwe, be suspended and they be allowed to return to South Africa. SAPA

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