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A renewed hope for SA`s Home Affairs Department

Source: IOL, 02/07/2024




This collaborative spirit is necessary as we work towards a Home Affairs Department that embodies transparency, efficiency, and integrity, the writer says.
As South Africa stands on the cusp of a transformative period under the stewardship of Home Affairs newly appointed Minister Leon Schreiber and the new Government of National Unity, there is a collective sense of optimism and opportunity for real change.
Stefanie de Saude Darbandi says , I am eager to highlight the possibilities and challenges ahead.
In celebrating the principles of unity embraced by the African National Congress and the new Government of National Unity, we recognize the importance of putting national interests above partisan divides.
This collaborative spirit is necessary as we work towards a Home Affairs Department that embodies transparency, efficiency, and integrity.
Minister Schreiber`s appointment marks a pivotal moment in our nation`s approach to immigration. With a background steeped in academic rigor and a commitment to principled governance, his leadership promises a departure from the status quo. This brings renewed hope for addressing the longstanding issues that have plagued our Home Affairs Department.
Our current immigration landscape is marked by inefficiencies, bureaucratic backlogs, and regulatory ambiguities. While the recent promulgation of new regulations on 19 May 2024 represents progress, it falls short of the comprehensive reforms needed to propel South Africa onto a competitive global stage. Minister Schreiber`s tenure presents an opportunity to revisit and refine these regulations, ensuring they not only streamline processes but also foster an environment conducive to economic growth and social cohesion.
A critical area in need of reform is the point system for working visas. The new regulations reference these points, yet clarity is lacking in how they align with the existing Immigration Act. Minister Schreiber`s leadership is essential in providing clarity and coherence in these regulations, ensuring transparency and fairness in the application process for skilled professionals who can contribute significantly to our workforce and economy.
Additionally, there is a pressing need to adapt the visitor visa option to accommodate remote work. More could be done, such as reconsidering the minimum requirement of a gross income of one million rand per annum and enabling these applicants to apply for permanent residence from within South Africa.
These adjustments would significantly broaden opportunities for individuals to work remotely from South Africa, thereby stimulating local economies and fostering cultural exchange.
The recent White Paper on immigration, while a step forward, highlights the need for a more ambitious vision. Drawing inspiration from successful immigration models globally, such as those in Canada and Australia, we can develop policies that balance national security with openness and inclusivity. These models demonstrate that effective immigration management not only addresses labour market gaps but also enriches our cultural fabric and drives innovation.
Beyond regulatory adjustments, we must address systemic issues within Home Affairs that have perpetuated injustice and deterred potential investors and skilled immigrants. The prevalence of wrongful rejections, which send many needed individuals and families in South Africa back into the system through an appeal process that either takes years to resolve or requires litigation to correct, undermines our credibility as a welcoming nation. Additionally, inconsistent service standards among Home Affairs officials abroad further exacerbate these challenges. Minister Schreiber`s commitment to accountability and efficiency presents an opportunity to overhaul these practices, ensuring fairness and respect for all applicants.
Furthermore, our firm has been involved in numerous court cases launched against Home Affairs since the onset of lockdown. It is concerning that many of these cases go into contempt two or three times before resolution. We sincerely hope that under Minister Schreiber`s leadership, there will be a marked improvement in honouring court orders and agreements, leading to timely and lawful outcomes.
Another further pressing issue on everyone`s mind is the blanket waiver enabling long-term visa and waiver applicants to remain in South Africa and exit without being banned, which expired at the end of June. As of now, there has been no update on this very important matter. However, with Minister Schreiber at the helm, we are hopeful that clarity and direction will soon follow. His track record suggests that he will address these pressing concerns with urgency and diligence. It is crucial that the new minister understands that ALL visa applicants should be protected from delays, not just those applying for long-term visas. An illustrative example is the case of the `swallows` ` seasonal visitors who contribute significantly to our economy. If they apply for renewal of their entry or short-term visa and encounter delays, they too should benefit from a waiver extension while awaiting clearance of the backlog. This approach ensures fairness and supports economic activity by maintaining a welcoming environment for all who wish to contribute to South Africa`s growth.
The establishment of an Immigration Advisory Board is long overdue. Minister Schreiber`s leadership is important in convening this board, comprised of diverse stakeholders including legal experts and community representatives. This board will provide invaluable guidance in shaping inclusive and responsive immigration policies that reflect our values and aspirations as a nation.
In shaping a new era for South Africa`s immigration landscape.
As we embark on this journey of transformation, we extend our support and expertise to Minister Schreiber in shaping a new era for South Africa`s immigration landscape Together, let us seize this moment to enact meaningful reforms that unlock our nation`s full potential. By building a Home Affairs Department that meets the needs of our citizens, residents, and all foreigners from around the world, as well as our neighbouring countries, we can position South Africa as a beacon of progress and prosperity on the African continent


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