The proposed new immigration rules may well have far reaching implications for those seeking immigration to South Africa. They include regulations concerning the individuals rights to representation, a change in business permit requirements and a new work permit category to replace two existing work permit categories.You can read more about these here and the below focuses on the impact for returning South Africans and their partners.
It should at this point be emphasised that the new regulations still need to be published, however they do have great momentum and there appears to be a political will to do so prior to the general election.
Previously, changes to immigration policies, have been brought into effect with little or no notice period so it is therefore essential that you plan now.
There are two major changes that will effect South Africans returning with their loved ones, whether it be a spouse or life partner. Please ensure you read the below to fully understand the implications.
Can I still bring my Spouse / Partner back to South Africa with me?
Firstly there are no current proposals to change the criteria for spousal and life partner permits.
- If you are married then you would still apply for a spousal permit.
- If you are in a permanent relationship, but not married, you would still apply for a life partner permit.
So if you are married, or in a permanent relationship with a ‘foreigner’, and they wish to come with you on your return to South Africa these permits still remain.
Are there any exceptions to these two applications?
Unfortunately yes there are. The various South African embassies around the world ‘interpret’ the immigration regulations differently. There are two main concerns around this:
- Some embassies and consulates have been very reluctant / refused to accept life partner applications and insisted that in order for a loved one to accompany their South African partner back to SA they must be married. The embassy / consulate in Germany is one of these. This is most concerning when you take into account the point below – “where must I submit my application.” This may also be odds with the South African constitution.
- Some consulates and embassies will issue a relatives permit instead of a spousal or life partner permit. Whilst this creates extra paperwork and red tape for the spouse or life partner wishing to undertake some form of commercial activity it ultimately can be corrected.
Where must I submit my application? – essential reading for spousal and life partner applicants
The new regulations state that there can be no first time permit / visa application made within South Africa. This for example would mean someone on a tourist visa applying for a life partner or spousal permit.
In short once the new regulations are published you would have to make such applications abroad.
What are the ramifications of submitting abroad?
For many individuals it may actually be a positive thing, turn around times at many consulates and embassies are far quicker than South African based Department of Home Affairs offices.
It does mean better planning, a very large percentage of spouses and life partners still travel to South Africa on tourist visa’s and then apply for their life partner or spousal permit in South Africa. This will no longer be possible when the above comes into effect.
For others, such as those South Africans with German partners, the effect could be devastating unless a ‘change of heart’ at the local embassy or consulate can be achieved.
So what do I need to do?
- If your application is already submitted in South Africa there should be no need to worry. Historically applications already in the system have been processed according to the rules at the time and it is highly unlikely they would return your application and make you fly back to your country of origin to resubmit.
- If you are planning on returning to South Africa with your loved one and making an application in South Africa you need to do so with great speed. Although more likely to come into effect in May or June the new regulations could in theory be in place in March. If your application has not been made by the time they are implemented you run the risk of being sent back to your country of origin to make your submission and await your permit.
The bottom line is you should plan to make your submission in your country of origin.
What else do I need to aware of?
Rather worryingly the proposed new regulations seek to remove section 46, this section pertains to regulating the applicants appointed representative and its removal sees the immigration industry become unregulated.
This opens the door to unscrupulous operators who may see an opportunity to ‘provide’ immigration services that they are not equipped or experienced to do.
In short prospective applicants need to exercise great care and due diligence in appointing their immigration company once the new act is published.