South Africa has centralised the issuing of study, work and business permits – and is looking at extending the period of their validity – in order to make it easier for foreigners to work and study in the country, and for businesses to import scarce skills.
The Department of Home Affairs said last week that work, study and business permits would now be issued from its headquarters in Pretoria.
Previously, permits were applied for at Home Affairs' regional offices across the country. These applications were then sent to the department's headquarters for adjudication and ratification, resulting in huge backlogs.
Need for scarce skills
These backlogs had a negative impact on the operation of businesses that wanted to import scarce skills from abroad, and created hardships for foreigners who had apply for their permits to be re-issued annually.
As a result, South Africa was losing out on critical skills that could contribute to the growth of the economy and the development of the country. For foreign students, delays in receiving their study permits often meant that they lost their positions at academic institutions.
"This is totally unacceptable and has become unbearable for business, students and foreign workers," said Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Dlamini-Zuma said she also wanted permits to be valid for three to five years, doing away with the need for annual re-applications for permits. To achieve this, the department was looking into introducing changes to its current operating procedures.
Zimbabwean nationals excluded
Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Alpeni stressed that the centralisation of the process of issuing permits did not apply to Zimbabwean nationals, who were required to regularise their stay in South Africa following a Cabinet decision.
So far, the department had received 73 407 applications from Zimbabweans wanting to regularise their stay in the country, Apleni said, adding that 20 966 of these applications had been approved and 5 486 rejected, with the rest awaiting adjudication.
The deadline to document all illegal Zimbabweans by 31 December 2010 had not changed, he added. [source: BuaNews]