Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  07 Jul 2010

IMMIGRATION: Is the World Cup Bonanza Being Killed By Home Affairs?


Recent Gauteng Business News

The impact of the World Cup has already been felt by some industries during the last few weeks, but for many there was an anticipation of a 'boom' to come says Stuart James of Intergate Immigration.

The world’s best kept secret, that South Africa offers a fantastic climate in which to invest, work, retire and return home to, has been broadcasted to hundreds of millions around the world. The hard work of Tourism Councils, Government Departments, the police and many others has really paid off.

We only need to look onto websites, television and the written media to see for ourselves the advantageous reports that have been afforded to our beautiful country.

South Africa needs foreign investment and surely the World Cup could bring this as one of its long-term rewards.

For once the politicians, organising committees, police, public and unions all got onside and with one week left to go the tournament is without doubt a success.

One puzzling factor is the attitude of the Department of Home Affairs and their lack of any commercial considerations when making decisions. Every time they take a step forward they seem to take two back.

Two recent decisions have been made which simply make no sense and risk a large part of the benefits the World Cup has brought with.

South Africa has long been touted as a wonderful place to spend your retirement years. A great climate, culinary delights and an amazing array of attractions – there was only one thing holding it back – the outside worlds view and representation of South Africa as crime infested and unstable. The media has had to change its tune across the back drop of thousands of visiting fans who have enjoyed our wonderful hospitality. Indeed many of the visitors have declared their intent to return and retire or invest here.

All great news and surely their money and taxes are more than welcome.

The retirement legalisation of Home Affairs dictated an income of ZAR 20,000 per month per married couple seeking permanent immigration here. Not an insignificant amount of money when you consider the cost of living and average salary in South Africa. In addition to this most retirees also brought with them significant amounts of cash as they purchased homes, cars and other assets.

There did exist an anomaly that those seeking temporary residency here had to prove ZAR 20,000 per person per month – the rationale behind this – who knows?

The good news is the anomaly is now gone – the bad news is they must now prove a guaranteed life long income of ZAR 20,000 per month per person. For an English couple this represents some GBP 43,000 per year – a lot of money no matter where you come from.

So it would seem the Department of Home Affairs is actively pursuing a policy of discouraging retired people to our shores.

Is it because they are a drain on state resources – I doubt it very much as 99% will have private medical insurance, their own property, substantial assets and no right to claim any state support.

Maybe they are not of good character – again doubtful due to the character requirements that mean any immigrant must supply a police clearance certificate.

The only reasons I can think of are: that we are fed up with them employing all the maids and gardeners, taking up all the seats in our many restaurants and securing the entire best tee off times.

How dare they come here with all their money, paying taxes and creating employment – lets leave that problem to the likes of France, Australia, Spain and Malta.

There is little doubt that the above change will see a drop in retired immigrants to South Africa, as opposed to the increase that I feel sure would have occurred. However it would seem that the Department felt the impact was not sufficient to put off the immigrant and created the business hub.

Whilst we all appreciate the need for Home Affairs to look to improve its systems and stamp out corruption, I am somewhat puzzled that the solution was to create a business hub for all applications and staff it with a rumoured 8 people – devoid of phones, e-mails and communication with the outside world.

The net result – a massive increase in turn around times, no feedback for applicants and potential investors or needed skilled workers simply put off from even applying.

The worst hit of all has been the returning South African. Understandably, many South Africans abroad return to our shores with loved ones they met whilst overseas.

These loved ones require a permit and subsequently an endorsement to work. Imagine explaining to a potential new employer it could take 6 months to get a permit – it does not assist you with securing the position. The result is many are coming home, but for only a few months, as their patience with Home Affairs runs out and they head back off overseas. Another lost South African and many others, as they report back to their communities how welcome they were made to feel.

Of course, as an owner of an immigration company I could be accused of being biased.

As an immigrant (with a young family born here) who has helped create in excess of 40 jobs, paid millions in taxes, proudly calls South Africa his home, cried with joy when the Boks beat England (my ex home) in the world cup and joined the millions cheering on Bafana Banafa some might say I care.

So to Home Affairs, we know you have a difficult job, but play your role in getting this country to the position it deserves, support the hard work done and become part of the solution.

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