Govt tightens immigration laws

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cape Town - The Department of Home Affairs is tightening immigration regulations in the fight against corruption and people who cheat their way into staying in the country.

Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said on Tuesday that while a majority of people who came into the country were law abiding, there was "a significant minority" who abused immigration laws and got away with it. But now government is closing those loopholes in the law.

The minister said some of the people they wanted to deal with were those who came into the country on a one-month visitor's visa but subsequently decided to stay forever, by for example, getting married to a local. Others include those involved in drug dealing, running away from the law, and human traffickers.

Dlamini Zuma addressed the media on the context of the Immigration Amendment Bill and its main amendments before sending it through to Parliament later in the day.

She stressed that the bill was not about asylum-seekers, as they were busy working on a backlog of applications and reviewing the asylum process.

She said the country's immigration laws were meant to meet the priorities of the country in line with its economic development.

The bill, Dlamini Zuma said, was aimed at making it easier for those applying for jobs in areas of critical skills shortages, as well as for businesspeople and students. She said that only businesses known by the Department of Trade and Industry and her department would be granted visas to visit the country.

Due to corruption, immigration practitioners would not be allowed to apply for visas on behalf of foreigners, as that would be left to her department officials.

She said that the section 23 permit given to asylum-seekers when they arrived at a refuge centre, which was valid for 14 days, would be reduced to five days.

Foreign nationals repeatedly found without valid documents would be sent to prison for at least two years.