SOUTHERN MAN IMMIGRATION BLOG

Visitor Visa Changes

October 3, 2016
Iain MacLeod

In this age of instant communication, word has spread fast of today’s announcement by the New Zealand Government that from 21 November, all South African passport holders will no longer be able to travel to New Zealand without first obtaining a Visitor Visa to do so.

Historically, South African passport holders could look to travel visa free and apply for a visa on arrival. Over the past two years, increasing but still very small numbers of you have been stopped at OR Tambo; in transit or on arrival in the country. It is still less than 10%. While this may be a case of babies and bathwater, it is going to shake up a few plans for those looking to join us more permanently.

This has major implications for anyone travelling to New Zealand for any reason on a South African passport but in particular those that wish to travel to find employment in order to be part of the Government’s Skilled Migrant Residence policy. Things just got a whole lot more complicated and potentially uncertain; particularly for those attempting to migrate without professional assistance.

For the past 18 months or so, I have quietly but repeatedly warned audiences across South Africa that the visa waiver agreement with South Africa was under pressure and under review, owing principally, I am advised, to the risk caused by corruption within the South African Department of Home Affairs and the ability of people (from anywhere) to buy South African passports. I also understand (please do not shoot the messenger!) that the NZ Government has an opinion about what is happening in South Africa and that opinion is not all that positive. There is concern that without closer scrutiny placed on the documents people travel on and their reasons for travelling, New Zealand is potentially exposing itself to risks to the integrity of its border.

Whilst I have argued the ‘visa free’ corner with senior officials in INZ for some time, I accept the risks are real and the risks are increasing as South Africa continues its sad decline. In making this change New Zealand is doing nothing different to what Australia has always done along with the US, Canada and more recently the UK.

Given IMMagine’s standing in this market and with Immigration New Zealand, we were telephoned yesterday and reassured by a very senior official that the arrangement that IMMagine has had for some time now with INZ to facilitate the grant of Visitor Visas to those of our clients who represent ‘low risk but high quality’; who demonstrate they are skilled and employable and who do not sever their ties with South Africa, can expect to continue to be granted Visitor Visas to travel to find work. Our clients…

The question then is what does everyone else do, given a Visitor Visa is a tourist visa? My concern is those that now apply without professional assistance and protection to come to New Zealand for a holiday but who are actually coming to find employment, who later apply to change their status to work visa if they secure skilled employment, might now run the real risk of being accused of a false declaration at Visitor Visa stage.

I have seen it happen before…

So is the Government closing the door on South Africans and suggesting they are no longer welcome? No chance – it is too valuable a source of highly skilled, culturally compatible migrants that New Zealand employers want.

That has to be balanced against the risk to the integrity of our border.

Clearly, the pigeons are somewhat coming home to roost in terms of corruption inside South Africa’s public services, and no one can blame the New Zealand Government for a cautious approach in this age of international terrorism and uncertainty. Being able to buy South African passports (as I have been reliably told has happened already with at least one arrival confirming he “bought” his South African passport off Home Affairs, pleading asylum on arrival) was all the reason the Government needed to tighten things up.

For any of our many clients who this affects, we will be in touch over the next day or two with personal advice as to how this may impact you and how we can assist solving the additional complexity it now adds to an already complex process.

I do not see it as a deal breaker for our clients.

I certainly would not wish to now be entertaining a move to New Zealand as a skilled migrant or investor, however, without a very well prepared Visitor Visa application understanding the entire visa process thereafter; particularly for those needing jobs to secure a resident visa.

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