29/05/2014. Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, during a press briefing about the new immigration regulations that have been put in place by the government. Picture: Masi Losi

Pretoria - The new immigration regulations that came into effect this week and met with fierce criticism are important for the country’s security.

This is according to new Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.

Speaking about the new regulations which came into effect on Monday, Gigaba said they were “important to security of the state around the movement of people”.

“We cannot allow into the country people we cannot account for. We need clarity on who is coming in and out of the country,” he said.

Under the new regulations, children must have their own passports and an unabridged birth certificate when travelling with people who were not their parents. A foreigner issued with a business visa must now have a staff complement made up of 60% South Africans or permanent residents.

The previous requirement was only five people.

The quotas for work permits and exceptional skills work permits had also been repealed and in their place a critical work visa had been introduced.

“There is a lot of child trafficking and we need to try and avoid it. That is why we need the birth certificate, to show that the children are not being trafficked or kidnapped. We also cancelled the use of an intermediary when applying for a visa because we now have to take biometric information from people coming into the country,” he said.

Gigaba admitted the register of jobs regarded as critical or undesirable had not been published yet.

“Undesirable businesses will be things like brothels. Artisans might be critical skills.

“They will be gazetted next week and we will have a list.”

The failure to gazette the lists is one of the things worrying the Law Society of the Northern Provinces.

Society president Dr Llewelyn Curlewis said they were concerned the regulations seemed incomplete.

“Department fees for all categories of visas have not been determined; the list of what are “critical skills” has not been published; investment and income levels required for business and retirement permits were omitted from the regulations and the documentation required in order to apply for general and critical skills work visas was not gazetted.”

On worries that the amendments might negatively affect the economy, Gigaba said: “We are trying to balance the security of the country and the economy. One cannot afford to only look at the interests of the economy and ignore the security of the country or move to the other extreme. The regulations are not cast in stone and if we find they are too onerous and impede the economy we can take decisions based on that.”

Immigration lawyers have threatened to go to court as they deem the regulations unconstitutional. But Gigaba is confident the department has covered all the bases.

“We have tested the regulations in the NCOP (National Council of Provinces) and believe they are constitutional. If anyone believes otherwise, they are most welcome to approach the Constitutional Court. We will contest them there,” he said.

The regulations at a glance

* The word “visa” replaces “permit” except for the permanent residence “permit”.

* For example, a visitor’s permit will now be called a visitor’s visa, and a study permit is now called a study visa.

* A person who is on a visitor’s or medical treatment visa will no longer be allowed to change their status except in exceptional circumstances.

* A study visa will be issued for the duration of the study or course instead of having to be renewed annually.

* A corporate visa will be issued to South African corporate companies to employ a number of foreigners for a period not exceeding three years, after they have shown the need to employ foreigners.

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