What is the change? The Department of Home Affairs has asked the South African Treasury for an exemption to a government staffing cap so that it can hire thousands more immigration inspectors. The department says the immigration inspectors are badly needed and has resorted to temporary staffing increases in order to help people move in and out of South Africa during the holidays.

What does the change mean? An overall increase in staffing would likely lead to fewer delays at points of entry at international airports and other immigration checkpoints but, at the same time, would likely increase in-country compliance activity undertaken by the DHA. The additional holiday staffing should help ease immigration processes through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing. Budget measures that would cap staffing levels are set to take effect Jan. 13, but DHA is hoping for an exemption. The holiday staffing measures began Friday and will last through Jan. 14.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals traveling to and staying in South Africa.
  • Impact on processing times: Increased staffing levels would save time for travelers passing through immigration checkpoints.
  • Next steps: DHA officials are due to meet with Treasury officials to discuss the possibility of an exemption from South Africa’s budget measures in order to increase the number of immigration inspectors, but no agreement has yet been reached.

Background: The back-and-forth on the budget comes as DHA is preparing to launch the Border Management Authority. DHA says the increased staffing is needed to not only lay the groundwork for the new authority, but also to meet basic immigration services at points of entry. According to recent reports, even during peak periods, only 60 percent of immigration counters are operational in South African airports. DHA Minister Malusi Gigaba said temporary staffing increases – including adding 92 inspectors working split shifts at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg – would help South Africa get through the peak holiday travel season and that during peak travel times in December immigration counters would be fully staffed.

BAL Analysis: The temporary increase in staffing and the possibility of longer-term staffing increases are generally positive signs for business and other travelers, as staffing increases would ease immigration procedures at South African airports and other points of entry. However, a sharp increase in the number of permanent immigration inspectors will likely increase in-country compliance activity undertaken by the DHA. The Treasury has yet to work out whether funding is available to meet the DHA’s request.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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