What is the change? South Africa’s National Assembly has passed a Border Management Authority Bill that would consolidate all border-related matters under a single Government Agency, thus strengthening the Department of Home Affairs’ move to reposition itself as an enabler of national security.

What does the change mean? The bill would lead to stepped-up screening processes at airports and other points of entry, likely causing travel delays. Additional delays would be expected during the bill’s implementation phase, as officials would take on new jobs and have different responsibilities. The bill now goes to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Who is affected: Anyone planning travel into or out of South Africa.
  • Business impact: No changes have been made yet, but once implemented, the increased security measures will likely slow business travelers at airports and other points of entry.
  • Next steps: The bill now must be approved by the National Council of Provinces, where, as in the National Assembly, the African National Congress holds a majority.

Background: Passage of the bill was achieved on the third attempt after minority political parties had twice successfully blocked the bill by walking out of National Assembly proceedings, denying the body a quorum. The bill ultimately passed, but the ANC’s political opponents nonetheless showed surprising strength in frustrating initial attempts. It is possible that similar strategies could be used when South Africa’s governing majority moves forward with plans to overhaul other key immigration programs.

While the Border Management Authority Bill has been seen as a key plank in the government’s overall immigration plan, the additional proposed changes to the immigration policies would be more significant for high-skilled workers and their employers.

Department of Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize confirmed in May that the Cabinet had approved a proposed white paper on immigration and said officials were taking steps to implement new proposals. It is anticipated that the white paper, which has not yet been published, will introduce a points-based system for work permits, new fees for employers who use foreign labor in order to fund training and education programs for local workers, and the waiver of visit visa requirements for citizens of African Union countries.

BAL Analysis: The Border Management Authority Bill has been heralded by the Department of Home Affairs as a key piece of legislation that will help the department achieve its full mandate as a critical enabler of inclusive economic development, national security, effective service delivery and efficient administration. Critics have pointed out that similar legislation in other countries has failed to deliver on its promises and, in some instances, has subsequently been reversed at huge administrative delay, cost and inconvenience to employers and travelers. BAL is following the progress of the Border Management Authority Bill as well as other immigration proposals, and continues to work closely with clients to advocate policies favorable to foreign direct investment. 

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

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