In April 2015, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced at a press conference that the Department of Home Affairs will be bolstering its immigration inspectorate to investigate companies employing foreign nationals without the correct documentation.
CNCBAfrica reported that Minister Gigaba said the Department will spend R18 million over the next three years to recruit immigration inspectors to conduct raids on companies to ensure they are complying with legislation. The Department will look at a number of different sectors across South Africa’s economy, ranging from retail and construction to agriculture and hospitality.
This has been the second big announcement from the Department of Home Affairs this year regarding the employment of illegal immigrants. Back in February the Department made their decision to slap prison terms on employers of undocumented migrants known. At the time, Minister Gigaba’s spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, said that this will apply to all offenders, whether it’s the owner of a business or the head of a domestic household.
Why the sudden crackdown?
The truth is that the Department’s decisions are not out of the blue. Finding work in South Africa as a foreign national already became a lot tougher with the changes in immigration regulations in 2014.
The main motivation behind the changes was protecting the South African workforce. It is common knowledge that South Africa’s unemployment rate is at an all-time high.
That’s not to say the foreign worker isn’t protected. The Department of Home Affairs also put a number of measures in place to help ensure that foreign workers are treated fairly and equal to their South African counterparts.
Your responsibilities as a South African employer
To comply with South African immigration legislations, you have two main responsibilities as an employer:
- Do not employ illegal foreigners.
- Do not employ a foreigner in any position or allow a foreigner to perform a work function not allowed by his or her visa or permit.
In practice this means ascertaining the status or citizenship of employees. In the case of temporary and permanent citizens, but especially those on temporary visas, it will require asking for the visa or permit, and knowing what the documentation in front of you means.
In short, you could come across six different types of work visas and each allows for a different type of employment, while carrying a unique set of responsibilities for the employer. If you are unfamiliar with these, have a look at the explanations in our corporate visa section.
The repercussions of not complying with the Immigration Act
If it is found that you are employing illegal foreigners or employing foreigners outside of the allowances of their visa or permit, you could face a prison sentence, as mentioned, or a hefty fine. The fines have been noted in the Immigration Act and range from R7 000 to a possible R50 000 per person, depending on the contravention. Taking into consideration the attitude of the Department of Home Affairs, you can be certain that fines will be enforced and they will be harsh.
Contact Intergate Immigration to help you comply
The Immigration Act is far from simple, so let Intergate Immigration help you ensure that you comply with its regulations and requirements. Our corporate immigration specialists work with South African companies and foreign nationals on a daily basis, so we are the best source of information and know-how. You can call our Cape Town office on +27 21 424 2460 or our Johannesburg office on +27 11 234 4275.
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