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South Africa Set to Okay Permanent Residence Permit for International Students

By Eric Ojo

The South African Government is poised to implement its proposed policies that enable foreign students to apply for permanent residence seamlessly once they have graduated from a South African university.

The government is set to launch such initiatives in the next few weeks and it is basically an exemption to allow graduate international students in critical skills areas to qualify for permanent residence permits upon graduation.

Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Malusi Gigaba, who disclosed this while introducing his budget vote debate in an extended public committee of the National Assembly, noted that international students constituted a key segment that is prioritised by governments globally, because of the economic and social benefits they offer host countries in terms of adding to the skills base, and contributing positively to society more broadly.

“This measure is to ensure that South Africa benefits from all of the skills produced by its universities, and to make it easier for international students who want to work or start business in the country after graduation to do so”, he said.

Mr. Gigaba added that in the new white paper being developed in tandem with the on-going reform agenda, issues of the integration of immigrants in South African society will receive prominent attention.

He also acknowledged that steady progress was being made in modernising and digitising the Department of Home Affairs in order to transfer service delivery concerns from the client to the department.

“The live capture system, which supports the Smart ID Card and the passport, offers South Africans a glimpse into the future of Home Affairs. In this regard, we have issued 4.1-million smart ID cards to date and have met our target of 2.2-million smart ID cards issued last year. We aim to issue another 2.2-million cards this year”, the minister further disclosed.

In a related development, the European Parliament last week approved a harmonized the European Union (EU) entry and residence rules thereby making it easier and more attractive for people from other developing countries to study or do research at EU universities.

The harmonised rules, which merge two existing directives (one on students and one on researchers), clarify and improve conditions for non-EU interns, volunteers, school pupils and au pairs.

In addition, they ensure that students and researchers may stay at least nine months after finishing their studies or research in order to look for a job or to set up a business, which should also ensure that Europe benefits from their skills.

Under the new rules, students and researchers may move more easily within the EU during their stay. In future, this will save them from having to make a new visa application, so that they only have to notify the member state to which they are moving, for example to do a one-semester exchange.

Researchers will also be able to move for longer periods than those currently allowed and researchers have the right to bring their family members with them and these family members are entitled to work during their stay in Europe. Moreover, students have the right to work at least 15 hours a week.

While applauding the move, Parliamentary Rapporteur, Cecilia Wikstroem MEP said she was glad that the EU recognizes the value of attracting highly skilled people to come here and to entice them to stay by creating a harmonized European system applicable in all member states.

“This undoubtedly means that European universities will be able to strengthen their competitiveness on the global arena and become more attractive than ever to ambitious and highly-educated people from other countries, thanks to considerably improved conditions in the EU”, she said.

In a similar vein, interns and volunteers under the European Volunteers

Scheme during their stay are also granted uniform entry conditions and better protection by the new directive. However, optional provisions are foreseen for other volunteers, school pupils and third-country au pairs, who will be covered for the first time by an EU law.

The directive enters into force the day after its publication in the European Official Journal. Member states will then have two years in which to transpose its provisions into their national laws.

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