At the beginning of the year, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) announced its plan to introduce 10-year multiple-entry visas for national business executives from South Africa's BRICS partners, Brazil, Russia, India and China (Visa). During a recent speech in the National Assembly, the Minister of Home Affairs confirmed that the new Visa has been well-received.

The Visa is available for persons with diplomatic passports and also for ordinary passport holders who visit South Africa for business or tourism related reasons. The purpose of the Visa is to allow business executives, who frequent South Africa on short business trips, the opportunity to apply for a long-term multiple-entry visa. The Visa will allow the holder multiple entries into South Africa for up to a maximum of 10 years (as long as the holder's passport remains valid). The maximum stay period for a single entry is 30 days. The expected turn-around time after applying for a South African visa is 5 days.

The DHA has stated that this visa initiative is primarily a result of its mandate to manage immigration effectively in support of, amongst other things, its national development and security plan. The DHA is currently exploring the avenue of extending the same visa benefits to other countries.

Employers should note that this Visa does not allow a foreign national to take up employment in South Africa, as the scope of this Visa is limited to business activities, such as attending meetings in the country. A foreign national who takes up employment during their stay in South Africa under this Visa shall be deemed not only to have contravened the Immigration Act, No 13 of 2002, but also runs the risk of deportation and being declared either an undesirable or prohibited person.

Employers who partner with countries forming part of the BRICS council are called upon to utilise the Visa to avoid the burdensome process of applying for a short-term visitor’s visa every time a foreign national wishes to enter the country for business purposes. The introduction of the Visa is expected to help South Africa tap into the vast investment potential of BRICS countries.