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New Zealand to shut down its visa office in South Africa

Visas for visits to New Zealand will not be processed in South Africa from March since New Zealand has decided to close down its visa processing office in Pretoria.

South Africans currently require a visa to enter New Zealand. For several years, the country was one of only a few South Africans were able to travel to with visa-free access.

The New Zealand government decided to end visa-free access for South Africans when it introduced  visa requirements in January 2017. This was done because it felt that the visa-free access afforded to South African passport holders posed a threat to New Zealand’s safety and security.

Catriona Robinson, deputy head of Immigration New Zealand, said INZ was forced to make some changes in order to reduce her department’s costs and contribute to the country’s economic recovery. Robinson added that three overseas visa processing offices would close in March 2021.

Visa processing in India, the Philippines and South Africa will no longer take place from March. The processing of visas by these overseas visa centres will now be handled in New Zealand in future.

“As a result, INZ has made the difficult decision to close our offices in Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria by March 2021 and bring more visa processing onshore,” Robinson said.

New Zealand’s borders have been closed for almost a year. This resulted in the absence of international visitors travelling to the country. Consequently, no visas needed to be processed by the overseas visa processing centres.

The volume of visa applications from people outside New Zealand has decreased significantly, resulting in INZ having to evaluate the need for overseas operations.

“These offices have been closed since March 2020 and, with no certainty about when visa volumes may return to normal, INZ has had to make some tough decisions.”

The closure of visa processing offices in the three countries will lead to job losses. Robinson thanked the staff who had served INZ. The closures will affect a total 329 staff at the three offices.

“This is not a decision that we have made lightly. Our staff in these offices have made a significant contribution to INZ and New Zealand,” Robinson said.

Robinson said reduced volumes of visa applications, coupled with technological advancements, would enable INZ to improve its onshore visa processing capacity.

“The rollout of new technology functions aims to improve efficiency and resilience throughout INZ, which will help to us to better manage peaks and troughs in visa volumes while giving users of the immigration system a better customer experience,” Robinson said.

US Opens Borders for South African Workers – These are the skills they’re looking for

The US State Department said that it will make exceptions to its recent travel ban on high-risk Covid countries like South Africa, for workers who meet critical skill requirements for the country’s agriculture sector.

The exemption will be made specifically for those taking part in the H-2 visa program, which the department said is essential to the US economy and food security. The H-2 visas permit US employers to hire foreign workers to come to the United States temporarily and perform agricultural or non-agricultural services due to an expected shortage of domestic labour.

“Therefore, we intend to continue processing H-2 applications for individuals who provide temporary labour or services essential to the United States food supply chain, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions,” it said.

H-2A and H-2B applicants who fall under the 25 January 2021 Presidential Proclamation – ie, the Covid-19 travel ban, in which South Africa was specifically named – who are necessary to ensure food supply chains, will be considered for excemption.

The department specifically mentioned needing farm workers with skills such as:

  • Seafood processors;
  • Fish cutters;
  • Salmon roe technicians;
  • Farm equipment mechanics;
  • Farm labourers;
  • and others.

The Department said that the applicants applying for a visa will be considered for an exception at the time of interview. While a number of temporary jobs are available through the visa program, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) said that it specifically sent a letter to Secretary of State and Homeland Security requesting an exemption for South African farm labour.

“We appreciate the swift action by the State Department to address a critical need for American agriculture,” said AFBF president Zippy Duvall.

“Farmworkers from South Africa bring valuable and unique skills to the farms on which they are employed. America’s farmers rely on the H-2A program to provide a robust workforce and we are committed to ensuring their safety while continuing to provide healthy, affordable food for families across the country.”


US president Joe Biden introduced new travel restrictions for the United States last week, including a ban on travel to and from South Africa due to the new coronavirus strain.  The ban prevents most non-US citizens from entry if they have recently been in South Africa.  Biden also reimposed an entry ban on nearly all non-US travellers who have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders.

“We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, in an interview.

Schuchat added the agency was “putting in place this suite of measures to protect Americans and also to reduce the risk of these variants spreading and worsening the current pandemic.”

The variant – currently termed the ‘501.V2 Variant’ – was identified by genomics scientists in South Africa and formally announced by government in late December.  The variant was the cause of the second wave and spreads faster than the original virus.

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