Pretoria – Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says his department is ready to deal with challenges arising from the new Immigration Act.

The Immigration Amendment Act, No. 13 of 2011 (Immigration Amendment Act), together with the relevant Regulations, came into effect on 26 May 2014.

Among others, the Act stipulates that every child should have his or her own passport. In addition to that, parents travelling with the child must produce an unabridged birth certificate showing the names of the parents, and where one parent is not travelling with the child, an affidavit is required.

Concerns have been raised, especially in the tourism industry, that the Act might have a negative impact on tourist flows to the country.

Industry role players have highlighted two specific provisions, namely the new requirement for an unabridged birth certificate for minors, as well as the provision for ‘in person’ collection of biometric data in tourism source markets.

Industry stakeholders argue that these measures may impact on the competitiveness of South Africa as a holiday destination in an era where countries are attempting to ease visa requirements to promote tourism.

Speaking at the SABC/New Age business briefing in Midrand on Friday, Minister Gigaba said those who experience challenges with the Act must contact Home Affairs for assistance.

“We are open for discussion and ready to address concerns that people might have or raise,” he said.

The minister said the Act was not aimed at disadvantaging anyone, but it was meant to ensure that everyone who comes into the country is known.

He said it was supposed to facilitate the movement of people coming into or leaving the country.

“We would not want a situation where criminals do as they like,” said the minister.

He said his department aimed to ensure that everyone who enters or leaves the country has the relevant paperwork, and that they are treated humanely.

The department is in the process of popularising the new Act in different languages.

Click here for more on the regulations under the new act

Improving Home Affairs service delivery

Switching focus to other matters in the department, Minister Gigaba said Home Affairs is currently training its staff members to improve levels of professionalism.

“We want Home Affairs to become a professional department,” he said, adding that officials are expected to up their game.

The department plans to open 40 new offices this financial year in order to increase accessibility to its services.