Reciprocal Waiver of Visa Fees: Promoting Compliance in the Southern Africa Development Community
May 19, 2023
In April of 2023, the Presidents of Namibia and Botswana agreed to a reciprocal use of identity cards to enter the other country. Though this decision may seem simple, it is both bold and unprecedented, promoting the concept of mobility in Southern Africa with political backing. This move will also promote compliance with both countries’ immigration laws and drive tourism and trade.
Rationale for Prescribing Work Visa Fees
An often-ignored tool to promote compliance with immigration laws is the reciprocal waiver of work visa fees for citizens of a particular region. Governments implement work visa fees to defray the cost of rendering immigration services and to reinvest the fees in modern technology. Additionally, the fees pay for hiring more staff to decrease turnaround times. Unfortunately, little or no investment is seen in additional staff, technology, or service delivery.
In many countries around the world, work visa fees are deemed as another way to raise more funds for the government. In this regard, the fees are denominated in United States Dollars (USD) or Euros, thereby making them unaffordable for even people in the same region. Besides denominating the fees in USDs or Euros, other countries go further by implementing a methodology of making a percentage of annual salary a work visa fee. Countries like Cameroon and Cote D’Ivoire use such a methodology.
In the East African Community (EAC) region, countries like Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda saw the payment of work visas as an obstacle to the mobility of their citizens and others from the EAC. Additionally, they realized that work visa fees could potentially deny the region benefit from their collective talent. In 2010 and 2013, respectively, they agreed to waive work visa fees for nationals from the EAC.
Work Visa Fees in Southern African Development Community Countries
The trend seen in countries around the world of treating work visa fees as another revenue stream and denominating them in USD or Euros is also pervasive in other SADC countries.
For instance, in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, the government denominated the payments for work visa fees in USD. The strategy is counterproductive, and it promotes non-compliance as citizens from SADC may find them unaffordable and could end up turning to work illegally in the country.
Furthermore, it affects small and medium-sized enterprises which are unable to afford the fees to grow their businesses in new SADC countries, or even transfer talent to those countries for a defined time.
Potential Benefits of Reciprocal Waiver of Work Visa Fees
The implementation of reciprocal waiver of work visas has potential benefits on both personal and government levels for the region. At a personal level, it will promote compliance as work visa fees constitute a huge cost factor for citizens in the region.
At a government level, besides improvement in compliance, it can enable looking at innovative measures, such as the implementation of expedited fees, across the bouquet of their services. Expedited fees can easily make up three-five times the fee of an ordinary service as more effort will be directed towards the delivery of services within a noticeably short period. Another measure can be to increase e-Services for those services that do not require a personal appearance. These services can be payable.
Need to know more?
As demonstrated by the leaders of Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, it is possible to take bold steps that can change the lives of citizens. For further information, please reach out to Senior Manager Johannes Tiba at [email protected].
This blog was published on 19 May 2023, and due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on global immigration, please visit our dedicated COVID-19 site, subscribe to our alerts and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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