BRITISH GOVERNMENT AND SA DEALINGS
In terms of international dealings, I witnessed the British government has placed emphasis on “rescuing” its fellow citizens abroad.
In doing so, they have deprioritized managing the expectations of foreign nationals seeking to relocate to their country. During the lockdown, the UKVI went quiet. No clear public message to foreigners looking to enter their country.
They set up a foreign travel advice page (per country) and attempted to give travel advice to British nationals. When South Africans, however, asked for information relating to UK visa applications, they were directed to this British national guidance and indirectly were expected to draw conclusions based on this.
Further considering the British government’s actions, they seem to say “we do not want to impact airline trade, therefore we will keep international airports open”.
At the same time, their actions have said: “we can control our Visa Centres and therefore want to reduce the number of applicants seeking to enter the UK during this time”.
I am not saying that I expected the UKVI to remain open during lockdown however I do believe that making submitted cases (before lockdown) available for collection/delivery return is an obligation that they should honour.
Instead, they have closed their doors and not have made themselves available for comment.
Now that lockdown is beginning to lift in both the UK and SA, I can see three factors of consideration that the British government have considered.
- Protecting the UK public from infectious countries.
- No more commercial international flights during the month of June (and most likely July 2020).
- UK job market. A rise in unemployment does mean that the UK public will now have a higher percentage of unemployed. To bring in more foreign skill sets will put a minor strain on those seeking employment opportunities in the UK.
The British High Commissioner of South Africa has announced that no further repatriation flights will be arranged after the 4th June 2020. This leads me to conclude that no further inbound flights (to SA) will be taking place in the next month or two (given SA’s lockdown rulings).
Without inbound flights, the outbound flight market is going to be paused. No commercial flights permitted under level 3 of lockdown.
I have noted that the UKVI have opened their China-based Visa Application Centres.
This tells me that the infection rate is definitely a factor of high consideration. China from my perspective is 6 weeks ahead of South Africa’s curve. South Africa has yet to experience its peak in infections.
My prediction at this stage is that we can hopefully expect to see SA’s Visa Application Centres in mid-July 2020.
South Africa’s Visa Application Centres (facilitated by Teleperformance), are not going to be opening under level 3 of SA’s lockdown. This means that passports from previous cases will still not be made available for collection and new applications will not be processed.
4/5 Coronavirus closed our visa application centres worldwide, & we’ll only be able reopen them as & when local conditions allow. We can’t I’m afraid replace expired 30-day entry vignettes before we’re able to reopen our centres safely in 🇿🇦
— Nigel Casey (@NigelCaseyHC) June 2, 2020
OTHER VISA UPDATES
We have had confirmation from our UK affiliate that EU registrations will be permitted until December 2020 and dependency cases will be permitted to lodge until June 2021. EEA Family Permits, therefore, remains a viable option for South Africans that are family members of EU nationals.
The biggest appeal of the EEA Family Permit is that it allows for elderly and adult child dependency.
It has been noted that the IOM screening offices have opened up. This allows for “accredited” TB screening to continue.
I have been informed that IELTS English tests have also opened up for bookings.
SA Home Affairs is accepting birth and marriage certificate applications.
UK schooling starts in September and the August academic rush is nearly upon us.
At present Move Up is building up a pipeline of cases looking to lodge shortly after SA lockdown lifts and international movements permitted. Subject to the UK government opening shop.
It is unclear how the commercial aviation industry is going to handle the transporting of those who are at high risk of infections, specifically the elderly. I do not foresee them not permitting over 60s to board flights. It is, however, a risk element that their travel terms might have to factor in.
The implementation of a compulsory 2 week UK quarantine will be implemented this week.
This quarantine will have a further negative impact on UK tourism.
I believe that there will need to be a short-to-medium term shift in the tourism sector. Tour operators will need to begin catering to a local market as national tourism will rise. International tourism is going to take a longer time to recover.
Once a viable vaccine is operational, consumer confidence in international flights will return.
Indeed these are interesting times.
“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.”
― Paulo Coelho