19 September 2022
Dear Honourable Minister,
RE: Visa Requirements for Foreign Religious Workers – FOR SA request for clarification
- The Department’s comments about foreign religious workers, made before Parliament on Tuesday, 13 September 2022, refer.
FOR SA and our constituency:
- Freedom of Religion South Africa NPC (FOR SA) is a legal advocacy organisation working to protect and promote the religious freedom rights (section 15 of the Constitution) of all South Africans, regardless of their specific religious or ideological beliefs. FOR SA is, therefore, neutral and non-partisan in terms of any interpretation of doctrine, faith or belief to the extent that it complies with the rule of law.
- FOR SA represent a wide cross-section of the faith community. For example, in the matter of COVID-19 and the Lockdown Regulations’ impact on South Africa’s religious community, FOR SA was mandated by religious leaders and organisations representing between 11 million and 18.5 million people (including 10 million people from the African Indigenous and Spirituality Churches), to engage with Government and make submissions on their behalf.
- Hon. Minister Motsoaledi has been reported by the media as saying that:
- the Department will be clamping down on foreign nationals who are looking to perform religious work in South Africa by inter alia preventing foreign religious workers from obtaining work permits, or obtaining permanent residency; and
- foreigners who want to come perform religious work in South Africa, must only come as visitors, albeit who can perform work.Request for clarity:
- It is trite that the State is allowed to decide whom it allows into the country and for what purpose; that a visa holder is required to abide by the conditions of their visa, or face deportation and/or other lawful sanctions; and that the State cannot unfairly discriminate on grounds of religion (section 9(3) of the Constitution). A blanket ban on foreign religious workers would arguably, therefore, be unconstitutional.
- Kindly advise what visa criteria and assessment the State:
- is considering for foreign nationals who want to come into South Africa to perform religious work to ensure that legitimate applicants can obtain work visas; and
- will apply to foreign national religious workers who are already legitimately and legally working in this profession within South Africa, if/when such visas or other permits need to be renewed.
- We look forward to hearing from you soonest so that we can advise our constituency accordingly.
Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA)