South Africa's new visa rules affect TV and film industry

GMT 18:19 2015 Saturday ,06 June

Arab Today, arab today South Africa's new visa rules affect TV and film industry

South Africa's new visa
Johannesburg - XINHUA

South Africa's (SA) fast- growing movie industry hangs in balance after the Department of Home Affairs introduced new visa and immigration regulations.

The new travel regulations took effect last week, despite concerns that tourism could be hurt severely.

As for the television and film industry, over 35,000 jobs are at stake as the new rules state that agents of actors are no longer allowed to apply for visas and that the actors themselves have to do it.

Under the regulations, if a film production is delayed for any reason or longer than three months, then the visa cannot be extended or renewed in SA.

"It'll be almost impossible for foreign models- who are an integral part of talent offering to clients- will be affected negatively and are not able to meet the required new requirements, " Alex Smith, a director of movie house, Africa Today Magic based in Johannesburg, told Xinhua on Friday.

In the city of Cape Town, a hub for film making, the television and movie industry will feel the heat by the introduction of the regulations. The city is requesting an engagement with the Department of Home Affairs to reconsider the new rules.

"The film industry is likely to feel the effects in the next few months as foreign movie player will shun coming to work in the country for film production," Johannesburg based immigration lawyer, Thompson Day said. "The film industry was on an auto pilot for disaster."

The new regulations make doing business difficult, prohibiting foreign actors and film crews from changing their visa status in South Africa. The regulations further stipulate that visa applications must be made in person and in the individual's home country. This is an administrative burden and will make international filmmakers think twice before choosing Cape Town for shoots, thus placing this lucrative industry in jeopardy.

"Home Affairs should not have a blanket regulation. For the benefit of film makers, it (Home Affairs Department) has to revise its regulations," said Day.

He believed that the only way to fix the issues, film professionals have to challenge the regulations in court.

The South African film industry has over the past three years created more than 35,000 jobs and contributed approximately 5 billion rand (about 416 million U.S. dollars) to the economy, according to Day.

Meanwhile, the Department of Home Affairs has agreed to engage companies on the effect of the new visa and immigration regulations.

Fatima Chohan of Minister of Home Affairs confirmed that her department would discuss the effect of visa regulations on tourism, business and the film industry.

South Africa has reached a milestone with its largest commercial production to date, starring home-grown Hollywood actress Charlize Theron.

South Africa's film industry has more than trebled its contribution to the GDP to 8 billion rand (about 666 million dollars) between 2008 and 2012, up from 2.4 billion rand (about 200 million dollars) over the previous four years.

The television and film industry stakeholders are in a quandary. Johannesburg based film professionals are set to hold workshops this week for recommendations to take to the Home Affairs Department.

"It is imperative for film professionals to challenge the Department of Home Affairs regulations by taking it to the court," said Trish Matthews, an independent British film maker based in Johannesburg.

Moreover, beginning from June 1, children traveling in and out of South Africa will be required to present unabridged birth certificates at airports across the country.

Tourism industry captains have signalled alarm bells, saying the new rules could bleed the industry that makes up nine percent of the SA's economic growth.

The new travel rules have already revealed signs that they are already hurting not only the tourist and farming sector but the movie industry, they say.

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