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November 2016

Language schools hail South African visa victory

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Chris Eason

Language school association Education South Africa (EduSA) has successfully challenged the South African government over a strict immigration policy which it claimed was damaging the country’s EFL industry. EduSA chair Johannes Kraus said that the association had now reached an ‘amicable’ settlement with the Department of Home Affairs and Higher Education and Training.

This includes a dispensation for EduSA member institutes which allows students to study in South Africa for up to 18 months.

‘This marks a defining moment in our industry,’ Klaus commented, ‘as it allows us to grow our meagre 1 per cent share of the multi-billion dollar global EFL market.’

Current regulations allow students to apply for visas only when studying at ‘learning institutions’, a label which didn’t include English language schools. Students from most European and Latin American countries enjoy a visa-free policy for up to ninety days, but the restrictions were affecting other source markets such as South Korea, China and sub-Saharan Africa, and were causing ‘reputational damage’ to the international education industry in the country.

In July EduSA initiated a court action to challenge the South African government and policymakers’ failure to allow for students enrolling in English language programmes. The association aimed, among other things, for language schools to be treated as ‘learning institutions’.

The special dispensation for EduSA members has been granted while schools apply for provisional registration as learning institutions, and will cover the whole accreditation process ‘until such time that EduSa members meet the “learning institute” definition requirement’. This could start a ‘process of formalising the EFL industry in South Africa’, commented Kraus.

Immigration law specialist Stefanie de Saude, who represented EduSa, welcomed the clarity about students studying on visitor visas. The country’s director-general of immigration explained that foreigners studying at legitimate institutions now falling within the definition of learning institutions are covered by a visitor visa issued in terms of section 11(1) of the Immigration Act. De Saude said that this will ‘ease the entry of foreign students into the country, which has immense economic benefit’.

Pic courtesy: Chris Eason 

Read 3569 times Last modified on November 2016

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