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Botswana relaxes Immigration law

Publishing Date : 15 August, 2017


Botswana has amended the contentious Immigration law to attract more expatriates who contribute significantly to the economy of the country.

The Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Bill no. 23 of 2016) was published in the Government Gazette on 16th December 2016. The amendment of the Act was passed by parliament in its previous sitting of the 2nd meeting of the 11th parliament.
It is understood that the object of the Act is to empower the Minister to grant the status of Permanent Residence to non-citizens who are investors and have resided in Botswana lawfully for a period of less than five years in order to promote job creation and encourage foreign investment.

Under the amended law, it is also stated that such status may also be extended to a non-citizen’s spouse and minor children. The Act, in particular section 28, was amended by inserting immediately after subsection (2), the following new subsections:    

“(2A) Notwithstanding subsections (1) and (2), the Minister may confer the status of permanent residence on a non-citizen who has resided lawfully in Botswana for a period of less than five years where the Minister is satisfied that the non citizen – a) Has established a significant business in Botswana; b) Intends to establish a significant business in Botswana; or c) intends to make a significant investment in an existing business in Botswana.”

The section also continues at (2B): “The status of permanent residence conferred by the Minister to a non-citizen under subsection (2A) may be granted to the non-citizen’s spouse and minor children.” Previously, the said amended section 28 of the immigration Act 2011 stated that “28(1)A non citizen who has resided lawfully in Botswana for at least five years may apply in the prescribed manner for a permanent residence permit.

(2)Where the Minister is satisfied that a non citizen who has resided lawfully in Botswana for at least 5 years – (a) is of good character; (b)has made significant contributions of benefit to Botswana; (c) is of good standing in society; or (d) has sufficient means to support himself or herself, the Minister may in the prescribed form, confer on such person the status of permanent residence subject to such conditions as the Minister considers necessary, exempting the person from the requirement of applying for a residence permit. (3) The Minister may withdraw the status of permanent residence, without giving any reasons for the withdrawal.”

Speaking to WeekendPost this week, Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs Edwin Batshu confirmed the amendments and hailed them as progressive saying they will assist attract more foreign investors and improve the country’s economy.

Batshu stated that: “going forward, senior investors with significant contribution to economy can apply for permanent residence within five years, even with few days into the country, and they will be assessed and can be granted instantly if they qualify for such.” He conceded that the previous 5 years threshold imposed on investors made them very uncomfortable when doing business in the country hence why they removed the threshold.

The Immigration Minister also added that the amendments include work and residence permits, and also include separately a permanent residence that allows you stay in Botswana (which is for business purposes). He said permanent residence permits are given to businesses to make sure that they don’t renew them frequently, from time to time.

On their part, when contacted for their reaction to the amended Immigration law, Business Botswana President Lekwalo Leta Mosienyane welcomed the development of change of law to accommodate foreign investors. “It’s a welcome development particularly because not only does it address investors in our economy but also goes an extra mile in including their spouses and children,” Mosienyane stated.

He explained that awarding the investors a permanent residence is useful as it gives certainty to the investor. He however added that he believes government should go an extra mile to also recognize the child of an investor who is not a minor and also not an investor per se. “Partly, I also don’t think the law is fair enough because it only addresses minor children and not all the children in general.”

He gave an example of a situation whereby a child was born in Botswana to a foreign investor, who has been in the country for more than 20 years and who is also not a minor anymore.“We are losing that child who probably has got a sense of connection to Botswana in terms of culture, sports and others. And they don’t know any other country other than Botswana. I believe we should also start to address their interests. We should either give them citizenship or permanent residence.”

Meanwhile the new Immigration Act comes at the backdrop of an outcry by local business professionals who were perturbed at the previous Immigration Act of 2011 saying it makes expatriates feel unwelcome in the country. Indications suggest that some of the sections unwanted in the previous Immigration Act of 2011 were the one to do with the set board having power to reject resident application without giving reasons.

Reports indicate that some of the expatriates’ entrepreneurs were living in fear of being deported or their permits not being renewed which would ultimately lead to a business loss. They said this also led to loss of local jobs and affecting the business market which consequently also tarnished the image of the country making it seem as if it is anti foreigners. This they say beats the logic of attracting foreign direct investors on the other hand.  

Controversial Dual citizenship gets thumbs up

Another issue, which the Business Botswana president Mosienyane described as “sensitive” is the one on dual citizenship. We as Business Botswana, he said, implore Minister Batshu to speed up the work on dual citizenship. “I say this because in Business Botswana, we have entrepreneurs who own businesses outside Botswana. So we are prejudiced by the fact that we cannot take citizenship of such countries who offer us dual citizenship.”

The Business Botswana president explained that, he has businesses in Ghana, South Africa and Botswana, and without a dual citizenship they suffer as Batswana business people in other countries as they cannot benefit in so many things that citizens of those other countries are benefiting on.



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