-- 2014 ~ Travel and Immigration 101

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Canada Won’t Issue Visas to Residents of Ebola-affected Countries

Canada has suspended the processing of all visa applications from the West African countries affected by the Ebola epidemic.
On Friday, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander issued the ministerial instruction as a measure of precaution against the spread of the disease by stopping travelling from that part of the hemisphere.
“There is an outbreak of a communicable disease in several regions of West Africa,” the instruction said. “The entry into Canada of persons who have recently been in those regions may introduce or contribute to the spread of the disease in Canada.”

Canadian visa posts in the region have immediately stopped processing both pending and new applications for travel and immigration from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The ban also applies to those who have “resided, travelled or transited” in an Ebola affected country in the three-month period prior to the issuance of a visa. Processing fees will be refunded in those cases. However, “discretionary relief” would be granted to facilitate entry to Canada in justified cases.

“The precautionary measures announced today build on actions we have taken to protect the health and safety of Canadians here at home,” Alexander said in a statement.

“Our government continues to monitor the situation in West Africa very closely and will continue to act in the best interests of Canadians.”

Although Australia has already restricted admissions of visitors from countries battling Ebola, immigration experts say it’s a rare move by Canada.

“It is an unusual step,” said Toronto lawyer Mario Bellissimo, former chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration law section. “(Canada) has the right to ensure a visitor is not a danger to the public, but this is targeting everyone from a region . . . . The question is: Is this an overreaction?”
While preventing potential virus-carriers from coming to Canada is a more effective disease control than medical screening at the borders, Bellissimo said the suspension on travellers from an entire country could potentially breach the Charter of Rights.

Both the UNMEER (the United Nations’ Ebola mission) and African presidents from the affected areas have asked Western countries to avoid such visa bans.

Australia’s move this week was criticized by World Health Organization director general Dr. Margaret Chan, who questioned the effectiveness of border closing in halting the spread of Ebola.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Europe Clears Colombia and Peru for Travel Without Visa

The European Union on Wednesday said Colombia fulfills the requisites necessary for its citizens to enter the Schengen zone without a visa.
Two reports were released on Wednesday after the completion of a risk analysis carried out by the European Commission (EC) which took into account criteria such as the potential threat of illegal immigration, the impact on public order and safety, economic benefits or effects on tourism and foreign trade.

“The significant improvements accomplished by Colombia and Peru in many areas in recent years mean that it is no longer justified to maintain a visa obligation on citizens of these countries visiting the Schengen area for short stays. By abolishing the visa obligation we will be fostering mobility and people-to-people contacts – something that is fundamental to reinforce the social and economic development and mutual understanding between the EU and other countries”, said Cecilia Malmstrom, Commissioner for Home Affairs, EC

Countries in Schengen Area

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

After obtaining the approval of the EU Parliament and the Council, the EC will negotiate an agreement with Colombia and Peru for its citizens to travel to EU territory for a period of less than 90 days without a visa.

The EC completed the evaluation in coordination with European agencies such as the European Asylum Support Office ( EASO ) , the European Police Office (Europol ) and the European external borders agency Frontex and the EU offices in Bogota and Lima in addition to local authorities in both countries.

These reports will be forwarded to the European Parliament and the EU Council, which must give the green light to start negotiations on the deal, expected in the first quarter of 2015, according to a statement by the EC.

Brussels predicted that the new travel freedoms could come into force at the earliest, in the second half of 2015.

The new freedoms would allow Colombians to travel to the  Schengen area which is made up 22 of the 28 countries of the European Union plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein from outside of the EU.

The main conclusions of the reports are the following: trust in visa applicants of both countries is on the rise, with low visa refusal rates; irregular migration is at relatively low levels; security of travel documents is sufficient; security threats have receded; organised crime groups are currently not assessed as a significant threat to the EU (with the exception of drug trafficking); economic opportunities, including enlarged trade and touristic flows, are expanding in parallel with significant growth of the Colombian and Peruvian economies; human rights and fundamental freedoms are now much better protected and respected in these countries than in the past; visa reciprocity will be ensured as these countries already exempt all EU citizens from the visa obligation; and the visa-free regime will further strengthen the relationship between the EU and the two countries, especially since the (provisional) application of free trade agreements in 2013.

The general positive assessments do not ignore that there exist certain risks, including possible increases in the use of drug couriers and in trafficked people as well as in the number of Colombians and Peruvians who enter the EU legally and who would overstay, thus becoming irregular migrants.

These risks are nevertheless considered to be manageable, in particular through a correct implementation of border checks, with reinforced means if necessary, at the airports through which most Colombians and Peruvians reach the Schengen area’s external borders.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

POEA Raps 3 Recruitment Agencies Over Double-Visa Racket

Three recruitment agencies now face charges from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), after some overseas Filipino workers they deployed were caught with two different visas each.
POEA head Hans Leo Cacdac also advised OFWs against engaging in such a practice, so they would not encounter problems at the airport and at the worksite.

In a post on his social media account, Cacdac said the POEA has initiated separate complaints of misrepresentation against:

  • Hiro Global Manpower Inc.
  • CAZ International Inc.
  • Al-Walih International Manpower Services Company

He said "greedy" recruiters favor the double-visa scheme to "bypass protective mechanisms" by the government, thus making OFWs open to abuse and exploitation.

"Most of the household service workers who took shelter at the Migrant Workers and Filipino Resource Center in Dubai were deployed using two visas," Cacdac noted.

Cacdac said the Bureau of Immigration barred the respective recruits of these companies from leaving the country for possession of two different visas.

He cited reports from the BI indicating each of the three recruits of Al-Walih International were found to have "two employment visas for United Arab Emirates bearing two different occupations."

"The workers allegedly admitted that they knew their actual work was household service work, and not what was stated in the documents processed by the POEA," Cacdac said.

Also, another OFW was found having visas for UAE and Jordan, Cacdac said.

Meanwhile, six female workers deployed by CAZ International were stopped at the airport by the Bureau of Immigration for having separate UAE visas for salespersons and domestic workers.

The POEA said the Bureau of Immigration intercepted a “manicurist” bound for Dubai, an OFW recruited by Hiro Global Manpower. The manicurist was found having a visa of a household service worker.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Palawan is Top Island in the World

With its world-renowned underground river, the island of Palawan in the Philippines emerged as the top island destination in a poll by an award-winning US travel magazine.
Beating 147 other islands throughout the world, Palawan was voted as “Top Island in the World” in the 27th annual Readers’ Choice Awards of Conde Nast Traveler magazine.

The magazine announced the results on its website Monday October 20 (US Time) after over 76,600 readers cast their votes.

Palawan was given a rating of 88.750 by the readers owing mostly because of the declaration of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River as one of the new seven natural wonders of the world.

“Palawan’s natural wonder is one of the longest underground rivers in the world, traveling five miles through a subterranean cave system. Guided boat tours take visitors down a portion of the waterway, where karsts, natural rock formations created by dissolving limestone, loom in every direction,” the magazine said.

Boracay Island in Aklan province was also included in the ranking at number 12 and given a rating of 82.683.

“This itty-bitty island (10 square miles) in the Philippines is as close to the tropical idyll ideal as you’ll find in the Philippines, with gentle coastlines and transporting sunsets. Add in a thriving nightlife scene, and you have one of the top tourist spots in the region,” the magazine said.
“The aptly named White Beach is Boracay’s main draw, with powdery white sand and shallow azure water ideal for swimming and snorkeling,” it said.

Palawan was able to beat other world-famous islands such as Bora Bora in French Polynesia (25th), Maldives (19th), Bali in Indonesia (17th), Bermuda (14th), Santorini and Cyclades in Greece (7th), and Maui in Hawaii (3rd).

The Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Survey started in 1988. The 2014 survey got 76,659 responses

“Individual candidates are judged on a set of criteria relevant to their category, based on a standard five-point scale: excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor,” Conde Nast explained in how they are ranked.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cebu Pacific Named Official PH Carrier to Canada and New Zealand

Cebu Pacific has been designated as an official Philippine carrier to New Zealand, Myanmar and Canada, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said.
CAB said the decision was made in its recent board meeting, which also granted Cebu Pacific additional entitlements for 5 international routes from Manila to Singapore, Myanmar, New Zealand and Macau; and from Cebu to Hong Kong.

The Gokongwei-led budget airline was granted seven flights weekly from Manila to New Zealand and 1,260 entitlements from Manila to Singapore.

The additional entitlement also allowed Cebu Pacific to upgrade its current daily Airbus A320 service to an Airbus A330 service.

CAB also granted Cebu Pacific’s opposition to the extension of the code share agreement between Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Emirates on the Manila-Dubai route, which is set to expire in October this year.

“We commend the CAB air panel for their wisdom in rendering decisions that allow Philippine carriers to expand services in international routes. This ultimately benefits the travelling public, as Cebu Pacific continues offering the lowest fares, and driving international arrivals aligned with the country’s tourism goals,” said Cebu Pacific Air vice president Atty. Jorenz Tañada.

Cebu Pacific is set to launch thrice weekly flights from Manila to Kuwait on September 2, 2014 and four times weekly flights from Manila to Sydney on September 9, 2014.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DOLE to Provide Jobs for Pinoy DHs in Hong Kong

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will open up more jobs to allow Filipinos working abroad to go home and practice their profession.
Based on the records of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), 160,000 Filipino domestic workers left the country to work abroad in 2013.

The most popular destination for domestic workers are Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Singapore and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In an interview on radio DZMM, DOLE director Nicon Fameronag said the move is part of the government's goal to prevent professionals like teachers and others from leaving the country to work as domestic helpers.

"Kukuha sila ng exam at ang tangi lamang kondisyon ng DepEd is that kung tatlo o hanggang limang taon silang hindi na nakakapagturo, magte-take lang sila ng refresher course," Fameronag said.

The director added that the Department of Education (DepEd) will prioritize teachers who are working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong for the 39,000 teaching positions that will be available next year because of the K-12 program.

Fameronag also said the POEA and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) have already identified jobs available for Filipino domestic helpers.

"Ilalatag 'yung mga training options sa ating mga domestic workers at doon pipili sila," added POEA administrator Hans Cacdac.

The DOLE and POEA will first implement this "career pathing" program for workers in Hong Kong, which will also be implemented for workers in UAE.

Jobs will also be available for other professionals.

"Pupunta ang TESDA, ipo-profile ang mga household service worker kung ano 'yung kanilang educational attainment, skills," Fameronag explained.

Despite the difference in the amount of salary that will be given for workers who will be willing to go back to the country, Fameronag believes these workers will choose to go back for their families.

"Sumusweldo ka ng P30,000 sa abroad tapos ang sweldo mo dito sa Pilipinas ay P15,000. I-assign mo 'yung P15,000 na balanse sa pagiging kapiling ng iyong anak, magagabayan mo ang paglaki, kasama mo ang asawa mo tapos nandito ka sa bansa. 'Yung money equivalent nun, sapat na," he said.

He added that they are also in talks with foreign governments to ensure the safety of Filipino domestic helpers.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Countries With Visa-Free Access for Philippine Passport Holders

To Filipinos traveling overseas, getting a visa can be a time-consuming, if not resource-draining exercise. Consulates and embassies often require plenty of documentation to justify them granting visas: financial statements and proof of employment are among them. And that’s if the destination country has its consular presence in the Philippines. Given such challenges faced by a legitimate tourist, another alternative is to visit countries that don’t require Philippine passport holders to apply for visas.

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)
Brunei Darussalam – 14 days
Cambodia – 21 days
Indonesia – 30 days
Laos – 30 days
Malaysia – 30 days
Myanmar – 14 days
Singapore – 30 days
Thailand – 30 days
Vietnam – 21 days

Azerbaijan – 30 days visa issued upon arrival
Taiwan – 30 days if holding a valid visa for Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Schengen countries, United Kingdom or United States. Check at https://nas.immigration.gov.tw/nase/ to meet the requirements.
Georgia – 90 days visa issued upon arrival, 360 days visa free to those who have temporary residence of Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait
Hong Kong – 14 days
India – 30 days visa issued upon arrival
Iran – 15 days visa issued upon arrival if holding an e-visa pre-approval code obtained via email from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at www.mfa.gov.ir
Israel – 90 days (3 months)
South Korea (if arriving at Jeju Island only) – 30 days
Macau – 30 days
Maldives – 30 days visa issued upon arrival, extension of maximum 90 days is possible by paying MVR 750
Mongolia – 21 days
Nepal – 15/30/90 days visa issued upon arrival for around US$25/40/100
Sri Lanka – 30 days visa obtain upon arrival if holding Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). You can get this prior to arrival at www.eta.gov.lk
Timor-Leste – 30 days single entry visa issued upon arrival for around US$30, extension is possible up to 90 days

Kosovo – 90 days

Cook Islands – 31 days
Fiji – 120 days Visitor’s Permit issued upon arrival and can be extended
Marshall Islands – 30 days visa issued upon arrival and can be extended
Micronesia – 30 days
Niue – 30 days
Palau – 30 days visa issued upon arrival, additional USD 50 for extension
Samoa – 60 days Visitor’s Permit issued upon arrival
Tuvalu – 30 days visa issued upon arrival
Vanuatu – 30 days

North America
Bermuda – 31 days before but since May, they now require visas for Philippine passport holders
Costa Rica – 30 days Visitor’s Permit issued upon arrival
Dominica – 21 days
Haiti – 90 days
Nicaragua – 90 days visa issued upon arrival
Saint Lucia – 6 weeks Visitor’s Permit issued upon arrival
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – 30 days visa issued upon arrival
Turks and Caicos Islands – 30 days

South America
Bolivia – 90 days
Brazil – 90 days
Colombia – 90 days
Ecuador – 90 days
Peru – 183 days
Suriname – 90 days

Burundi – 1 month visa issued upon arrival
Cape VerdeIslands – visa issued upon arrival around £ 25
Comoros – visa issued upon arrival
Djibouti – 1 month visa issued upon arrival
Gambia – visa issued upon arrival
Kenya – 90 days visa issued upon arrival for US$50
Madagascar – 90 days visa issued upon arrival for MGA140,000
Morocco – 90 days
Mozambique – 30 days visa issued upon arrival. Extension of 30 days is possible around USD 66
Saint Helena – visa issued upon arrival
Seychelles – 1 month Visitor’s Permit issued upon arrival if holding return ticket, sufficient funds (minimum USD150 per day of stay, and proof of accommodation)
Tanzania – visa issued upon arrival for around USD50 to USD200
Togo – 7 days visa issued upon arrival if with return ticket, 3 passport photos, and yellow fever vaccination certificate
Uganda – visa issued upon arrival for US$50
Zambia – 90 days visa issued upon arrival for USD 50/80/160 single/double/multiple entry


**Information is intended for tourist visit purpose only
**Details may change anytime after the update due to new laws so double-check the immigration rules of the country you’re planning to visit
**Transit visa may be required when you’re not on a direct flight
**Sources: International Air Transport Association (IATA), Qantas, Wiki, Visalink, VisaHq.ph

Monday, August 18, 2014

British Embassy Makes It Easier For Filipinos To Apply For A Visa

After having approved over 90 percent of visa applications from the Philippines, the British Embassy announced on Monday a number of "enhancements" to its visa processing procedures in the country.
The British embassy said that these included an improved application center in Manila and a new one in Cebu City.

In a news release, the embassy said the improvements, meant "to cater [to] the growing demand" for UK visa services, also included a new international visa enquiry center, an optional priority visa service that returns visa decisions within three to five working days, and a Prime Time service for those who couldn't attend appointments within the usual office hours.

More than 49,000 tourist and business visit visas were issued to Filipinos from March 2013 to March 2014, the embassy said.  It said this "[dispelled] misconceptions that it [was] difficult for Filipino travellers to get a UK visa."

Asif Ahmad, British ambassador to the Philippines, said the embassy "[wanted] to welcome even more Filipino visitors in the coming 12 months."

For frequent visitors to the UK, the British embassy announced that it was also offering long-term visit visas, which would be valid for one to 10 years. 

The embassy said such a long-term visa runs under "the same conditions as a regular six months visit visa," but may be more convenient for those travelling in and out of the UK since "you will only need to make one application and provide biometrics once for the entire duration of the visa."

Ahmad said the embassy was encouraging those who wish to apply for a tourist or business visit visa "to apply early and have with you all the necessary documents when you go for your appointment."

Applicants should also "be clear about the purpose" of their visit, he added.

The growth in the number of visitors may be attributed to "a wider range of flight options" between London and Manila, the news release said.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) began its five-times-a-week flights to London in late 2013.

Friday, August 1, 2014

More Foreign Nurses May Qualify for H-1B Visas

More foreign nurses may be able to come and work in the US sooner than usual, following the release of a recent memo by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) describing how they can be sponsored for the H-1B temporary work visa.
The H-1B visa is available to foreign workers who fill specialty occupation jobs in the US, such as physical therapists, accountants, engineers, graphic designers, finance or IT professionals, or teachers.

The term “specialty occupation” is generally described as jobs that require highly specialized knowledge or at least a bachelor’s degree for an entry-level position.

The critical factor for H-1B sponsorship is the job requirement and not whether the foreign worker has a bachelor’s degree.

The recent USCIS policy memorandum, dated July 11, potentially expands and formalizes which nursing positions in the US may be considered for H-1B sponsorship. It could open the door tomore foreign registered nurses (RNs) who already possess at least a bachelor’s degree in the field of nursing.

Since entry-level nursing jobs in the US do not normally require a bachelor’s degree, prior USCIS policy did not consider nursing as an H-1B specialty occupation, except in limited cases. As a result, very few foreign nurses qualify for H-1B visas, and eventually obtain their green card while working in the US.

Most of them come to the US on immigrant work visas after waiting for three to five years.  For instance, nurses from the Philippines – one of the largest sources of foreign RNs – are currently stuck in a four-year wait.

Under the recent seven-page memo, foreign registered nurses can skip the long wait for immigrant visas and instead enter the US as H-1B temporary workers and pursue their green card applications while in the US.

Three general groups of nursing jobs in the US may now be H-1B-caliber positions:

Nursing positions at healthcare organizations, under the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program. An H1B sponsor with ANCC Magnet status indicates that its nursing workforce has attained high standards of nursing practice and possesses at least a bachelor’s degree.
Nurses performing specialized and complex duties usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s degree, such as: addiction nurses, cardiovascular nurses, critical care nurses; emergency room nurses; genetics nurses; neonatology nurses; nephrology nurses;oncology nurses; pediatric nurses; peri-operative nurses; or rehabilitation nurses.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) is considered a specialty occupation “due to the advanced level of education and training required for certification.” Some APRN positions include the Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM); the Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS); Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP); and the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).

All nurses in the US must possess a nursing license. To be licensed, the nurse must complete an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).  Other specific requirements to practice the nursing profession vary from state-to-state.

At present, there is no state that requires a bachelor’s degree in nursing for licensure. However, state licensure requirements may change. In case a bachelor’s degree will be required for a nursing job in a particular state, a foreign RN may obtain an H-1B work visa for that particular job.

The U.S. government has projected a faster than average growth in the demand for nurses until 2022. Many factors lead to the growing need for nurses and other healthcare professionals in the U.S., including: the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (also referred to as “Obamacare”); the emphasis in preventative care; high rates of chronic conditions; and the increasing demand for healthcare from the baby boomer population.

H-1B workers are allowed to work for a maximum of six years in the U.S. This six-year maximum may be extended, provided a green-card case is on track for the H-1B worker. Their spouse and children under 21 years old may obtain H-4 visas and accompany them in the U.S.  

At present, an H-4 spouse is not allowed to work while in the US. The USCIS, however, is studying the possibility of granting H-4 spouses work authorization.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Australian Visa Program to Lure Wealthy Chinese

country. The visa helps its holder to invest money abroad. A typical applicant is a millionaire and invests around $4.73 million to qualify for Australian residency. The visa also helps to sidestep restrictions imposed by the Chinese government on converting the currency and sending it to foreign shores.
The visa has literally opened a money train into Australia. According to Baker & McKenzie LLP, a law firm, investments through this channel could be in the tune of $9.45 billion per year. Approximately $1,000 individuals have sent in their applications. Many more applications are to be expected after a similar program was canceled by Canada in February. The sheer numbers have compelled the Australian government to hasten the review process and quicken the proposals. Many banks and hedge funds are actively competing to capture this kind of money.

According to Bill Fuggle, partner, Baker & McKenzie, based in Sydney, these investors are not the run-of-the-mill private equity kind of investors. He says that fund managers are required to visit China and then convince a prospective client of investing in Australia not simply for a visa, but also for a better lifestyle and also with the aim of preserving wealth.

These Significant Investor Visas, issued by Australia, are available with a minimum investment of $500,000 and a need for job creation. The visas are created to attract foreign capital and permit permanent residency in Australia.

According to the website hosted by the Department of Immigration, immigrants must put A$5 million into certain funds or government bonds which invest in agribusiness, infrastructure and real estate assets. The applicant at first must complete a residency of a minimum of 40 days every year over a period of four years before the permanent residency is granted.

The first visa under this program, named the 188 visa, after the number eight being considered auspicious among Chinese, was given to a Chinese toy manufacturer in 2013. The Australian Government has now made clear its intentions of “rebooting” the concerned visa regime making it easier to implement it.
The visa approval process has been made quicker after the new Liberal National coalition took over Australian administration reins in 2013. About 282 applicants were awarded the visas in the September 2013 to June 2014 period, in contrast to the four granted during the program's initial seven months.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Very Bad Week: Airline Disasters Come In A Cluster

Nearly 300 passengers are killed when their plane is shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine. Airlines suspend flights to Israel's largest airport after rocket attacks. An airliner crashes during a storm in Taiwan, and yet another disappears in West Africa. Aviation has suffered one of its worst weeks in memory. Industry analysts and safety experts say they can find no common themes. Nor do they think the events indicate that flying is suddenly becoming less safe.
Less than one in 2 million flights last year ended in an accident in which the plane was damaged beyond repair, according to the International Air Transport Association. That includes accidents involving cargo and charter airlines as well as scheduled passenger flights.

"One of the things that makes me feel better when we look at these events is that if they all were the same type event or same root cause then you would say there's a systemic problem here, but each event is unique in its own way," said Jon Beatty, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, an airline industry-supported nonprofit in the U.S. that promotes global aviation safety.

But Beatty said he also finds the disaster cluster "a cold reminder" that airline accidents are likely to increase because the industry is growing, especially in developing countries. The more flights there are, the more potential for accidents, he said.

The misfortunes began July 18 when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine with 298 people on board. It's still not clear who fired the missile that destroyed the plane, but Ukrainian officials have blamed pro-Russian rebels.

The mysterious disappearance in March of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people on board, combined with the destruction of Flight 17, added up to more than twice the total global airline fatalities in all of last year, which was the industry's safest year on record. Ascend, a global aviation industry consulting firm based in London, counted 163 fatalities in 2013 involving airliners with 14 seats or more.

On Wednesday, a TransAsia Airways plane crashed in Taiwan in stormy weather trailing a typhoon, killing 48 passengers, injuring 10 others and crew and injuring five people on the ground. On Thursday,an Air Algerie flight with 116 passengers and crew disappeared in a rainstorm over Mali en route from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital. The plane was operated for the airline by Swiftair, a Spanish carrier.

Together, the disasters have the potential to push airline fatalities this year to over 700 — the most since 2010. And 2014 is still barely half over.
Aviation industry analyst Robert W. Mann Jr. said he doesn't expect the recent events to deter travelers from flying.
"They're all tragic, but the global air travel consumer has a very short memory, and it's highly localized to their home markets where they fly," he said.

Airline passengers interviewed by The Associated Press said they weren't overly concerned about their safety.

"It could be happening every day or never again," said Bram Holshoff, a Netherlands traveler at Berlin's Tegel Airport. "It's a bit much that it happened three times this week, but for me nothing will change."
Lam Nguyen, 52, of Tahiti, who was headed to Los Angeles from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, said he considers flying "a very safe mode of transportation."

"And if it has to happen, it will happen. ... It doesn't prevent me from taking planes," he said.

The shootdown of Flight 17 has raised questions about whether airlines, and the aviation authorities in their home countries, are adjusting flight routes quickly enough when unrest in troubled parts of the world threatens the safety of planes. But aviation safety consultant John Cox, a former airline pilot and accident investigator, said he sees no connection between that event and the other disasters.

"I don't know how you could respond to anything when there is not a commonality of events," he said. "We don't have a full understanding of the Taiwan accident, and certainly not on the" Air Algerie plane.

Cox attributed the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's decision Tuesday to prohibit flights to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv to "hypersensitivity" to the possibility of another shootdown. The FAA issued the order after a Hamas rocket exploded about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the airport. The prohibition was lifted 36 hours later.

Aviation is "fundamentally safe and getting safer, but can it can always fall prey to the mistakes or ill will of man," said former FAA chief counsel Kenneth Quinn. "We sometimes forget the magic of flight, or the fragility of life, but this week has brought home the need to appreciate this more and protect both better."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

How To Be a Better Traveler

We all like to think we’re pretty good tourists, expanding our horizons and learning about foreign cultures, but sometimes even the most experienced traveler can be guilty of some common travel slip ups. To guide you along a more enlightened path, here’s how to be a better traveler.

  • Contribute: Contributing to the local economy is one of the best things you can do when travelling. By buying locally made products or staying in homegrown hotels (not big international chains), your tourist dollars go direct to the people who need them. If you’re visiting an orphanage or school in a developing country, find out beforehand whether it’s worth bringing items such as pencils or schoolbooks for the local children.
  • Research: Heading somewhere new? Then do some research on the local customs and traditions, even if it’s just for five minutes on the plane. You may find out what not to wear, whether some gestures could be misinterpreted as rude, or even pick up useful some local words. Are public displays of affection frowned upon? You’d thank yourself for finding out before anything happened.
  • Show respect: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. You should remain respectful to everyone you meet, whether that’s the women at the convenience store, the hawker interrupting your beach session, or someone working behind the airport check-in counter. If you treat others with respect, then they’re more likely to offer helpful advice if things go wrong.
  • Live in the moment: Are you guilty of dining in McDonald’s everywhere you go? Trust us, it tastes the same. Travelling should be able trying new things, even if that’s a local delicacy you can’t pronounce. Be adventurous, and you’ll get a whole lot more out of your experience.
  • Don’t blow your lid: Schedules inevitably change when travelling. Although this can be extremely frustrating, blowing your top about it isn't going to help anyone - least of all you. Being patient and accepting of the situation, knowing that it will eventually get resolved, will get you a lot further as people are more likely to help a calm person than an irate one.
  • Be patient: Patience is a virtue. When you accept that most things are going to be done differently from what you’re used to, you’ll have a more relaxing trip. Some countries are much more laid back than others and may take longer to respond to requests. Just be patient.
  • Go local: You never know if or when you will get to experience the country you are travelling in again, so try to get the most out of it. Hang with the locals, learn about places to explore which aren’t mentioned in your guidebook, and just soak up the authentic local culture.
  • Be a good passenger: Long plane and bus journeys are usually pretty uncomfortable, so stay mindful of your fellow passengers. Avoid invading their personal space by spilling into their seat, and if you have a weak bladder maybe request the aisle seat. Everyone is pretty crammed together so it’s also a good idea to freshen up before you embark on the long journey.
  • Barter with respect: When visiting developing countries, most market vendors are usually open to a bit of bargaining and quite enjoy the banter that goes along with it. Just keep in mind that the $1 or so you’re bargaining over may feed this salespersons family for days, so stay fair and real. Don’t treat the person poorly just because you’re trying to secure a better deal.
  • Be organised: Ensure you are totally organised before you set off on your travels. Have your map and guide book close and exchange some money before you leave. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport to avoid unexpected delays.

Friday, July 25, 2014

After 17 Years, Naia-3 To Be Fully Operational

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 will finally be fully operational by the end of July, the Transportation department said, noting that it has been 17 years since the contract for the project has been awarded.
Five international carriers will transfer to NAIA-3 from NAIA-1 starting next week. Delta Airlines will fly out of the newest terminal by August 1. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and Cathay Pacific will soon follow suit.

“We are extremely pleased to confirm that full airline operations will begin at NAIA Terminal 3 next week. Our gateway airport will now be able to welcome 3.5 million more passengers with modern facilities every year, “ Transport chief Emilio Abaya said.

The contract, awarded in 1997, was supposed to have been finished by 2002. Allegations of anomalous transactions with contractor Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc., and cases consequently filed, have stalled project completion.

The terminal opened in 2008, but has been operating at half its intended capacity of 13 million passengers. In August 2013, the government struck a deal with the original contractor Takenaka Corp. to complete the project pending resolution of cases.

“[T]he Japanese firm has undertaken completion works for systems such as, flight information displays, computer terminals, gate coordination, landing bridges, and fire protection systems” over the past year, the Transport department said.

Around 85 percent of the works had been completed, it added, noting that other systems “which are non-critical to full airline operations, such as the building maintenance system,” would likely be completed within the year.

The transfer of five airlines to NAIA-3 is expected to reduce NAIA-1’s annual passenger traffic to its design capacity of 4.5 million from its current rate of 8 million. NAIA-1, which has been tagged the worst airport in the world, is also undergoing renovation.

Abaya added that the five carriers transferring to NAIA-3 “have the highest volume of international flights coming in and out of NAIA, so we look forward to giving them a new home.” The move thus cuts he number of travelers affected by NAIA-1 works.

The Cabinet official said NAIA-3’s completion is part of the President Benigno Aquino’s promise of good governance. “We made sure that 17 years and 4 administrations later, the whole Terminal 3 facility may be enjoyed by the public,” Abaya said.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Few Biting So Far on Japan Special Visa for Workers

Desperate to reinvigorate the long-stalled economy, the government has spent the past two years cozying up to highly skilled foreign workers through a batch of visa perks. There’s just one problem: few have been wooed.
Hoping to change that, the government passed a bill through the Diet in June to revise the Immigration Law, giving skilled foreigners a new visa status that allows them to stay indefinitely and with a broadened roster of privileges.

“Launching a new visa specifically designed for them means a lot, because that shows the world Japan is becoming more serious than ever about accepting those skilled foreigners,” said Immigration Bureau official Nobuko Fukuhara.

Questions remain, however, over whether creating the new visa alone will encourage more foreigners to move to Japan. Experts say little will change unless Japan brings its corporate culture more in line with global standards and reinvents itself as a place more foreigners would want to live in.

Under the current system, foreigners who earn more than 70 points in a government-designated evaluation system, based on criteria such as annual income, academic background and language skills, can stay in Japan under a “designated activities” visa status for five years.

During that time, they are granted a series of perks, including a fast track to permanent residency, working visa status for their spouses and the right to bring along their parents and housekeepers.

At the end of five years, they can switch to permanent residency, but would lose all the visa privileges they have enjoyed up to that point.

Since its launch in May 2012, the government-sponsored initiative to attract so-called highly skilled foreigners has trodden a rocky road. It kicked off with a grand goal of 2,000 registrants per year, but as of April 30, almost two years after its start, only 1,276 people were deemed eligible.

Of them, only 59 ended up using the program to enter the country as of the end of March, according to the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau, which oversees the program.

Meanwhile, under the revised law, which will take effect next April, foreigners who qualify for the points-based program could get a quasi-permanent residency visa status after three years, instead of the current five. Tentatively titled “highly skilled professionals,” people with this new visa could not only to stay in Japan indefinitely like permanent residents, but remain eligible for the perks for as long as they live here.

But there’s a catch. While permanent residents can do as they like, including nothing, those designated highly skilled professionals would have to keep working. In other words, they can’t stay if they get fired or retire. They will lose their privileged visa if they remain inactive for more than six months.

What’s more, Eriko Suzuki, an associate professor at Kokushikan University, says the visa perks themselves are restrictive. For example, while guaranteed the right to bring along their parents, the way the rule stands they must be the baby sitters of their grandchildren, up to age 7. This means they’ll have to leave once their child-rearing duties have ended.

“The implication is that the government doesn’t want those foreign parents to burden its social welfare system,” she said.

The bigger problem, Suzuki points out, is the overall unattractiveness of Japan’s corporate climate. Gender inequality, a deeply ingrained “organization-first” mindset and a tendency to overwork employees are all hallmarks of Japan’s corporations that repel most foreigners.

Wage systems are also different. However talented those foreigners might be, Suzuki predicts few employers would dare to pay them any better than long-term Japanese employees.

Making the working environment more foreigner-friendly is also high on the government’s agenda.

Several government ministries will work together to “identify problems regarding Japan’s lifestyles and working environments” and hash out solutions by the end of this fiscal year, the government’s growth strategies released in June said of the highly skilled foreigner program.

The Japanese government aims to lure 5,000 highly skilled foreigners by 2017.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Top 10 Airlines around the Globe for Flying Economy

Flying is often simply something we have to do to get our holiday started but these airlines are doing their best to make sure it is enjoyable. This list of the best airline economy offerings has been compiled by Business Insider Australia and is ranked on two factors; experience on the plane and timely departure and arrival. The data is collected from reviews on Skytrax and on-time performance from Flightstats.com. You can see the full calculations at Business Insider.
10. Thai Airways Economy seats on the Thai national carrier are of a high quality with reviewers praising the friendly staff and good food options. A lack of in-seat entertainment on some of the older planes is something holding the airline back. In-flight experience: 78 On-time performance: 82 

9. Oman Air Reviews say the seats on this small airline are super-comfortable bringing it into number nine on this list. In-flight experience: 82 On-time performance: 76 

8. Lufthansa Professional and friendly crew, along with tasty food are what bring Europe’s largest airline to number eight. In-flight experience: 80 On-time performance: 80 

7. Korean Air Leg room is what passengers want and it is what Korean Air delivers along with very clean planes making this Seoul-based carrier popular. In-flight experience: 78 On-time performance: 84 

6. Emirates This popular airline out of Dubai is host to one of the best in-flight entertainment systems that is praised by passengers travelling on its many long-haul routes. In-flight experience: 82 On-time performance: 79 

5. Malaysia Airlines Consistent great service on board Malaysia Airlines flights are what we see from reviews. The 5-star airline also offers great value for money. In-flight experience: 83 On-time performance: 77 

4. Asiana Airlines Receiving top marks for efficiency of service and comfort, passengers love this 5-star airline. In-flight experience: 85 On-time performance: 78 

3. Qatar Airways This impressive airline doesn’t make the top spot due to poor on-time performance but the great in-flight entertainment and the fact that economy passengers get to enjoy features like smartphone and tablet connectivity to their personal screens is a plus. In-flight experience: 90 On-time performance: 71 

2. All Nippon Airways (ANA) Cleanliness and safety are what make this Japanese airline stand out from the crowd. The fact that many of the planes feature a slide-forward, side-reclining seat that increases overall privacy doesn’t hurt either. In-flight experience: 85 On-time performance: 83 

1. Singapore Airlines Topping this list for the second year running, Singapore Airlines ticks all the boxes for service, in-flight entertainment and cabin cleanliness. In-flight experience: 90 On-time performance: 83

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Know The Most Visited Cities in the World

We weren't surprised that London is the most popular international travel destination. But the other cities rounding out the index may surprise you. Bangkok, Singapore, and Dubai all saw a surge in international visitors this year that is expected to continue growing with advances in technology and a rising middle class in emerging markets.

It has been a tight race between London and Bangkok for the No. 1 position in the last few years. Bangkok first overtook London in 2013 to become the top-ranked destination city in the world, but London regained the top rank this year with an 8 percent growth in visitors versus an 11 percent decline in Bangkok’s visitors due to political unrest in Thailand.

Half of the top destination cities in the index were in Asia, while the United States has only one city, New York, in the top 10.

Here are the top destinations that people are visiting right now:
10. Seoul — Expects 8.63 million visitors in 2014. 
9. Hong Kong — Expects 8.84 million visitors in 2014. 
8. Kuala Lumpur — Expects 10.81 million visitors in 2014. 
7. Istanbul — Expects 11.6 million visitors in 2014.
6. New York — Expects 11.81 million visitors in 2014. 
5. Dubai — Expects 11.95 million visitors in 2014. Dubai’s international visitors are surging, with a growth rate of 7.5 percent. If current growth persists, Dubai is poised to overtake both Paris and Singapore as an international destination within the next five years. 
4. Singapore — Expects 12.47 million visitors in 2014. 
3. Paris — Expects 15.57 million visitors in 2014. 
2. Bangkok — Expects 16.42 million visitors in 2014 
1. London — Expects 18.7 million visitors in 2014.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Immigration Bureau Uses High-tech Visas to Track Tourists

The Bureau of Immigration has started using new high-tech security visa stickers to thwart counterfeiting and other so-called "illegal transactions."
In a statement, the BI said the intricately designed security visa stickers for temporary visitor’s visa (TVVs) have features that are supposedly impossible to duplicate.

BI Commissioner Siegfred Mison said the security visa sticker for TVV is available at the BI head office in Intramuros, Manila; Makati, Baguio, Cebu and Davao offices.

Mison said the same technology is used in making the security visa sticker for Special Study Permit (SSP) and Long-Stay Visitor Visa Extension (LSSVE).

According to the BI, the sticker visa label has a self-adhesive substrate, UV dull and rounded corner and micro line prints.

Mison said the new security visa sticker is part of BI’s modernization program and should help in the BI’s drive against fake stamps.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thousands of jobs at risk after Senate disallows visa changes for foreign offshore rig workers

The Federal Government says foreigners working on offshore oil and gas projects are being forced to stop work after the Senate killed off a new visa regime.
Last night Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United Party teamed up in the Senate to stop foreign workers being employed on maritime crew visas.

Assistant Minister for Immigration Michaelia Cash says the foreign workers will now have to down tools, and that could have flow-on effects for other workers.

"Labor senators knowingly placed thousands of Australian jobs at risk," she said.

Labor and the Greens had the support of Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan, Australian Motoring Enthusiast senator Ricky Muir and the three Palmer United Party senators - including Jacqui Lambie, who said the regulation applied to workers on ships that were permanently in Australian waters, adding they should have their full conditions protected.

"The rates of pay of these seafarers are so low that it will be impossible for vessel operators to ignore the option of employing overseas workers within Australia's exclusive economic zone," she said.

Paddy Crumlin from the Maritime Union of Australia said the maritime crew visa was a loophole being used to exploit workers.

"It was here to bring in Filipino, Indonesian seafarers, not on Australian wages and conditions," he said.

Senator Cash said she was seeking urgent advice from the Immigration Department.

"We will currently have people who are literally on vessels or potentially on rigs, who had temporary visas up until the disallowance motion went through, who if they now undertake the role that they are being paid to do will be in breach of their temporary work conditions," she said.

"Will the contracts that these companies have be able to be discharged? I don't know." 

Senator Cash dismissed the view that the regulations allowed workers to be paid less than Australian standards as "propaganda" by the Maritime Union, which she called the most militant union in Australia.

Government can issue quick fix, says Bandt

Greens industrial relations spokesman Adam Bandt said Senator Cash could easily ensure that everyone affected could keep working.

"The minister can issue a new regulation that says people who are working in offshore oil and gas can continue to do it if they're from overseas," he said.

"It just means that the basic floor that applies is Australian wages and conditions. You can't undercut that."

Fifield accuses Greens, Labor of delaying carbon tax repeal

The disallowance motion has demonstrated that the Government cannot take anything for granted in the Upper House at the moment.

The Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Mitch Fifield, accused the Greens and Labor of a deliberate go-slow on the carbon tax debate.

He said they spent three-and-a-half hours on one amendment.

"That is not acceptable. It is seeking to delay the inevitable, seeking to defy the will of the Australian people expressed through the ballot box," he said.

"We will use the full avenues available in the Parliament to ensure the carbon tax is repealed."

He said a gag motion could be used to cut off debate.

"There are a range of parliamentary procedures which are available and we will use those to best advantage to make sure the carbon tax is repealed," he said.

Senator Fifield hinted he could have the support of crossbenchers for a gag motion.

"Parliamentarians have had their say over 50 hours of debate with the three presentations of the repeal package to the Senate ... and the interesting thing is that actually everyone knows what their position is," he said.

"It's time to vote. It's time to repeal the tax."

Senator Fifield also reiterated the Government's determination to have a vote on the mining tax repeal bill.

"If the Senate needs to continue for an additional day to make sure that we vote on the repeal of the mining tax then that's what will happen," he said. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Immigration Hunts Fake-Passport Holders

The Immigration Office in Batam has increased its efforts to detect illegal migrant workers from Indonesia using fake passports with fake visa stamps.
Last week, immigration officials at Batam Center Port confiscated 40 counterfeit documents from workers. Batam Immigration Office head Yudi Kurniadi said his office had blacklisted and slapped travel bans on 200 illegal migrant workers since June.

“Ahead of Idul Fitri, we usually see a high influx of migrant workers who return home from Malaysia, so our officials have to be more alert,” he told The Jakarta Post.

He said fake visa stamps were generally different in format and color. His office also found fake visas from other Southeast Asian nations.

Yudi said the perpetrators could be prosecuted, but he preferred to give them some leeway by applying travel bans and blacklisting them.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thailand Immigration Gets Tough

Foreigners who exit Thailand to extend their visa-free stay will not be allowed to re-enter the country at airports and land checkpoints, effective 12 August. A ban on the out/in trips has already been effective since last month at land checkpoints, but on 12 August it will extend to all modes of transport; air, land and sea. The out/in trips allow foreigners to extend their visa-free stay in Thailand by simply stamping their passport at a border checkpoint.
Many do it to avoid having to apply for a 60-day tourist visa or the 90-day non-immigrant visa, the basic visa that allows them to apply for a work permit. Thailand’s Immigration Bureau confirmed it would strictly apply  the law, effective 12 August, which will end the practice of  border  runs for many foreigners who reside in Thailand to seek work. The practice is incorrectly called “visa-runs” by some media channels, but in fact it is really about exploiting a loophole to allow them to stay in Thailand without the need to apply for a visa.

Foreigners visit overland checkpoints that are close by such as Aranyaphrathet at the border with Cambodia, around 200 km east of Bangkok, or the far north border at Mae Sai, just 80 km from Chiang Rai town. When officials adopt the policy at airports  it could cause considerable expense for airlines that are legally forced to fly the traveller back to the place they embarked on the aircraft. Some travellers may decide to get a new passport with no previous Thailand entry and exit stamps to start a clean slate.

But the immigration bureau is making this move knowing it has the capability to check every foreigner’s travel history in the country. The ability to track and crackdown on offenders is based on a technology  upgrade that has  linked all airport and overland checkpoints to a national database  so online checks can be made at  border checkpoints  to show the travellers previous trips and profile.

The crackdown should not impact on genuine tourists, but it will force visitors who want to stay much longer in the country to apply for a tourist visa, rather than rely on repeated visa-free entries. It could technically cause some inconvenience to travellers who use Thailand as holiday base to visit neighbouring countries. They may stay in Thailand for 15 days tour the main destinations and then take a trip to Myanmar for a week before returning to Bangkok for a final round of shopping and entertainment before they return home.

In this case, showing return ticket to their home country and details of their trips and bookings in Thailand and neighbouring countries should be enough to convince immigration officials they are not stamp collectors exploiting visa-free privileges. Border runners are those who leave Thailand and return immediately for the purpose of extending their stay. By exploiting visa exemptions, or the extensions allowed on a 60-day tourist visa, many foreigners can work illegally in language schools, or restaurants and other businesses for months or years.

It is easier for some to get jobs this way, as some employers do not want to go through the complicated process of seeking work permits and like to avoid the expense involved. The tourism business is not immune to this practice as many people working as guides, or working for travel related companies, even hotels, do not have work permits or the appropriate visa to start the process.

The Immigration Bureau website said: “Leniency will be granted until 12 August, but only for passengers arriving by air. Foreigners who come to Thailand must seek a proper visa in line with the purpose of their intended stay here.” Now, those on a visa run who are allowed back in will find an “O-I” (Out-In) mark next to their latest entry stamp. From 13 August, nobody with an O-I sign on their passport will be allowed to re-enter Thailand if they cannot produce a proper visa.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

35 Genius Travel Tips that Can Make your Vacation Easy

Travel is full of pitfalls. One wrong step and your vacation could be ruined by a seedy hotel room, an overpriced restaurant, a wasted afternoon at a tourist-trap attraction or an overnight flight crammed in the middle seat. So, guarantee a smooth trip by planning thoroughly.

See all the tips here…

35 Genius Travel Tips That Will Change Your Life Forever

Saturday, July 12, 2014

South Africa's New Visa Rules Spark Outcry

Strict new South African immigration laws have sparked confusion and panic among foreign residents in this "Gateway to Africa" and forced 250,000 Zimbabweans to decide whether to return home.
Walk down most streets in Johannesburg and you will hear accents and languages from across this vast African continent.

Builders by the roadside waiting for work chatter away in the sweet sing-song rhythm of African Portuguese, waiters stand and gossip between orders employing the rolling Rs. and whistles that mark out Shona, a language of Zimbabwe and southern Zambia.

Congolese, Somalis, Nigerians, Mozambicans and above all Zimbabweans, flock to the "City of Gold" in search of their own little slice of the riches of the Highveld, as the surrounding region is known.

Since the 1880s, when Johannesburg exploded to life with the discovery of vast gold deposits, this has been a city, and a country, of immigrants.

"Shosholoza", perhaps South Africa's most beloved song - belted out at sporting events, political rallies and anywhere more than a handful of people gather - originally came from the Zimbabwean workers making the train journey south to work the mines.

But today the South African authorities, wary of the inflow amid brutally high unemployment, have begun tightening visa regulations and closing loopholes.

New rules quickly snapped into force shortly after the country's May election, catching scores of expatriate workers of guard.

A German doctor waiting six months for the processing of her residence permit was banned from returning to South Africa for five years for overstaying her tourist visa.

A Briton was stranded in London, separated from her husband and 18-month-old child, after being declared an undesirable immigrant for a similar reason.

There are fears the new rules may hit the vital tourist industry. Immigration consultants have lodged a slew of court cases challenging the laws, which they say are unconstitutional.

Haniff Hoosen, an opposition Democratic Alliance lawmaker, said "the new regulations have already ripped apart families, dissuaded investors, and led to the suspension and even cancellation of multi-million rand film and tourism ventures."

But the most far-reaching implication may be felt by the more than a quarter-of-a-million Zimbabweans who fled the political and economic crisis at home after disputed elections in 2008.

They were granted special permits that expire later this year.

According to the new laws, if they want to continue living in South Africa they will have to return home to apply for extensions.

"Sending 250,000 back just to extend their permits doesn't make sense," said Bernard Toyambi, the paralegal officer of the non-governmental organisation the People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty.

"How will they keep their jobs? How long does the process take?"

The worst fear is mass deportations if no special political deal is secured.

"It's like they're chasing us out, they're killing us," said Sascha Madipa, 28, a Zimbabwean immigrant in downtown Johannesburg.

The rules have "created such an element of uncertainty, uneasiness among the people. It's like doomsday," said Gershon Mosiane, an immigration lawyer and president of the Forum of Immigration Practitioners (FIPSA).

"These people were not given ample time, and to declare a person undesirable, our position is that it is arbitrary and is against the principle or the rule of law... that a person is innocent until proven guilty," said Msiane.

South Africa has promised to make a decision on the status of the Zimbabweans, with immigration chief Apleni Mkuseni saying they should "wait patiently and with no panic".

But new South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba signalled a less sympathetic stance.

"Workers from other countries, and I dare say Zimbabwe, have flocked to South Africa seeking asylum. We must ask: Is there a conflict in Zimbabwe which necessitates that Zimbabwean nationals must apply for asylum in South Africa?" he asked.

With Zimbabwe's economy still spluttering, unemployment unofficially estimated to be as high as 80 percent, a fresh financial crisis looming and president Robert Mugabe recently returned to power for another term, many Zimbabweans are reluctant to return home.

A Zimbabwean opposition politician, Ngqabutho Mabhena of the Movement for Democratic Change, who helped negotiate the special permits, has been talking to South African officials about the looming crisis.

"Our guess is that the majority of the people will want to re-apply because after the 2013 election in Zimbabwe, no Zimbabwean that we have spoken to wants to go back," said Mabhena

Over one hundred years after Johannesburg sprung up from the dust, Zimbabwean workers may again be making a journey, this time northward and homeward, leaving behind a city that is a little less cosmopolitan. 

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