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Red tape hampers some Brics business

The Brics summit held recently in Durban has largely been judged a success. A number of very laudable moves are afoot, such as the construction of a 28 400 km undersea telecommunications cable linking the partners – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. South Africa ImmigrationBut while such a cable will definitely ensure greater online connectivity, there is still much to be done to ensure that face-to-face networking is facilitated. The politicians do a good job of signing multilateral agreements and promising greater co-operation but less of an emphatic job ensuring that the bureaucratic pathways are cleared so that the engines of commerce, businessmen and women on the ground, can do business with each other. South Africans can travel to Brazil and India with relatively little red tape, but the visa process for entering Russia and China is still fraught and will often be more challenging than many businesses believe it is worth. If you, as a South African entrepreneur, want to go knocking on doors in China or Russia, here are some of the documents you will need to prepare: For Russia, the minimum cost is R640; the maximum is R1 040. “Application form completed and signed by applicant with one colour photo glued to the form. Valid passport. Non-South African nationals must submit valid residence permit (work permit) in the Republic of South Africa or copy of South African identity document (Republic of South Africa passport). “The original invitation issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia or the Federal Migration Service of Russia must be submitted to the embassy’s disposal (sic).” For China, the minimum cost is R380; the maximum is R750. “Completed Chinese visa application form. Valid, permanent passport. Three months of bank statements. Hotel reservations for the entire Chinese trip. Confirmed, return flight tickets.” Business travelers also need a “qualified invitation letter from business partner or (the) company sponsoring (your) visit in China”. If you intend to buy goods, the letter should include a list of the items you plan to purchase. Similarly, if you’re Russian or Chinese counterpart wants to knock on doors in South Africa, he or she will need to prepare documents, at a cost. The invitation to a Russian entrepreneur from the South African host company must provide the following information: “The purpose of the visit in detail, relation between the companies, duration of the visit, (confirmation of) acceptance of responsibility for all expenditure on accommodation and incidental costs. Both letters from South African companies and Russian/Belorussian companies must be on company letterheads with the contact details and the physical address.” The cost will be R524. China visitors also have to submit applications, at a cost of R425. I’m not suggesting a blanket visa-waiver programme. As an emerging economy, South Africa can’t afford overly porous borders and the same holds true for our Brics partners. A visa process between countries is desirable as a protection mechanism for citizens. It allows governments to see and to control exactly who is entering their borders. However, when that visa process becomes a cumbersome impediment to business, it needs to be re-evaluated. I believe the visa regime in place between Brics partners should be streamlined and made more cost effective for business without compromising security. Key to the streamlining process is a blanket agreement on what documents are required to obtain a visa and a commitment to processing visas within a set time frame across all Brics member states. Some visa applications do take longer to process as they require greater scrutiny. However, under the current state of play there are frequently significant time delays owning to nothing greater than form-filling bureaucracy. The cost to business when the practical facilitation on the ground doesn’t match the political photo opportunities is quite simply deals that don’t happen. In a world economy that is largely still shaky, the government should be bending over backwards to make the environment for commerce as conducive as possible. Source: http://www.iol.co.za/business/features/red-tape-hampers-some-brics-business-1.1496405#.UWJSqKJHKe0

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