THE Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration wants to start offering permanent residence and citizenship to pensioners living abroad on condition that they invest in Namibia’s failing economy.
This was revealed by the director of visas, permits, passports and citizenship Allison Hishekwa during a consultative workshop hosted by the home affairs ministry in Windhoek on Wednesday.
The workshop was aimed at addressing issues relating to visa requirements raised by the High-Level Panel on the Namibian Economy during the 2019 ‘economic summit’ that took place earlier this month.
At the event, Hishekwa said the government wants to come up with ways to provide foreign pensioners with easy access to obtaining residence visas.
He noted that the government was also exploring ways to extend the validity period of foreigners’ employment permits from the current 24 months to at least five years.
“We are not inviting all retirees, because some are struggling. We want those who can sustain themselves, and ones who can make a positive contribution to our economy. We are not looking for pensioners who will burden us, we don’t want that,” he stressed.
He said the reason behind relaxing visa requirements was to attract retirees to relocate to Namibia, and in the process drawing their investments and spending as another way of boosting development in the economy with these contributions.
According to Hishekwa, German pensioners make up the majority of the lot who have shown genuine interest of relocating to Namibia.
Although the government is encouraging retirees to relocate, Namibia should not be perceived as a retirement house, he stated, adding that the government will use certain qualification criteria to choose eligible people for the initiative, based on the significance of their investment and its impact on employment-creation.
According to a statement released during the consultative workshop, the home affairs ministry may assess the requirements explained under section 26 (3) of the Immigration Control Act that a pensioner may not be able to meet, and thus make a submission to the minister for an exemption.
A pensioner must be of good character, be willing to assimilate with locals, and not pursue employment or a business that sufficient local people are already conducting to be considered for the initiative, the ministry said.
“The stakeholders represented on the immigration selection board can collectively decide which of the requirements are non-negotiable, and then request the minister to waive the rest,” the statement read.
The level of capital investment required in order for a pensioner to be issued a residence visa was critical, and requires careful crafting.
“If an investor buys four houses in Namibia, does that automatically qualify them for a permanent residence permit? This is keeping in mind that the permanent residence permit is intended for people who want to live here permanently,” the statement added.
The idea to import rich pensioners was, however, criticised by political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah, who said the government must first conduct a study on such initiatives to avoid giving preferential treatment to foreign investors.
He cautioned that investments do not always trickle down to the grassroot levels, or do not always result in employment- creation as assumed. Kamwanyah remained skeptical about the initiative, saying it might not be sustainable.