Queue Beloved Country
The downturn in service delivery and processing times, as well as reaction times, began after Naledi Pandor’s reign with Minister Malusi Gigaba, an incompetent playboy appointed by former President Jacob Zuma on grounds of nepotism instead of merits. From there it was all downhill and has reached rock bottom today under Aaron Motsoaledi.
Countless application rejections based on unjustified grounds or assumptions, long processing times, endless queues at Home Affairs offices and constantly failing IT equipment has given the Department of Home Affairs its new name: Department of Hell Affairs. But it is not alone Motsoaledi’s doing or rather not doing anything at all, he is – like his predecessors – just a puppet of the NEC. Here, at the core of public power, Dr Evil aka Samson Gwede Mantashe rules and directs as he sees fit. He is obviously of the opinion that by making it too difficult or even impossible to immigrate for skilled workers, he can force the South African employers to hire local labour instead. This level of reasoning flies intellectual lower than the most useless insect but has become the blueprint for all recent developments.
The ANC would love nothing more than to abolish the Immigration Act and replace it with something like a “Tourist just Visiting Act”, but by now lacks the majority to push such blindly xenophobic legislation through parliament. But instead – he uses the resort ministers – to issue Directives to amend and destroy any meaningful guarantee of a due process.
Here are the main changes that were silently made through Directives and Practice Changes within Home Affairs and the embassies and high commissions:
Long-Term Visa submitted abroad
It started under Gigaba with instructions to the missions abroad that were suddenly required to have at least two sets of different requirements for each visa category available, so that they can – dependent on the scope of documents presented at submission – reject every application as non-compliant / incomplete.
After more and more applicants started preparing for the worst-case and having more documents than required with them at submission abroad and often attended submissions with an immigration lawyer present, DIRCO pulled the plug and pretended it is due to Corona discontinued submissions in person by allowing submissions only via post. Since this did not yield the desired reduction of visa, on 6 June South Africa introduced a centralised adjudication system for visas. The new system will mean that as from 7 June 2022 that applications for all long-term visa have again to be submitted in person through a South African embassy or high commission are being sent to the Home Affairs head office in Pretoria. The result is that after now extended processing times of up to 3 years due to a deliberately created backlog, the application can still be rejected, and the blame passed forth and back between the mission abroad and Home Affairs in Pretoria.
The backlog within the DHA is – by the way – not entirely the fault of the DHA. It is also to be contributed to the budget cuts over the last five years as well as the reduction of staff in favour of the Department of Health during the pandemic, which currently results in only 39% (sic!) of all positions within the DHA being occupied.
Outside visa matters, in domestic matters, there are no longer appointments given by the DHA and everybody, no matter what the related issue is, has to queue at one of the DHA offices. It is recommended to start queueing from 3 AM onwards otherwise the chances of reaching the counter before the office closes are slim.
Spousal / Life Partner / Relatives
Processing time is currently around 8 months and part of the Immigration Law has been suspended after the judgment by the Western Cape High Court on 7 June 2022 decided that foreigners who are parents and caregivers of South African children will be allowed to remain in the country after their relationships with their South African spouses come to an end.
The judge declared unconstitutional sections of the Act that: require a foreigner who holds a spousal visa, who has parental responsibility and rights, to leave South Africa on the termination of the relationship; require such a person to make an application for a change in status from outside South Africa; do not allow a foreigner who may be eligible for a visitors or relatives visa to work in South Africa in order to discharge their parental rights and responsibilities.
The law until recently provided the possibility for foreigners studying a recognised critical skill, to obtain a Permanent Residence Permit in the last year of their studies. This was possible by means of a specialised and all-inclusive waiver, which has since been revoked and is not possible anymore.
General Work Visa
The introduction of the additional requirement to obtain a certification in form of a letter from the Department of Labour confirming that there is no South African nor any foreigner holding a permanent residence permit that is able and qualified to execute the job in question happened without the cooperation of the Department of labour and thus without any additional capacity there to attend to such enquiries. As a result, obtaining such a letter – if at all – currently takes up to 15 months.
While in the beginning the circumvention of this requirement in cases of urgent projects by means of an application i.t.o. s32(2)(c) Immigration Act for a waiver of this requirement saved significant waiting time, this has in the meantime been picked up by the DHA and either processing a waiver application takes as long as the letter from the DoL or it is rejected on grounds of “insufficient merits” or “insufficient recruiting efforts”, both terms whose scope of application lies entirely within the discretion of the DHA.
Critical Skills Work Visa
Every five years, the Minister of Home Affairs is supposed to publish and gazette a list of critical skills needed in the country allowing foreigners possessing such skills to apply for a critical skills work visa.
Since 2019 the publication of a new list was overdue. A list of 125 critical skills was proposed by various stakeholders and on 2 February 2022 by Government Notice 1727 an amended list containing only 101 critical skills was published. The new list is now significantly reduced by a variety of categories formerly qualifying as critical, which will now disable holders of a Critical Skills Work Visa to extend their visa.
Until recently foreigners were able to apply for a Critical Skills Work Visa without having a job offer, they were granted a 12 months job seeker visa. This has been discontinued and job seeker visa are no longer issued, the applicant must be in the possession of an irrevocable job offer for a published critical skill.
It is no longer accepted that the pension/retirement income may stem from the rental income of a property or similar agreements within the private domain. The minimum of ZAR 37 000 remains in place for now, but it has been indicated that this will increase in the near future.
One of the very few Permanent Residence Permits that is still achievable within 6 – 9 months’ time and without having to apply for a temporary visa first and without having to watch the existing backlog is the Permanent Residence Permit (not Visa!!) based on financial independence.
Although the first attempts have already been made to add requirements not prescribed in the act or regulations, like the proof of South African assets/property, the application still can be made for the whole family at once, and be submitted in South Africa when only on a Visitors’ Visa and being adjudicated separately from the 50 000 applications backlog of all other permanent residence applications.
But rumour has it that the current asset-based requirement will soon be diversified and increased to make local assets a requirement in order to reduce the number of applications submitted under ss27and 27(F).
Refugees / Asylum Seekers
As this, especially among foreign Africans, desired Refugee Permit i.t.o. s24 Immigration Act also allows to work and lets over time the applicant qualify for a Permanent Residence Permit, its issuing has become a major obstacle. Since March 2020 the Refugee Reception Offices were closed and the Refugee Officers stayed home making it impossible for newly arriving refugees to obtain any kind of visa.
For those whose Refugee Permit was expiring a deadline of 31 December, 2021 was given to renew their documentation online. Some of those who have missed that deadline blame persistent failures of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) online system for being late. Others say they never got any response after renewing online. A deliberate tactic of the DHA to reduce the number of legal refugees in the country.
Zimbabweans on ZEP
The special permits for Zimbabweans make it easier for Zimbabwean nationals to legalise their stay in South Africa by cutting red tape and dispensing with most of the ordinary visa requirements.
There are nearly 200 000 Zimbabweans in South Africa who are living on borrowed time. They are in the country on a special visa, the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP). This visa category was introduced more than a decade ago to accommodate an influx of refugees who were fleeing political persecution and economic devastation in Zimbabwe.
But late last year, the DHA amid rising afrophobic sentiment among South African citizens, announced that it would not renew the ZEPs. This decision gives affected Zimbabweans a “grace period” until the end of this year to leave the country or risk being deported — unless they can find another visa to apply for, which is usually not the case as they are semi-skilled and the immigration law does not provide visa for semi-skilled workers.
However, thinking out of the box is key here as it is in all other visa applications, and there is always a way. A standard approach, even when thinking to comply with the regulations and requirements, has a high probability to end in rejection. Rather walk the walk that leaves the Department of Hell Affairs no choice but to grant your visa or permit. Talk to us today, we believe there is a Plan B for everyone!