Home Affairs - the good, the bad and the ugly

Minister of Home Affairs Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi told the presidential working committee on 7 October that turn-around times for critical skills visas have been reduced to less than 4 weeks in general. We are happy to confirm that this is an accurate timeframe when it comes to local applications and those made in some of the key missions abroad. A similar processing time (sometimes as short as 2 weeks) applies to business visa applications.

Conversely, efficiency in processing applications in some other categories seems to suffer as a result, and these can easily take 12 weeks and longer locally.

In a similar pattern, permanent residence applications in the critical skills and business categories can be finalized within 6-12 months, whilst other categories take about 3 years.

The error rate continues to be sky-high, necessitating costly and time-consuming appeals and re-applications. We have not been able to see any positive changes here since measures to address this were promised by Home Affairs.

Spouses and children of South African citizens or permanent residents can now apply for long-term visas in-country

A great success after years of battles with Home Affairs: A recent Constitutional Court judgment now allows children and married spouses, or recognized life partners of at least 2 years, of South African citizens or permanent residents to enter the country as visitors or tourists and apply for longer-term spousal or relatives’ visas from within South Africa. This significantly eases the pressures on families, and prevents them from being torn apart for extended periods of time. Contact us for individual advice and assistance!

eVisas to be launched in November

So-called eVisas are to be launched officially in November, apparently starting with a pilot project for Kenya, and to be rolled out incrementally from there. This “simplified and streamlined” process will allow for online applications abroad (instead of having to travel to embassies and consulates to apply) and possibly very fast entry on arrival. eVisas will be available to short-term visitors or business travelers, to “high-skilled applicants” (no indication has been given as to the visa categories this will apply to). According to a senior Home Affairs official, the electronic application system will eventually apply to all visa applications, which would revolutionize the visa and immigration landscape. To date, no official confirmation of this information has been given.

The greatest hurdles in the implementation of this new eVisa system will be a) the necessary technology and its reliability, and b) the level and quality of training received by Home Affairs officials in applying it. Announcements of significant tech improvements at Home Affairs ring hopeful, but remain to manifest in practice (https://businesstech.co.za/news/technology/330323/big-changes-coming-to-home-affairs-offices-including-no-more-system-offline-excuses/).

Asylum seekers and refugees can now change to visas or permanent residence in-country

Huge relief for those persecuted in their home countries: As a result of a recent judgment, asylum seekers or recognized refugees no longer have to return to their home country to apply for ordinary visas and permanent residence for South Africa. If they meet the relevant requirements for a particular visa or permit, they can obtain a so-called “waiver” and make their application in-country. Our consultants will gladly advise you or your employees in detail.

Critical skills list update

On 11 September, a senior official confirmed that an updated critical skills list will be implemented before April 2020, and that once the draft is completed, it will be published for public comment. We expect some changes from the last draft published in late 2018 (reported on in an earlier newsletter, see https://imcosa.co.za/news/119-newsletter-en/814-draft-new-critical-skills-list-corporate-general-managers-apply-now.html), but the focus is likely to remain on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) fields, which would mean an inclusion of teachers in this area. Unfortunately, no indications were made regarding the category of “Corporate General Managers”, which the last draft of the amended list saw removed, leading to substantial resistance. Watch this space!