Modernising the Department of Home Affairs, Fighting Corruption

At a consultative meeting on the repositioning of the Department of Home Affairs in Cape Town, Deputy Director-General: Institutional Planning & Support, Mr Thulani Mavuso, ran a multi-stakeholder group through the Department’s plans expressed in and flowing from the White Paper on International Migration, a recently published policy paper which forms the basis for legislative and structural changes over the coming 10 years.

The “repositioning” plans are largely well founded and motivated. The Department very frankly names its challenges and weaknesses (e.g. "The staff profile is skewed towards the lower ranks, with 60% having only matric or lower qualifications.", "Officials who cannot resolve problems give excuses or tell clients to come back. The situation encourages bribery and extortion." and "There are too many foot soldiers and not enough staff at supervisory levels.") and provides a plausible analysis of their causes. Some positive items from the policy papers:

  • The Department has been very successful with improving the turn-around time of passport applications (now usually a few days) and with its roll-out of the smart-ID cards. Cooperation with the four major banks in South Africa has made this process more user-friendly. The technology used at airports to capture travellers’ biometric data has been upgrade and promises to bring relief.
  • A new system is being developed to replace the existing National Population Register. The National Identity System (NIS) will be a secure integrated system recording identities and status of all persons who visit or reside in South Africa. The system will be linked to all other Home Affairs systems, including the biometrics capturing system at airports and other ports of entry.
  • Home Affairs continues to fight corruption and fraud through a combination of strengthening the work of its Counter Corruption unit through the “Bvisa Masina” – cleaning the rot – programme (resulting in 166 arrests for fraud and other crimes - 85 officials and 81 members of the public- since 2015) and strategic changes which will reduce the need and opportunity for bribes. Improved digital systems and processes and better trained staff will lead to shorter turn-around times; real-time and accurate access to people’s data will make it more difficult to circumvent official processes.

Probably the biggest stumbling block on the way to achieving its goals will be funding. A number of revenue streams are being proposed, including offering more value-added, premium, one-stop shop, VIP and similar services at an additional fee, similar to the one-stop-shop office opened earlier this year in Gauteng and the one planned to be opened in Cape Town soon.

We will report back soon on how effective these offices are.

German Citizens with Permanent Residence in South Africa – Take Note When Applying for a New Passport

As a German citizen in South Africa who holds permanent residence, you are likely to apply for a new passport though the Embassy in Pretoria or the Consulate-General in Cape Town.

However, many people are unaware that in order to be issued a new passport they need to prove to the German authorities that they have not in the meantime taken up South African (and thereby possibly lost German) citizenship. This proof is provided in the form of a letter of determination of citizenship from the Department of Home Affairs. It currently takes about 8-12 weeks to be issued with such a letter (and sometimes longer, so plan accordingly). Our IMCOSA consultants will gladly advise and assist you with the application, and we recommend that you make contact with us about 6 months before planning to apply for the new passport.

Good Time to Apply for Critical Skills Visa or Permit

Earlier this month, the new Minister of Home Affairs, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, delivered her first budget speech in this portfolio. In it, she outlined her vision and focus areas for Home Affairs.

According to the Minister, a turnaround standard was set in 2016 of 85% of permanent residence permits delivered within eight months of application. This target is to be maintained. The target for adjudicating temporary residence visas is being increased to 90% within eight weeks for business and general work visas. The Minister committed to improve the target for critical skills visas by 5%, to 80% adjudicated within four weeks.

Whilst these timelines, and particularly the target of meeting these consistently, sound like fairytale material, IMCOSA can attest to a trend towards significantly improved processing times, particularly for critical skills visas (at times as quick as a week), permanent residence based on critical skills (some as quick as 6 weeks), but also in a number of other categories. Whether this uptrend is to last or will be short-lived, is anyone’s guess. We have certainly seen them come and go.

Have you considered applying for a visa or permanent residence in the critical skills category? It can safely be said that this is a good time to make such an application. If you hold a critical skills visa or think you qualify for one, contact us for a consultation on how to secure your permanent residence and/or long-term visa.

Born Outside of South Africa to a South African Parent and Never Got an SA Passport? Now is The Time to Apply

Most persons who were born to at least one South African parent outside of South Africa have the right to South African citizenship, but many have never had this confirmed or applied for a South African passport.

If this applies to you, or someone you know, it is now a good time to tackle this task. Applications currently take only 2-5 months to be completed, and IMCOSA can guide you through the process, irrespective of where in the world you currently are. We look forward to hearing from you!

Foreign Graduates of SA Universities in Critical Skills Areas

Have you completed your studies in South Africa at a tertiary institution towards a qualification in a critical skills area?

Home Affairs has confirmed that you may well qualify for permanent residence immediately and without having to prove years of relevant post-qualification work experience. And with processing times - even for permanent residence applications - in the critical skills category being very short at the moment, you might receive your permanent status within months. 

Contact IMCOSA today to find out whether you qualify. We will gladly guide you through the process.