New developments and updates concerning the Department of Home Affairs were communicated in our newsletter dated 03 September 2010 as follows:
Dear valued clients and partners, sehr geehrte Mandanten und Partner,
“Never give up. Never, never give up! We shall go on to the end.”
In our last newsletter, we informed you about the implications of the Department of Home Affairs’ recent centralization process, coupled with the relocation of the Cape Town office of Home Affairs, with frequent changes of senior officials, amongst other challenges. To make things worse, the country has since been suffering the consequences of a nation-wide strike action in the public service sector that has been ongoing for more than two weeks and has had a negative impact on most of the country’s Home Affairs offices and their service delivery.
As our battles with the Department continue, I would like to update you on the latest developments and actions taken.
Centralisation process and processing backlogs / zentralisierungsprozess und verzögerungen im entscheidungsverfahren
As previously advised, all applications submitted to Home Affairs since 28 May 2010, have been or are being sent to the so-called “HUB” in Pretoria for decision-making. The HUB is also in charge of issuing the actual permits (adhesive stickers), which are then sent to the regional offices for attachment into the applicants’ passports. The electronic “Track & Trace” system is still limited in its content and reliability.
About 90% of applications lodged since the centralization are currently still pending, leading to a backlog of up to three months and more. In some regions, backlogs of up to ten months are being experienced. IMCOSA’s continued efforts to follow up on pending applications through all available channels have resulted in limited feedback from the Department and unacceptably low numbers of finalizations.
Through our exchange with colleagues all over the country and via the Forum of Immigration Practitioners of South Africa (FIPSA), of which I am a management committee member, we know that the situation is affecting the entire industry. The impact this has on companies and individuals is disastrous.
On the other hand, it appears that the leadership in the Ministry and Department of Home Affairs remain oblivious to the extent of the crisis. In briefings to the media, parliament and other fora, a picture of minor challenges is painted, which will be swiftly resolved. Mention is made of a direct line and email address where urgent cases can be taken to for expedited processing. In reality, hardly any response is received from the quoted email address, and whilst individual officials answering the phone are occasionally most willing to assist, they are incapable of tackling the overwhelming number of urgent applications.
In spite of ongoing efforts, we have not been able to obtain an interim solution from the authorities, which would allow applicants to commence with or continue their respective activities (e.g. work, business, studies) whilst awaiting their permits. Several possible solutions have been discussed on a senior level, but no resolution has been taken thus far.
The pressure received by individual immigration service providers and the industry association FIPSA has resulted in the Department inviting all registered Immigration Practitioners to a meeting to take place on 13 September 2010, where backlog and process issues will be discussed. However, we do not expect much relief to the situation to flow from this meeting.
lobbying and legal action / lobbying und gerichtlicher weg
We previously reported that IMCOSA took part in a group action, whereby a group of twelve immigration providers, represented by a firm of attorneys experienced in litigation against the Department of Home Affairs, served a letter of demand to the Minister and Director-General of Home Affairs, in terms of which all overdue applications by these companies (amounting to almost 1000) were to be finalized within a certain timeframe. In response to this letter, senior officials of the Department have met with the attorneys in mid-August and again on 1 September. Seeing that the Department has not been able to deliver on the demands made and has not offered a satisfactory solution to the worsening situation, the next step will be court action.
We hereby ask all of our clients who are waiting for permits that have been applied for more than 30 days ago, to contact their respective client managers or Julia Willand as a matter of urgency if they wish to take part in the court action. This process will involve the signing of affidavits confirming the facts of the case (which IMCOSA will prepare), as well as a contribution to the attorneys’ costs. We are in the process of establishing the details of the required documents and the exact costs involved and will inform those who are interested as soon as possible.
Should you wish to contribute to raising the awareness within Home Affairs with respect to the extent of the problem on the ground, we invite you to send individual letters to the Minister and Director-General, explaining in your own words how the current backlogs are affecting your company or you personally, and requesting urgent action.
You may address your letters to:
The Minister of Home Affairs
Dr. Nkosazana C. Dlamini-Zuma
Corner Maggs & Petrolium Str
Cc: The Director-General Department of Home Affairs
Mr Mkuseli Apleni
planned legislative changes / geplante gesetzesänderung
Some of you may have read in the media that the Department of Home Affairs is planning to make some changes to the legislation very shortly. It is expected that a draft of the Bill will be published for public comment within the coming two weeks, after which we will be able to advise on possible changes and implications for our clients.
One of the points reported on in the media and expected to be included in the Bill is the “removal” of Immigration Practitioners from the Immigration Act. Whilst this sounds like a drastic change, various senior officials of the Department have explained that the intention is not for Immigration Practitioners to stop operating as they have, but rather to have them regulate themselves through an industry association or similar instead of being regulated by the Department of Home Affairs. The implications of such a change are being assessed at the moment and submissions will be made once the Bill has been published. However, there is no need for concern on the part of our clients and IMCOSA will most definitely continue with its services as before.
things to take note of / dinge, die zu beachten sind
In light of the above developments, we again warn our clients to make appropriate provisions and arrangements for the processing delays. Please do make contact with your client managers at any time for further and more detailed information on your particular case(s).
We further urge our clients who require new permits, extensions or changes of permits for their employees, families or themselves, to contact IMCOSA as early as possible to take the above-described delays into account.
Please note that the process for transferring a temporary residence permit into a new passport (after expiry or loss of the previous passport) has recently changed and is not a same-day procedure anymore. A request and supporting documents have to be handed to the authorities and will be sent to the HUB, which will issue a new permit and return to the regional office for endorsement in the passport. This process may take anything from 4 weeks onwards.
A positive development is that most offices of Home Affairs are currently issuing the so-called “Form 20”s, which provide an applicant whose previous permit has expired with proof that he/she is legally in the country whilst waiting for the outcome of the application.
Also, in light of the serious backlogs, the immigration staff at the airports have largely stopped issuing fines to persons leaving the country without valid permits, if they can prove that they have made an application for renewal or change more than 30 days prior to departure.
Whilst we are currently often not able to come back to you with positive news, we continue to make all efforts to achieve results for our clients’ applications in the shortest possible time. We will keep you informed of the developments individually and via this newsletter.
"The horizon is out there somewhere, and you just keep chasing it, looking for it, and working for it." Bob Dole
Bitte melden Sie sich bei uns, falls Sie persönlich und in deutscher Sprache zu den genannten Themen oder generell näher informiert werden möchten.
Best regards, freundliche Grüße
Julia Willand (Managing Director) and the IMCOSA Team
Tel Cape Town: +27 (0)21 462 3184
Tel Johannesburg: +27 (0)11 326 5131