As according to our original newsletter dated 07 December 2010

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Dear valued clients and partners

This will be our last update of the year and I am indeed feeling hopeful that 2011 will be somewhat less dramatic and chaotic with regards to the departmental handling of immigration processes than this past year has been.

Home Affairs Update

According to the frequent reports we receive from the Director General Mkuseli Apleni (DG), the backlog of temporary residence applications at the Pretoria Head Office is down to less than 5 000. However, the numbers provided by the regional offices show a much higher figure of at least 15 000, and this indicates that there are numerous applications which have not made their way to Head Office, have gone missing or have been destroyed (there is speculation that large numbers of files have been destroyed by Home Affairs officials, especially in the notorious Germiston, Springs and Pretoria regional offices, to hide corrupt activities).

In reaction to this, the DG has announced that certain applications should be lodged directly with the Pretoria Head Office. How this is to work from a practical and logistical point of view, seeing that Head Office is not equipped and structured for any dealings with the public, has not been clarified and measures in this regard have not yet been taken. Another concern about such a process would be the risk of passports getting lost.

In another confusing media statement, the Department has announced that applications for extension of status are to be processed within 48 hours. On one level, it is laudible that these applications be prioritized since work, business operations and studies need to be continued, and the conditions for the respective permits have in principle already been approved in the original applications. However, there are numerous scenarios which are not grouped under “extensions”, but have equal merit and are similarly urgent (e.g. continued work for the same employer, but in a different capacity or location or simply under a different work permit category). These will not be prioritized. In any event, it seems physically and practically impossible in the new centralized system for Home Affairs to receive, process and approve an application, issue the permit sticker and have that ready for endorsement in the relevant region - all within 48 hours. Again, no details on the process have been provided and no changes have been felt as yet.

In general, the processing times are still unacceptably long, and whilst some of the IMCOSA applications are finalized within as “little” as two months, others are still pending after more than 6 months. Colleagues report on processing times of 12 months and longer. A large portion of permits that are received are faulty, with incorrect expiry dates, names, permit categories etc., and need to be returned to Pretoria for rectification.

It is very encouraging to see that the pressure that the Immigration Practitioners (through our Forum of Immigration Practitioners FIPSA), as well as other stakeholders, have created through the media and other channels has had positive effects. This can be noticed in that the Minister and DG, as well as other relevant bodies such as the Immigration Advisory Board (IAB) and parliamentarians, are reacting to the pressure by finally addressing the issues and prioritizing them. The measures recently announced may not bring the much-needed solution to the problem and appear to rather be knee-jerk reactions to the ongoing crisis, but there are trends that are positive, including the addition of another 15-30 officials to the “hub” team in Pretoria as of 6 December and the reversal of certain procedural changes that had been introduced by the now-suspended former Chief Director of Immigration, Mzwandile Radebe.

Court Action Against Home Affairs 

Concrete results of the actions taken by Home Affairs in addressing the crisis are still unsatisfactory. Therefore, a group of companies on behalf of about 600 of their clients, have commenced court action against the Minister in a bid to receive results to their applications within a timeframe of 2-4 weeks. It is expected that the matter will be in court within the month of December. Should you be awaiting a result of your application for longer than 30 days and wish to join the court action, please contact IMCOSA immediately.

Special Dispensation for Zimbabwean Citizens

Much has been reported about the special dispensation that has been granted to Zimbabwean citizens, in terms of which they enjoy amnesty for any fraudulent documents they may possess and have used, and are able to obtain work, business and study permits without having to meet the usual onerous conditions. Government’s reasons for this special treatment is not to give Zimbabwean citizens an advantage over other nationalities, but rather to formalize the reportedly enormous number of informal or illegal migrants who are in the country in order to better manage migration in the future. NOTE: Should you have employees who are Zimbabwean citizens and who do not hold a work permit and would not qualify for one through the regular regime, it is probably advisable for them to apply for the appropriate work permit through the special dispensation. Such an application has to be made to Home Affairs BEFORE 31 DECEMBER 2010!

Immigration Amendment Bill 2010

The DG and his legal team presented the Immigration Amendment Bill of 2010 to the parliamentary portfolio committee for the first time on 16 November. A number of concerns were voiced by opposition MP’s who strongly spoke in favour of a thorough consultation process to be followed by Home Affairs before taking the Bill further. A number of measures are being taken by various interested and affected parties to press for such consultation to take place. The process will be picked up when parliament returns from its recess in 2011.

CDE Report: Managing Migration in South Africa’s National Interest

An important report by the Centre for Development Studies (CDE), a local policy research and advocacy organization, has been published which suggests that South Africa is urgently required to import significant numbers of skilled migrants in order to fill the existing critical skills gap. According to the report, it will take South Africa another decade or longer to improve its education standards to the point where it is able to meet its own skills needs from within. For an executive summary of the report and further information see http://www.cde.org.za/article.php?a_id=390 or the CDE website: www.cde.org.za.

Christmas Season and Year-end

I would like to end this newsletter with the warmest wishes for the upcoming festive season and for a fresh and re-energized start to 2011. I also want to thank all our clients and partners for their support, understanding and encouragement during the last months. Our team has been working incredibly hard in managing the recent challenges created by Home Affairs, in order to minimize the negative effects on our clients wherever possible, and we will continue to do so on all levels of our personal and professional capacities in the year 2011.

Please note that our offices will be closed during the following times:

Cape Town: 24 December 2010 - 04 January 2011

Johannesburg: 24 December 2010 - 09 January 2011

Have a Happy Christmas and a peaceful and blessed end of year!

Julia Willand and your IMCOSA team