UPDATE ON IMMIGRATION MATTERS
19 June 2012
Dear Clients and Partners,
sehr geehrte Mandanten und Partner,
(bitte lassen Sie Ihren Fachberater wissen, falls Ihnen der Inhalt des Schreibens auf Deutsch vermittelt werden soll, das würde dann bis Mitte Juli geschehen)
We are almost half-way through this eventful year 2012, and I am relieved to be able to say that the overall trend relating to Home Affairs and immigration into South Africa is a positive one. Although Zimbabwean citizens are again being deported in large numbers and human rights abuses seem to persist, the situation relating to temporary residence application backlogs has somewhat started to ease.
Home Affairs update
It came as a refreshing change of attitude on the side of the Department of Home Affairs: Its Acting Chief Director Permitting who is based at the Pretoria Head Office, recently went through the effort of travelling across the country to meet Immigration Practitioners for an extensive exchange of information, concerns and ideas. He provided an update on what has happened within the temporary and permanent residence permit sections in Pretoria over the past months and shared the Department's strategy for the months and years to come.
Key points of the presentation and the following Q&A session were:
• The backlog of over 46 000 applications (as at 8 December 2011) has been substantially reduced to 16 669 (note: this refers to applications that are recorded by Head Office and excludes those that have been lost or are lying at regional offices) and is to be entirely cleared during the coming months; there is virtually no backlog on study permit applications.
• The number of decision-making officials has been increased and 1 100 new posts for permitting have been approved and will be filled during the coming months.
• Appeals relating to rejected applications have not been attended to for many months, but there is now much greater focus on these and there will be a dedicated team dealing with them.
• A complex and sophisticated tracking system has been implemented that allows for the tracking of applications and for the monitoring of the process and identifying of bottlenecks.
• Permanent residence: The priority during the past 12 months has been on stabilising the temporary residence permitting system, and thus permanent residence applications have hardly been attended to. A team of decision-making officials was to be assigned to clear the permanent residence backlog at the end of May.
• The number of offices receiving permit applications is to be reduced to one per province; there will be a "national premier office" in Johannesburg.
• According to the legislative changes that are expected to be implemented in the coming months, applicants need to present in person when makingtheir applications; the conditions for such presentation will be made acceptable and comfortable even for "executives".
• Much of the application process will be handled electronically to avoid current risks and delays through sending of physical files.
• The restrictive policy relating to the "section 11(2)" permits or "authorisations to work", which was implemented in December 2011, is largely to be upheld as "it is in the national interest" and "the system was abused". Certain exceptions will be allowed (for further information, please contact IMCOSA).
The Chief Director emphasized that he places great value on the role of Immigration Practitioners and strives for a strong relationship and easy-flowing communication between his Department and Practitioners with the intention of improving processes and combating corruption.
From IMCOSA's perspective, we can confirm that we have started receiving permanent residence results and that the processing time for temporary residence applications has greatly improved (at times, to as little as two weeks).
Legal Action against the Department
A great victory was recorded by a number of Immigration Practitioners and attorneys who efficiently and un-bureaucratically joined forces to challenge the Department of Home Affairs in court regarding an administrative decision of its Cape Town office, in terms of which Practitioners and attorneys were for a short while forced to attend to Home Affairs personally and prevented from sending their employees to stand in the lines for them. Before the urgent interdict could be made, Home Affairs quickly withdrew its decision and the respective notice and processes returned to normal. We trust to have served our clients' interests efficiently and positively in this regard.
Change of Legislation
The latest information on the change in legislation is that the draft Regulations relating to the Immigration Amendment Act of 2010 are to be published for public comment around August. Once these are finalised, the Amendment Act can be implemented. We will therefore be able to make representations to the Department regarding draft provisions that we expect will prejudice our clients, and to inform our clients on the precise content of the expected changes in good time before implementation.
In conclusion, we are happy to be able to say that some relief is in sight with regards to temporary and hopefully permanent residence applications.
On another note, we are excited about a new colleague who will be joining our Gauteng team in the position of Head of Consulting on 2 July 2012. We will introduce our new team member, who brings a great depth of experience and knowledge of the industry, more fully in our next newsletter.
Until then, I wish that you stay warm and well during the winter months – and, of course, that your favourite team wins the European Championships!
Julia Willand and the IMCOSA Team
IMCOSA Immigration & Consulting South Africa
Western Cape (021) 462 3184 l Gauteng (011) 326 5131 l www.imcosa.co.za
IMCOSA - Immigration Consultants South Africa - Visa Services, Immigration Agents