Cape Town - VFS, the newly appointed visa and permit facilitators for the department of home affairs is battling to correct an ever increasing backlog, says Gershon Mosiane, Chairperson of the Forum of Immigration Practitioners.

Mosaine said in a statement that the new processing system is failing South African visa and permit applicants.

He said FIPSA, the forum of voluntary Registered Immigration Practitioner members established in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal (and where IMCOSA is actively involved), had expressed its concerns both publicly and to the Minister of Home Affairs earlier in the year about what it considers to be VFS's inefficiencies.

"Scheduling appointments are meant to take place within 5 days of registering an application on the new online booking system. In reality we have heard reports of some cases where applicants have been waiting for a submission booking for longer than 60 days.
"At some VFS offices, submission appointments are only available in March 2015. The system does not allow for cancellations or changes which results in several thousand unaccounted no shows which clogs up the system"

"There has also been an alarming increase in complaints relating to appointments not being carried through with on time and often applicants end up waiting 7 hours to be seen. There is also no solution for poor applicants who are paying VFS with no service delivery commitment to them. Even after paying an extra fee for a VIP lounge, which is supposed to ensure swift processing, you are not guaranteed a par excellence service given the chaotic state of the system," said Mosiane.

Spokesperson Robbie Ragless said another source of frustration is the turnaround of submissions via VFS and the resultant communication to applicants.

"Often it takes up to 4 months for a basic tourist visa application to be approved and by the time the applications are finalised the applicant is illegal and is declared undesirable on departure from South Africa and unable to return to for up to 5 years through no fault of their own."

A further concern was that some applicants are now inadvertently facing rejection of their applications.

"The new law states that one must submit no later than 60 days prior to their current visa expiring but if one doesn't have an opportunity to submit because of logistical challenges at VFS, why should the applicant be prejudiced against?" asked Mosiane.

Ragless said the backlog was being compounded by VFS closing its offices over the festive season, from 19 December to 5 January 2015, meaning that no application will be processed for a period off 16 days.

According to Ragless, the Department of Home Affairs who managed the submission process prior to VFS' appointment, remained open during this period and applicants could submit their applications during this time.

The closure will inadvertently mean governments' failure to provide a legal obligation to applicants who are then facing rejections of their applications through no fault of their own said Ragless.

"With the urgency of which some applications must be processed the new system is failing its clients."

There are no signs of improvement and similar to the power crisis in South Africa, rectifying these issues will take months, if not years according to Ragless.

- Published in Traveller24

IMCOSA - Immigration Consultants South Africa - Visa Services, Immigration Agents