Yes, you read the headline correct, the Department of Home Affairs are no longer taking applications for temporary and permanent residency.
We have been aware of the planned outsourcing of the permit and visa submission process for some time and indeed have been vocal in welcoming them.
It is still our belief that the Visa Application Centres (VAC’s) ultimately bring with them a host of benefits but the implementation of these VAC’s is not being carried out in a very efficient manner.
Lets start at the beginning
In March of this year Immigration Practitioners were invited to attend roadshows held by VFS (the chosen outsourcer to run the VAC’s), and the DHA.
Many subjects were covered and of course the expected opening date.
The attendees, including us, were told maybe June but no official time frame was yet confirmed. We would be updated in due course.
The DHA has released nothing in the press, no official notification, no update.
Immigration Consultants however became aware on Friday 30th May, due to us tracking VFS’s website, that the planned role out was as follows:
Pretoria, Kimberley, Rustenburg – 02 June
Durban, Bloemfontein, George – 09 June
Johannesburg – 18 June
Cape Town – 20 June
Polokwane, Nelspruit, PE – 23 June
Common sense of course would see any normal organisation bothering to inform its clients (yes DHA your applicants are your clients) in ample time of the new process. Common sense however is in short supply and this lack of notice is of course outrageous.
However for those involved in the immigration industry, sadly we are used to a long track record of poor communication from the DHA and we will make plans
Making a booking for the VAC
Unfortunately you would have thought there would be some sort of time gap between the first VAC’s opening and the ability to book an appointment. The online booking service however went live sometime between Sunday morning and Monday morning.
The good news it is working relatively well and we have already entered many applicants.
Applying where there is yet a VAC
It’s Monday morning and as per the above roll out plan there is no VAC yet in may regions.
The regional offices have closed for all new applications so many applicants are faced with a choice of either travelling or waiting, where an alternative plans cannot be made.
It is wrong that we and applicants now face a situation where the DHA will no longer accept applications without the Visa Applications Centres being opened.
- Applicants are being forced into a situation where they either have to try and travel to a VAC that is open or not get their applications in on time.
- There is no regard for the extra costs or time people must find in order to do this.
This sadly is not there only mistake:
- We have a new critical skills visa with no official listing of what a critical skills list is;
- We have a retired visa with no confirmation of the amount of financial resources an applicant must have;
- We have a business visa with no confirmation of the amount of investment required, nor what is deemed a desirable and undesirable business;
- We have visitors being declared undesirable on departure from South Africa due to the Departments own inability to process applications in time;
- The film industry is already seeing the adverse effects of the business visa application process.
Much of the Immigration Act and new process makes sense, which makes it all the more shameful that it was rushed in with no proper planning, poor communication and incomplete information in many areas.
Immigration is a complex area in balancing the rights of those who are citizens or permanent residents in South Africa with the need to attract certain businesses and individuals. This we accept.
What cannot and should not accepted is the manner in which the DHA is going about reforming our immigration rules and processes.