In June 2014 Intergate announced that we were once again having to launch a court action against the Department of Home Affairs.
The action was launched on behalf of over 900 applicants and the court papers pointed out that our applicants have become ‘increasingly frustrated’ with the service rendered by the Department of Home Affairs, which has led to ‘serious ramifications’ in light of new immigration laws.
We further explained that when (the department) fails to adjudicate permit applications timeously or lawfully, the result is that the foreign nationals concerned become illegal foreigners, unable to work, study, access medical or banking services, and vulnerable inter alia to arrest, detention and deportation.
Judgement in the case has now been handed down and the Department of Home Affairs has been directed to process, determine and deliver the applications as specified in the annexures submitted by January 16th 2015.
In addition a further part of the judgement directs them to settle outstanding repatriation deposit applications and pay the applicants costs (Intergate’s). As we have always said we have no desire to continually take the Department to court, we have every empathy with the difficult role they have to perform but there reaches a point where action needs to be taken.
• Are business people investing into South Africa, creating jobs and paying taxes.
• They are highly skilled migrants filling positions that cannot be filled by South Africans.
• They are retirees wishing to do nothing more than spend their life time of hard earned savings in our stores and restaurants; and
• Many are South African’s returning home with their partners and children.
These individuals have complied with the regulations, met the immigration criteria and add to our tax and skill base. Purely because the DHA has failed to process applications in a reasonable time period hundreds of families life’s have been disrupted and they have suffered huge amounts of emotional stress.
This is no way to treat or attract much needed investment and skills.
We sincerely hope that this will be our last court action and stress our willingness to meet and discuss with the DHA our concerns and suggestions to avoid similar circumstances arriving again. We however have huge concerns, VFS the appointed outsourcing partner selected by the DHA to cut these backlogs is not performing. The additional charge of R1350 per applicant we hoped would ensure applicants were processed quickly and efficiently. We hoped that time frames for an appointment would be less than 5 days.
The R1350 is expensive – nearly 4 times the cost of applying for Schengen visa (by the same company) but if it made life easier then maybe it was worth it. The fact is people are waiting for hours inside their premises, an appointment can be as much as three months away and to rub salt into the wounds they promote a premier service for an additional fee which grants appointments sooner – almost akin to pushing applicants into paying even more.
The Department cannot hide behind VFS incompetencies, they appointed them and it is the DHA’s responsibility to provide adequate means and services for immigration applications. This backlog at VFS is making a bad situation even worse, whilst they collect their millions in fees families are struggling, a situation that needs drastic intervention from the DHA.
We hope that the structure and efficiencies which first made VFS attractive as the preferred supplier returns and value of the appointment fee is realized.
Our Director, Mr. Stuart James, was asked if he saw the court case ruling as a victory – he replied: “It can be seen a victory in so much we are pleased the Department has been held accountable and people will now get their Visa’s, however it is not a victory in the sense that the expense, time and anguish caused could have been avoided by the Department simply being more efficient. The real victory will be if we and others no longer have a need to take court action and the Department and VFS sort out their difficulties”
“We have proven again that we are not happy to simply sit by whilst our clients suffer and this philosophy will not alter going forward. We are engaged by our clients to stay with them through to a conclusion of their application, not offer up excuses of the DHA’s inefficiency – this is an attitude we will continue to adopt and no less than our clients, both current and future expect.”
You can contact Intergate Immigration here