VFS centres tangle the tinsel as they close for the holidays!

VFS closes for Christmas, causing chaos.South Africa
VFS closes for Christmas, causing chaos.
South Africa

What does Eskom and the South African Visa Facilitation centers have in common?

They are leaving 1000’s in the dark this Christmas!

In response to their colossal backlog of Visa and Permit applications in South Africa, the VFS have acted surprisingly by closing their facilities for the Christmas holidays.

The VFS have issued the dates they will be closed over the festive season as follows:

22 December 2014- 5th January 2015. They have made provision for 2 ‘collection only’ days: 22nd the 23rd of December 2014

To add insult to injury, applicants are already being made to wait 3 months for an appointment at some VFS centres, despite their claims that scheduling appointments would be within 5 days of registering on their online booking system.

Applicants, who are in some cases accompanied by spouses and small children, are further penalized for the VFS’s incompetency by being made to wait up to 7 hours on the day of their actual appointments, adding nothing but chaos to an already dire situation!

 

Here is the breakdown of the next available VFS appointments at time of writing this blog:

Cape Town- Regular fee service: 19 January 2015 and Premium lounge: 1-2 weeks

Johannesburg-Regular fee service: March 2015 and Premium lounge: 3 weeks

Port Elizabeth- Regular fee service: 19 February 2015 and Premium lounge: in N/A

Durban- Regular service: 1 week and Premium 2 days

What is the scenario?

  • VFS is completely overwhelmed by the volume of applications.
  • There already is a huge backlog of applications. Contrary to the reassuring claims made by the South African Department of Home Affairs earlier this year, VFS are not coping with the submission process of Visa and Permit applications. The backlog has not been squared up and it has caused a snowball effect.
  • Visa and permit holders have to renew their Visas 60 days before it expires. With the extreme backlog of applications VFS need to deal with, many people will see themselves in a desperate situation of not being able to get an appointment before they are required to renew their Visas.
  • The Department of Home Affairs appointed VFS but it remains their responsibility to ensure applicants can actually make an application. What controls are they putting in place to ensure this?

What are the implications?

  • If your Visa expires before you manage to secure an appointment, you could end up being in the country illegally. Should you try to leave South Africa or be banned from returning to South Africa for up to 5 years, this could easily result in families being split up.
  • If your application is unsuccessful or is rejected, you only have 10 working days to make an appeal. With the current appointment availability this is impossible by ordinary means. Depending on the reason of rejection, the applicant again could be in a very serious situation.
  • If you had travel plans for the holidays and your Visa expires before you can secure an appointment, or the renewal of it is unsuccessful and you are not able to appeal within 10 working days, you will not be allowed to travel.

The questions on everybody’s lips:

  • Will the DHA accept late submissions if the reason for expiry and the attainability to appeal a rejection are direct results of the objectionable backlog?
  • Is the DHA creating an avenue to address this backlog?
  • Is this “service” worth R1350, the cost per applicant? One of the highest tariffs for applications world wide. Compare this to the Shengen Visa appointment cost of R400 (incidentally supplied by VFS).
  • Why is there such a huge difference in rates and service between the normal appointment versus the “premium appointment”, surely at the cost of R1350 this entitles the applicant to reasonable service?
  • Where is this money going? According to reports on the day of appointments people are waiting in queues for hours and staff presence seems minimal.

In conclusion:

Would you be happy with a service that was put into place, to address and avoid this specific problem, yet only 6 months down the line and the exact opposite has been allowed to happen? Why are they closing their doors over Christmas when, previously the DHA stayed open albeit the public holidays?  The VFS servicing other countries are staying open the holiday period, minus the specific public holidays.

People’s lives are being severely affected and in some cases families broken apart through no fault of their own, rather by the obvious failure by the VFS to serve their clients. How was the R1350 fee arrived at and what service standards must VFS comply with? Surely the DHA are unhappy with such long waiting periods, low staff levels and the unworkable time you must wait for an appointment?

Our thoughts and best wishes to those and their families who may be affected by the above implications this Christmas.

Discover for yourself the Intergate approach to immigration by contacting us here for a free and non obligatory consultation.

+ 27 (0)21 424 2460 (Cape Town)
+ 27 (0)11 234 4275 (Johannesburg)