South Africa's immigration woes continue, with a glimmer of hope

2013-10-07 16:09

In the past few years, much has happened around the Immigration Act and immigration law on which South Africa bases its admission of foreigners in the country. For example, until not so long ago, for certain permits to be extended, as a temporary resident you had to fly back to your country of citizenship to renew. But a few small things have improved - for a start, corruption has been significantly reduced by implementing a single point of permit issuance in Pretoria.

Things have also slowly improved at Home Affairs, although the situation is far from ideal. Local citizens of South Africa have seen drastic improvements in issuing times of documents such as identification (ID) documents and passports. An ID card has recently been introduced in the place of the quickly dilapidating ID paper booklets. However, immigrants seeking legitimate permits and foreigners applying for simple tourist visas still face incredible waiting periods. Some wait up to 24 months for permanent residency permits and up to a year for work permits, while the governmental immigration regulations clearly state only thirty days.

On the immigration services front, there have also been unfortunate events. Recently South Africa's acclaimed investigative television journalism program, Carte Blanche, featured an inquisition into Global Visas, who have long been said to have questionable operations. Since this program has aired (the program mainly featured their Canadian immigration arm), Global Visas has seemingly closed their South African immigration services department.

As poor as the service from Home Affairs is at times, oftentimes their problems stem from companies like these. Immigration services companies are a dime a dozen, with more than half of them run by immigration practitioners. These are people who have passed the now non-existent immigration practitioners examination, and are legally allowed to represent someone at Home Affairs (with a signed power of attorney for immigration matters).

However, the examination was quite simple, and all manner of people passed it and started offering services that in essence are truly legal services. Blunder after blunder (the Internet is littered with complaints) continually puts pressure on those offering prominent legal advice and application preparation services.

The message here is clear. If you are ever to apply for an immigration permit or visa to South Africa, use the services of recognized immigration lawyers. Anything else is a waste of time, even if you do it yourself.

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