Permanent Residency Permit (PRP) applications for South Africa have been on hold since March 2020 when the president declared the country to be in a national state of disaster, and the arrival of the Omicron variant could push things out even further, warn immigration experts.
When the Department of Home Affairs was forced to down tools, PRP applications quickly began piling up, says Moeketsi Seboko, immigration manager at Xpatweb.
“Foreign nationals hoping to settle in the country more permanently were shocked by the delays because it prevented them from being able to open bank accounts or renew car licenses, among other things. In fear that they would not be allowed back into South Africa, they were also reluctant to leave the country.
“Business owners who were waiting for their permanent residency permit to be approved, found themselves stuck in limbo. They were obligated to continue with their trade and to provide for themselves while being unsure about what the future would hold for them.”
Before long, the department was compelled to begin processing PRPs due to a backlog of thousands of applicants, said Seboko.
In June 2021, it announced that applications would resume from 1 January 2022. However, nearly two years after the onset of the pandemic, the discovery of the mutated Omicron variant, could see the state of disaster being extended well into the new year, leaving those who dream of becoming permanent residents possibly perturbed.
“The DHA has yet to confirm whether they would continue with their plans to tackle the backlog in the new year,” he said.
The DHA advised that, from past information, the predominant applicant for permanent residency are dependents, like spouses or life partners.
There are, however, numerous cases where the primary applicants were migrants who have been working in South Africa for more than five years or experienced foreign nationals who qualified for a PRP based on their critical skills, said Seboko.
“This means that, with the release of the revised Critical Skills List looming, and the draft CSL having been handed over to the DHA for consideration, they consulted with various government departments, including the Departments of Health, Tourism, Public Enterprises and NEDLAC for additional input.
“Thousands of skilled foreign nationals are now hoping that their vocation will be listed as in-demand in South Africa so that they can commence a career path in the country.”
Seboko noted that the DHA is notoriously understaffed and wrestles with an archaic IT system, which makes the PRP and visa processes treacherously slow. In response to these concern, the department has assured applicants that it was working to reduce processing times.