The Department of Home Affairs says that it plans to expand the use of a Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) model for passports in 2023, targeting countries with a high concentration of South African citizens.
The department launched a pilot project testing the VFS model through VFS Global in June 2022 in the UK, which it said has been a huge success.
VFS Global is an outsourcing and technology services company for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide. It allows for the application of visas and passports through its online platform and physical offices and facilitates the admin and payment, and delivery of the documentation when processed.
The group manages non-judgmental and administrative tasks related to visa, passport and consular applications, as well as identity and citizen services for governments.
This allows diplomatic missions (i.e., embassies/consulates) to effectively manage their time and resources and focus on the critical task of assessing visa applications and making decisions.
Using the system during the pilot, South African nationals have been able to visit the VFS Global centres in the UK to renew their South African passports.
“In order to test the viability of the VFS model and service that they offer to other governments throughout the world, the department took a decision to implement the test passport application pilot project in the UK,” said home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
“Since its launch, the turnaround times for passport issuance have reduced from six to twelve months to one month.”
The model uses courier services to dispatch passports to the UK, which contributes to a quick turnaround time in the delivery of documents to applicants, he said.
Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, Motsoaledi said that the department now plans to extend the system after an assessment by the project team is conducted in November and December 2022, and subject to availability by the service provider.
“The model will be extended to other countries with a high concentration of the South African population,” he said.
Minister said that the department is looking to expand the services to:
- New Zealand;
- The United Arab Emirates(UAE);
- France; and
- The United States of America (USA).
Notably, the trial period with VFS Global is coming to an end on 31 December 2022; however, Motsoaledi said that the department is currently exploring its options to mitigate the risk of not having a service provider once the contract expires.
The minister said that the government had initially launched a public-private partnership project to find a service provider to cover similar services, but the project hit a roadblock in August 2022 after the transaction advisor who was appointed in the process was convicted of fraud “in another matter”.
A new process to appoint a new transaction advisor is underway, he said.