Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi previously said that the backlog in visa and permit applications would be cleared by June 2024. However, the department has now pushed this date back by another five months to the tail end of next year.
This was revealed in a recent parliamentary Q&A, where the minister of Home Affairs was asked for an update on the backlog of residency visas and permits and the time frame in place to clear the backlog.
In his response, the minister noted the backlog in temporary residency visas remained at over 74,309 – unchanged from the department’s last report at the end of October 2023 – adding that an additional backlog of 43,944 in permanent residency permits also remains.
South Africa has long been facing a significant skills shortage, and businesses have been struggling to attract much-needed skills to the country, with their efforts having been hindered by the failures at Home Affairs.
Companies have reported that visa applications can take up to 48 weeks to be accepted, which poses a threat to expansion plans, investment, and job creation in a country with a 33% unemployment rate.
Additionally, immigration experts, such as Xpatweb, have noticed a rise in the number of cases where applications are being rejected for unlawful reasons.
As a result, applicants have to go through an appeal process, which leads to a significant backlog of appeals at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), causing further delays.
In response to the dire issues, Motsoaledi noted that his department expects the backlog to be cleared by June 2024 for all categories of visas. However, in the parliamentary Q&A near the end of November, he noted that his time frame has been pushed back to November 2024.
This has increased the time frame the department expects to address the massive backlog in critical visas by almost half a year.
In response to the department’s plans to clear the backlog, Motsoaledi said it remains the same as previously reported – outlined in the “backlog eradication plan”.
“The plan aims to move the older Temporary Residency Visas applications from 2022 concurrently with the current applications of 2023. This will be done by splitting the temporary residence visa team into two,” he said.
The same approach is being implemented for Permanent Residence Permits, he added.
“The plan includes the utilisation of current capacity in the Immigration Branch supported by the additional officials from other branches, including those in provinces. It also includes those officials who have returned from the Foreign Missions after serving their four-year deployment term.”
Other options to supplement existing capacity and resources are also being looked at and may be implemented should it be deemed necessary to do so to support the eradication plan.