Due to the backlog and long turnaround time for visas processed by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), some tourists have been advised to leave the country by the end of February.
The DHA issued a directive on 21 December 2023 that will require tourists who wish to extend their stay in South Africa to leave the country by 29 February 2024.
According the Democratic Alliance, this will do incredible damage to the country’s tourism industry, as any visitors who wished to extend their stay over a busy holiday season would now be denied – all because of the department’s backlog.
“Tourists, when entering South Africa, can be issued with a 90-day visa and subsequently apply for a 90-day extension if they wish to stay longer.
“South Africa stands to lose millions in lost revenue by not allowing them to extend their visas during the busiest season,” said DA MP Angel Khanyile.
The DA has written to the Minister of Home Affairs to request that he issue a new directive which will provide tourists who are in our country on a 90-day visa, awaiting the outcome of their extension, to be granted the right to remain until such a time that the backlog is resolved or on the basis of their date of departure (depending on which comes first).
A leaked memo seen by the Sunday Times from the state attorney’s office to the Department of Home Affairs revealed the backlog was now sitting at over 95,000 applications.
According to the paper, the state attorney’s office has warned of massive fallout from the backlog, including the thwarting of immigration processes, national security risks from the DHA trying to rush through applications, and an overall impediment to economic growth.
This fallout seems to be evident in the directive issued by the DHA, and, worryingly, the problem does not appear to be getting any better.
In December, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi stated that the backlog in temporary residency visas has remained unchanged at over 74,309 since the department’s last report at the end of October 2023. Additionally, there is a backlog of 43,944 permanent residency permits that still need to be addressed.
According to immigration lawyer Gary Eisenberg, the backlog crisis in immigration applications is likely much worse than what the department’s numbers indicate. This is because the provided figures do not include applications that have been appealed or are currently under review.
“It’s unclear whether the numbers given by the department include application appeals and those under review, and that number is likely far higher than the 74,000,” said Eisenberg.
Experts have also cast doubt on the department’s ability to clear the backlog.
In a parliamentary Q&A near the end of November, Motsoaledi noted that the time frame to fix the backlog has been pushed back from June 2024 to November 2024.