Why it takes 2 years to get some visas in South Africa

 ·5 Apr 2024

The Department of Home Affairs says that some spousal or relative visa applications take up to two years to process because of the documentation and claims that need to be verified.

Responding to a written parliamentary Q&A this past week, Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that this is the current challenge being addressed by the department’s ‘Backlog Eradication Plan’, where 117 additional officials have been pulled in from the provinces to work through applications.

The department is also looking for partners in the private sector to improve and speed up the verification processes.

“Applicants for relative and/or spousal permits wait as long as two years for their visa due to the requirement that their notarial agreements and other documents such as birth certificates, bank statements and marriage certificates submitted as proof of existence of a spousal or parental relationship are verified,” he said.

“In order to establish the legitimacy of any relative and/ or spousal relationship for a visa application, the adjudication process requires that such relationships should be verified for authenticity. This includes verification of the notarial agreements and other supporting documents submitted in support of such applications with the issuing authority.”

The minister said that in most cases, the contact number of the purported South African spouse and/ or relative is not provided, making it difficult to confirm with certainty that the South African citizen is indeed party to the relationship.

Downtime problems

Exacerbating the verification issues, Motsoaledi also flagged continued problems with system downtime at the department.

In January, the National Population Register (NPR) system experienced downtime due to a glitch. And the live capture systems also get hit with downtime during power interruptions or bulk verification processes where accessibility becomes limited.

The minister said the department is prioritising traffic between systems to manage the thresholds while it works with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to modernise its infrastructure.

SITA started the modernisation programme for all its data centre equipment, which hosts critical systems, and has upgraded mainframe hardware, he said.

“Moreover, the Department and SITA are jointly developing an Application Programme Interface (API) to further manage and streamline the data verification process,” he said.

To improve service delivery, Motsoaledi said that the department is also expanding its service channels, including rolling out service kiosks, mobile offices, mobile apps and adding new offices at banks and malls while upgrading others.

In its 2024/25 annual performance plan, the department indicated that it would ‘modernise’ five new offices this year to adopt the live capture system, while also rolling out Smart ID and passport services to more shopping malls.

Extended hours

In a bid to speed up service delivery, the department announced that it would open its offices for five hours a day on Saturdays in April and May (between 6 April to 25 May 2024, excluding 27 April 2024).

Branches will be open from 08h00 to 13h00 for ID collection services, facilitation of new applications and issuance of Temporary Identity Certificates.

“Offices will also be resolving challenges pertaining to duplicates, amendments, rectifications and dead-alive cases with the required supporting documents,” the department said.

Mobile offices are also scheduled to return to deliver IDs in the remote areas where they took applications from. Local offices, working with stakeholders that include councillors, will communicate the dates, times and venues of those visits. Mobile offices will be used to support the identified local offices.

“In addition, clients can now book appointments to collect their Smart ID Cards and Green barcoded ID books before visiting offices by using the Branch Appointment Booking System (BABS). Alternatively, clients can simply visit our offices without making a booking,” it said.

“We invite people who have applied for their IDs, particularly young people who are first time applicants, to come to our offices to collect their documents. This initiative gives people more options to collect their enabling documents.”

Read: New Smart ID and Passport offices coming to South Africa – including more e-Visa countries

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