South Africa’s massive visa backlog hits over 92,000 – these are the biggest culprits

 ·2 May 2024

The Department of Home Affairs continues to battle a major visa backlog, with tens of thousands of visas still being processed.

Responding to a parliamentary Q&A this week, Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi broke down the backlog, including the various visa categories that are causing the hold up.

As previously stated by the minister, the main culprit in the backlog is the spousal visa.

The full spousal visa (Relative’s Visa) accounts for 18,661 applications in the backlog, while the spousal visitor’s visa (Visitor’s Visa Section 11(6)) accounts for 41,083 of the backlogged applications.

The next biggest backlogged applications are the minor child and major child Relative’s Visas.

The table below outlines the full visa backlog.

#Temporary Residence Permit CategoryBacklog
1Visitor’s Visa Section 11(6) (Spousal)41 083
2Relative’s Visa (Spouse)18 661
3Relative’s Visa (minor child) Section 189 580
4Relative’s Visa (major child) Section 183 952
5Visitor’s Visa Section 11(1)(b)(iv) (Work >3 months)3 883
6Relative’s Visa (brother) Section 182 609
7Visitor’s Visa section 11(1)(b)(ii) (Volunteer)2 229
8Relative’s Visa (Parent) Section 182 190
9Study Visa Section 131 751
10Retired Person Visa Section 201 686
11Visitor’s Visa Section 11(2) (Work <3 months)1 233
12Visitor’s Visa Section 11(1) (Visitor)1 106
13Medical Treatment Section 171 090
14Relative’s Visa (sister) Section 18841
15Visitor’s Visa Section 11(1)(b)(iii) (Research)191
16Treaty Visa Section 1449
17Visitor’s Visa Section 11(1)(b)(i) (Academic)14
18Exchange Visa Section 229
Total92 157

The minister noted that, as at 31 January 2024, the Critical Skills, Business and General Work Visas that form part of the annual performance plan have no backlogs.

Motsoaledi previously indicated that relative/spousal visas could take up to two years to process in some cases, due to the work that needs to be done to verify the details.

“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.

The backlog is proving to be a huge problem for applicants, with some positing that it could invite legal challenges against the department for taking so long. This has also reportedly been acknowledged by the State Attorney, which flagged security and legal risks associated with the backlog, according to the Sunday Times.

However, the minister said that Home Affairs has never received any formal memorandum from the Office of the State Attorney about the backlog.

“We learnt from the Sunday Times that such a memorandum existed. We then investigated and found that there was correspondence between two junior officials, one from the Department and the other from the Office of the State Attorney Cape Town.

“We enquired from the Head of the Office of the State Attorney Cape Town, whether he had any knowledge of such correspondence. He confirmed that he did not approve such correspondence and that he only learnt from the media that there was such a memorandum.

“We, therefore, do not regard that memorandum as official correspondence save to state that information contained therein is inaccurate,” he said.

Read: Visa-free travel to Ireland could be ending for South Africa: report

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