Inconsistent VISA requirements from South African embassies abroad and incorrect application of the law.

The Immigration Act 13 of 2002 is there to provide for the regulation of admission of persons to, their residence in, and their departure from the Republic and for matters connected therewith.

From the above citation from the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 we gather that the Act together with the new immigration regulations should be applied in both the Republic of South African as well as all South African embassies abroad.

From experience with our clients in just the past few months we can list various occasions where this has not been the case.

The Department of Home Affairs website does state that “the requirements are subject to change and that each application is treated as an individual case” but does that mean that the law does not have to be applied consistently?

The Hague in Holland changed their requirements for the submission of visas and now insist on submitting a flight ticket to South Africa, with departure within 30 days from date of submission, with your application.

The problem with this is that if your application does not get taken in or gets rejected, money is wasted on unnecessary flight tickets. Furthermore, The Hague is also requiring 3 month bank statements dated up until the day before submission and stamped by the bank, which is almost impossible in practice.

The South African Embassy in the United Kingdom, via VFS, amongst many others has taken it up by themselves to refuse applications for 11(6) Spousal Visitor Visas.

In Berlin has also become increasingly difficult to prove sufficient proof of address since the embassies changed their requirements and often don’t accept utility bills as sufficient proof anymore. Furthermore, the officials in Berlin have also turned away people who wish to apply for retirement visas, for being below the retirement age, although the law has no such requirements for Retirement Visas.

We recently planned a submission of a Critical Skills Visa at the South African Embassy in Mexico City. These are visas dedicated to those with skills deemed as critical for the South African economy. The embassy decided that a new visa application cannot be submitted before the expiry of the applicant’s current South African Visa. Our client, who resides in South Africa then had to stay in Mexico two weeks longer than planned, in order to submit her new visa application.

With regulations and requirements constantly changing and embassies across the world interpreting the law as they deem fit, it is difficult to understand how the Department of Home Affairs still expects the average person, not educated in Immigration, to successfully compile these applications themselves. Especially since all requirements are subject to change, apparently without prior notice.

These are just a few examples that emphasize the difficult and time-consuming process of applying for a South African visa.

The ideal way of processing all South African Visas and Permanent Residence Permits would be to send all the applications to one central hub, for instance to the head office in Pretoria. This way all applications would be adjudicated with the same application of the law and regulations, no matter where it was originally submitted, thus creating more consistent adjudication.

Another option would be have officials in place for quality control as well as holding decision makers accountable, in order to ensure efficient adjudication. The system also needs a responsive helpline that one can call with queries and questions when something is in contradiction to the law.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for advice regarding immigration & visa, setting up business, property transfer & investment.

by Nadene van der Mescht