Friday 7 March – Home Affairs head office Pretoria

A session was hosted for immigration practitioners to inform them on the partnership between Home Affairs and VFS on Friday 7 March at the head office of the Department of Home Affairs. VFS is a global, Dubai based private company, specialized in taking over front office services for Embassies and Consulates. For example the visa application customer centre of the UK High Commission in South Africa is outsourced to VFS. Applicants for UK visas in South Africa go through a VFS office.Government Gazette files

Later in the year VFS will open a large number of regional offices in South Africa and take over the front office immigration activities of the Department of Home Affairs. Submissions of permits and visas by foreigners will be taken in by VFS. The exact starting date is to be announced.

Some of the most significant changes will be:

–        VFS digitalizes submitted applications and send the electronic copy through to the Department of Home Affairs where the application is approved or rejected. Currently applications are not digitalized at all.

–        Centres will be open to the public on weekdays between 8am and 3pm.

–        It will be possible for the public to log on to the VFS website and track their application.

–        The average turn-around times are expected to come down from 2 months to 2-3 weeks per permit/visa after implementation according to Home Affairs.

–        Each applicant has to appear in person at the VFS offices when applying for a visa / permit for biometric purposes.

–        The new system will be linked to other departments such as: police, database of Chartered Accountants registered in SA, banks. Therefore it will be in the future easier to verify whether details submitted are correct. This will bring down fraud.

–        There will still be space for immigration practitioners to assist clients. They are allowed to represent applicants (although the applicant has to appear in person at the moment of submission once). Immigration practitioners will be allowed to collect permits on behalf of their clients.

–        Home Affairs officials will be based at the VFS centres to safeguard certain processes. Interviews with permanent residence applicants will still be done by these officials at the centres.

–        It will be possible to do part of the application process online. VFS will issue an acknowledgement letter and with this letter applicants can go to their nearest centre to finalise their application.

–        VFS will have a VIP lounge and VIP process available at her centres.

–        If applying for visas/permits from abroad and there is no SA mission in the vicinity, VFS offices abroad will be available to use. SA missions abroad will be linked to the VFS system.

–        When a visa / permit is rejected an appeal may be made. A fee will have to be paid for that even when it turns out that Home Affairs has made a mistake.

–        The department of Home Affairs and VFS have signed a 5 year contract subject to renewal.

–        Applications for citizenship will not be done by VFS but by the Department of Civic Affairs.

We believe this change will bring down inefficiency, corruption and processing times of visas and permits. However an increase in application fees is to be expected and an initial backlog around the time of change.

Please do not hesitate to contact IBN if you have any questions or need any advise. We are happy to help you along with all your Home Affairs

by Nkosi Nkala

Nkosi Nkala