It happens every year again in South Africa.
From November on things change.
Students are preparing for exams, regular school and university life is over and rush hour traffic becomes a bit less congested. Business people start entertaining their staff and business partners for their annual Christmas functions.
Things start to wind down towards the end of the year, occasionally interrupted by visits of overseas business delegations, which still have some money in their travel budget to burn.
But when it comes to December, the rhythm is finally gone and often descents into a bit of chaos.
You can see it in traffic.
Some desperately still try to get work finished, and they rush. At the same time, many tourist arrive already, especially in the Cape and they are very relaxed.
It doesn’t matter where the come from – from abroad or up country. The flow of traffic does not work anymore. And it is getting hot, people get tired and are slowing down towards the end of the year.
Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) and Department of Home Affairs (DHA)
The same happens at Visa Facilitation Services (VFS), the company which the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) appointed in 2014 to take in visa applications within South Africa and return the results to the applicants. Naturally, there are more people applying for visas or visa extensions around this time of the year, there are many tourist, interns, swallows, etc. So the queues get longer… Currently, the first regular appointment for Cape Town is only available on 15 January 2018!
Recently we waited over 2 hours for one visa collection.
Main reason for that is the incredibly high rejection rate of applications of at least 50%. VFS is not supposed to give any advise but the desperate applicants just don’t leave the collection counter, until they are satisfied that there is hope for an alternative solution.
Similar problems occur at the submission side.
IBN normally submits with clients at the premium lounge. But even there we had an appointment for 10H00am but only got attended to some 2 hours later. Often entire families appear, but they only made one appointment. And if their visa expires on that day, VFS has no choice but to assist.
Another problem we are facing here, is that DHA gives random instructions to VFS, which are not in line with the Immigration Act and can therefore not be expected. Examples are problems with spousal visas or Permanent Residence applications whilst on a Visitor Visa. Debates cause inevitably delays.
We must say, that the VFS staff has always remained professional and helpful. But there are simply capacity problems and DHA is not offering any support.
Time is money of course and we as IBN have no other choice but to charge a fee for the time one of our colleagues spends there. VFS staff will have a well-deserved break over the holidays.
Last day for submissions is 20 December 2017 and the first one in the New Year will be on 3 January 2018. Only collections will remain open – 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 December 2017.
By Dirk Meissner