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DHA official presents higher visa backlog than Motsoaledi initially reported due to corruption

Cape Town - Some of the backlogs in visa applications were caused by corruption and suspensions at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), MPs were told by a department official, who presented higher figures than initially reported.

Image to right: Cape Town Home Affairs Office. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

DHA acting deputy director-general for immigration services, Yusuf Simons, told the Home Affairs portfolio committee members that corruption in the department played a role in the backlog.

Simons also presented higher figures of the backlog than those DHA Minister Aaron Motsoaledi recently reported in a parliamentary response to DA MP Adrian Roos.

“This is a key matter that affected the turnaround times and our ability to finalise applications and probably contributed to the backlog ... (it’s) the findings from the Lubisi report on the irregularities and corrupt practices that happened with inland applications as well as applications at the missions,” Simons told MPs.

He said the department had, since the Lubisi report, implemented strict measures to curb corruption.

Simons said the capacity in the department’s permitting office was hamstrung by the suspensions of four officials, including a director, and the dismissal of two officials, including a chief director.

DHA Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in February last year appointed a panel, led by Dr Cassius Lubisi, against the backdrop of the questionable issuing of permanent residence permits to Malawian fraud-accused Shepherd Bushiri and members of his family.

The panel also found that 12 officials had a hand in irregularities in the awarding of some visas and permits.

Earlier this month, Motsoaledi told MPs his department is saddled with a visa backlog crisis of 40365 applications for permanent and temporary residence, attributing it to the Covid19 lock downs and labour shortages.

In the committee, Simons revised the number to 49 529 when the eight-month cycle of 9 145 applications is considered.

“For temporary residence, in order to have a definite count of the backlog, visa applications that were older than six weeks (were) 55 172 (from 2020 to 2022),” Simons said.

Motsoaledi extends validity of Zimbabwe special permits for a further 6 months

  • Holders of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits have until June next year to apply for visas.
  • The initial expiry date was 31 December.
  • Motsoaledi said permit holders may not be detained, deported or arrested before the new deadline. 

Read the article here - https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/motsoaledi-extends-validity-of-zimbabwe-special-permits-for-a-further-6-months-20220902

The DHA introduces further temporary measures

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has introduced further temporary measures in respect of a backlog towards processing outcomes on visa and waiver applications

The temporary measures introduced on 1 September 2022 provide a new blanket temporary extension of foreign nationals’ current visa status until 31 March 2023 for those awaiting visa and waiver application outcomes. Contact PABC at the numbers provided for further information.


Court dismisses urgent application by permit-holding Zimbabweans for visas

PABC can assist certain ZEP holders to convert to normal immigration Visas for South Africa.

The high court in Pretoria has dismissed urgent applications by lobbyists and holders of the special Zimbabwe exemption permit (ZEP) to overturn the decision not to extend the programme for a third time, the department of home affairs said on Wednesday.

The pressure groups, African Amity and a collective of ZEP holders, last week approached the court on an urgent basis seeking an order to compel the department to issue ZEP holders with visas, pending a court review of the minister’s decision.

The department argued that the applicants in both matters failed to comply with the practice manual and directives and that the matter lacked urgency.

The court order comes just days ahead of the expiry of the special dispensation permits of thousands of Zimbabweans on December 31, thrusting many into the abyss with limited access to key services and facing possible deportation.

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi welcomed the order but warned that the department expects that litigation over its decision is far from over. The department will defend any “spurious court actions” aimed at undermining the decision, he said.

The department has come under harsh criticism from migration and human rights activists for its decision not to extend the ZEP for a third time, after 12 years.

Holders of the permit have one year to lodge applications for other permits if they are to avoid suspension of crucial services such as banking. The government has granted the nearly 180,000 Zimbabweans who hold the permit a grace period of 12 months to migrate to other mainstream visas.

Article by Michelle Gumede

SA residency applications reopen after a 22-month break – but don’t expect approval before 2025

Image by Fani Mahuntsi

  • South Africa's department of home affairs reopened applications for permanent residency permits in January.

  • This, after abruptly suspending all new applications at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, to deal with a backlog built over the past decade.

  • But the department didn't make a dent in the backlog and the Immigration Practitioners of South Africa believes that outstanding applications exceed 50,000.

  • Foreigners who were eligible to become permanent residents when the suspension was first imposed are likely to endure a 5-year wait.

  • Article Published: by Luke Daniel, Business Insider SA - BusinessInsider.co.za

Foreigners looking to become permanent residents in South Africa have been barred from applying since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This suspension was lifted in January, but a burgeoning backlog of applications spells a long wait for immigrants.

The backlog of permanent residency permit (PRP) applications at South Africa's department of home affairs is nothing new. For the past decade, processing times have remained frustratingly high. The department's delays have been successfully challenged in court, with a 2019 ruling being especially critical of the "institutional dysfunction" at home affairs.

Then, in March 2020, as South Africa entered a coronavirus-induced state of disaster, the department of home affairs abruptly suspended PRP applications. This, the department said, would allow it to clear the outstanding backlog of some 10,000 outstanding permanent residence applications.

But the Forum of Immigration Practitioners of South Africa (FIPSA) estimated the backlog to be in the region of 30,000 and argued that clearing this, while not accepting any new applications, would take far too long.

Prior to the pandemic, PRP applications were generally resolved within two to three years, as a conservative estimate. The only applications which were prioritised and processed sooner – generally within a year – included those submitted on grounds of business and critical skills.

Those applying on retirement, relative, spousal, work, and financially independent grounds have waited much, much longer.

"The fact is, they [the department of home affairs] didn't make a massive dent in the backlog," Andreas Krensel, CEO of IBN Immigration Solutions, which handles applications from predominantly European and American clients, told Business Insider South Africa.

"The backlog still exists. Even our firm has about 150 to 200 PRP applications outstanding. We belong to FIPSA… and among all these firms, we estimate that the backlog is more than 50,000 applications."

The reopening of applications in 2022 has resulted in a flurry of submissions, adding further immediate pressure on the department of home affairs. This means that a foreign national, who was eligible, but couldn't apply, for their PRP during the 22-month suspension, could likely endure a five-year wait to be approved as a permanent resident.

These delayed applications, if submitted in January, could only be successfully processed in 2025. That's according to pre-pandemic wait times. If, as Krensel says, the initial backlog has shown little signs of improvement, these processing times could even increase.

"A lot of foreigners want to be emotionally acknowledged as a PRP holder and not feel like a temporary visitor all the time, especially when they invest in the country or have critical skills," explained Krensel.

"Now they feel unwanted [thinking] 'oh, South Africa doesn't want me, then I'll go somewhere else.' We're talking about legal, highly qualified immigration… investors, retirees, spouses. Home affairs really is prohibiting investment."