Home affairs has dropped central adjudication of visas

The Department of Home Affairs has reversed a decision to centralise the adjudication of long-term visas.


As of 1 September, South Africa is no longer centralising the adjudication of long-term visas, the department of home affairs (DHA) confirmed on Tuesday.

That brings to an end a fraught six-month period for those who applied for such visas, previously handled by individual South African missions abroad, and makes consular officials responsible again for deciding who is let in to South Africa

Visa specialists Xpatweb first noted the reversal on the weekend, saying it expected an announcement from the department on the transitional arrangement for visas already in process.

The DHA told Business Insider South Africa only that it "did issue a new directive which came into effect on Thursday 01 September 2022". It did not provide a copy of the directive, despite repeated requests, and has made no public statement on the matter.

Extreme delays in issuing such visas – with delays facilitation companies described as unprecedented – have been a significant headache for foreign companies investing and doing business in South Africa, Business Leadership SA CEO Busisiwe Mavuso told the News24 On The Record conference on Thursday, the same day the reversal came into effect.

Those affected have included companies that signed up to President Cyril Ramaphosa's investment drive, but have since said delays nearing a year in processing work visas for critical foreign staff meant they could not start work.

Some companies expressed acute frustration because they could find no way to reach a department official who could provide even a vague prediction of how long a visa would take – or who could even confirm that a visa application had been accepted as properly lodged – making it impossible to plan moves for employees who needed to secure places in schools for children and move their households across oceans. 

Until Thursday, all work visa applications with a duration of more than three months had to be sent to Pretoria for a decision by the director general of the DHA, in an effort to create consistency – and prevent corruption. Visa facilitators said missions were told the DHA was concerned about reports of arbitrary demands for documents, with the implication that these were subtle solicitations for bribes. They were also told that only central decision-making could balance the need for national security with the need to allow foreign investors to move with speed.

But centralisation was a disaster. Visas that previously took between four and eight weeks to issue suddenly took a minimum of 12 weeks – and consultants reported that the reality was closer to eight months.

Their clients, those consultants said, could not wait that long, and would simply take their business to another country.

Visa facilitation companies believe the consular service divisions of missions – still fully staffed to process visas – may now be able to bring turnaround times down to as low as two weeks.


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