Some South African Embassies, High Commissions, and Consulates abroad have begun requiring documents submitted in support of visa applications to be apostilled. South Africa has traditionally been considered to have one of the more convenient processes for intra-company transfers and short-term work assignments because of the fact that the work visa is applied for at the South African consular post in the foreign national’s home country without the need to first obtain pre-departure work and residence permit approvals. As a result of the exclusive consular approval process, supporting documentation requirements have been relatively liberal. In light of this new trend of requiring the documents to be apostilled, the process may now be lengthened by several weeks.
While South Africa has been a member of The Hague Apostille Convention since 1995, it has not until just recently begun requiring documents submitted in its immigration process to be apostilled. The South African Immigration Act, and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) regulations implemented thereunder, are not specific on the authentication requirements for documents submitted in support of visa applications. In previous practice, the DHA and overseas consular posts accepted original documents and copies of documents which had been authenticated by the issuing authority, without requiring legalization or an Apostille.
No official announcement has yet been made as to whether this is a formal change in policy and whether apostilled documents will be required for all cases in all consular posts. Therefore, employers and their foreign national employees working in South Africa should anticipate this potential additional step and begin the immigration process several weeks earlier to ensure that business plans are not interrupted in the event that apostilled documents are requested.