Effective December 31, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) of South Africa is automating the process of checking a foreign national’s South African criminal record, It will then no longer be necessary to apply for a hardcopy South African Police Clearance Certificate (“SA PCC”). The DHA will continue to accept hard copy SA PCCs until December 31; but the automated verification process will become mandatory starting January 1. Welcomed news for foreign nationals residing in South Africa, the new automated process is expected to significantly reduce document procurement time, in some cases trimming months from the processing times.
All foreign nationals who have resided in South Africa for twelve months or more since their 18th birthday require an SA PCC to support any application to renew their visas, change visa conditions, change visa status, apply for a Permanent Residence Permit, or submit a new application for a long-term Temporary Residence Visa from abroad.
Note that this new automated process is only applicable to SA PCCs being obtained to support applications filed from within South Africa. Foreign nationals who require SA PCCs for applications submitted at South African Missions abroad are still required to provide hardcopy SA PCCs as part of their applications processes.
Currently, it is necessary in all cases to obtain a hardcopy SA PCC through the Criminal Records Centre of the South African Police Service (“SAPS CRC”), a process that can take six weeks or more. This oftentimes results in applicants failing to meet the requirement of submitting their applications no less than 60 days prior to the expiry of their existing visas.
Under the new process, the DHA will check the foreign national’s biometric fingerprints – which are digitally recorded at the Visa Application Centre (“VAC”) at the time of application submission – against the police database to check for any recorded criminal convictions in South Africa. An additional fee of R175.00 (including VAT) will be levied by the VAC per applicant for the new service.