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SA Home Affairs Asks United Nations HRC for Help with Refugee Backlog

The Department of Home Affairs has approached the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to help it clear the 150 000 refugee status appeals backlog, according to Director of Asylum Seekers, Mandla Madumisa.

Madumisa was speaking at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on recently, GroundUp reports.

The SAHRC subpoenaed Acting Home Affairs Director-General, Thulani Mavuso, to address complaints that the department takes an inordinately long time to process asylum applications and permanent residence permits.

SAHRC chairperson Bongani Majola, said his institution had struggled to engage with Home Affairs for the past year so a subpoena was necessary.

Majola said: “Home Affairs is a central structure that affects so many people’s lives.”

A working relationship should be established between the commission and Home Affairs so that individual cases could be dealt with efficiently, he said.

Progress

Majola asked Home Affairs representatives if any progress had been made on the backlog of refugee appeals.

Madumisa said a consultant from UNHRC was appointed and started in May. The consultant would assess the situation at Home Affairs and would come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with the backlog.

“By the end of July the department will receive that report and we will have a clear way forward on how we will deal with the backlog,” he said.

Mavuso said Home Affairs also struggled with the verification of information when it came to spousal visa applications. He said the turnaround time for the department is currently eight months but he said it was looking into extending it to 18 months.

“Eight months becomes a challenge because an adjudicator cannot touch an application before the inspector can put a stamp on the verification of information including supporting documents,” he said.

He said this meant that the inspectors would need to do various interviews and confirm that the information presented to Home Affairs is verified.

“You have cases where people submit police clearance documents but the documents have been totally manipulated… so because of the constraints on the ground of the inspectors, we will have to ensure that the [turn around] period increases,” he told the panel.

Mavuso said the turnaround time depended on whether the information provided was easily verified.

SAHRC commissioner Angie Makwetla asked Mavuso whether Home Affairs kept the applicants informed on the status of their application “because a person can’t wait from 2016 to 2018 and not know what is happening”.

Jackie McKay, Deputy Director General of Immigration, responded: “We would love to do that. In fact any good department would do that. But I have 22 people who deal with all of these cases… I’m working my staff to the bone.”

He said Home Affairs did not have systems in place that could automate those updates but he said it was currently working on a system that would make it more efficient.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Home Affairs Focusing on People Working in South Africa on the Wrong Visa

The Department of Home Affairs has published its first directive for 2019, aiming to clamp down on foreigners working in the country on ‘business trip’ visas.

According to Marisa Jacobs, director at Xpatweb, the directive clarifies that Section 11(2) visas are not to be used continuously and are specifically to allow for ‘short term project resources in South Africa’.

“The issuing of this directive indicates a common misuse of the visa category by employers where they are making use of the relaxed nature of visa requirements of this category to bring resources into South Africa and then continuously extending or applying for new visas when they should, in fact, be pursuing a long term work visa,” she said.

“The directive now sets out clearly that the visa may only be applied for once in a calendar year and only extended once for a period not exceeding three months. The maximum period is thus six months.”

Misrepresentation

According to Jacobs, there is a broad misrepresentation by business travelers – especially those travelling from visa exempt countries – who enter South Africa on a holiday/business visa while in fact conducting work in South Africa.

“When an employee comes to render employment services in South Africa, make sure they get a valid short-term work visa,” she said.

“Do not take a chance and tell the immigration official this is only a business trip, when the purpose is work.

“It is easy to be compliant and not worth the risk. The process takes 5 – 10 working days and the short-term visa is issued for three months and may be extended in South Africa for a further three months.”

Consequences of working on a Business Visa

Where an expatriate is found on your premises conducting work without the necessary authorization on their visa to conduct such work, the Immigration Act clearly sets out the implications for both the expatriate and the employer, said Jacobs.

This includes arrest and deportation for the foreign national and a fine and/or arrest for the employer depending on the offence, she said.

“The issuing of the above directive points to a more vigilant Department with their eye on individuals and businesses who do not comply with the conditions of their visas.

“This is a good time to ensure all employees are compliant and your organisation is in the green.”

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

SA Home Affairs Visitor Visa Directive

Visitors visas issued in terms of Section 11(2) of the SA Immigration Act to conduct short term work

The first visitors visa issued in terms of Section 11(2) of the SA Immigration Act (issued at the SA Missions), may be approved for a maximum duration of 3 months. Where a further extension is required within the RSA, an extension may be requested for a final period, not exceeding another 3 months.

Any person who has been issued with a visitors visa in terms of Section 11(2) of the SA Immigration Act and has had it extended for a further 3 months, shall not qualify for another visitors visa in terms of Section 11(2) of the SA Immigration Act, within that same calendar year. If such visa is issue with dates which overlap into a new calendar year, the dates falling into the new calendar year must be calculated as part of the new calendar year.

Back to back applications within the same year, by the same applicant, may not be accepted by the SA Missions and applications for extensions will only be accepted once in each calendar year.

It should further be noted that the DHA adjudicators have been instructed that when processing applications for extensions in terms of Section 11(1)(a) of the SA Immigration Ac (from within the RSA), they must ensure that the applicant does not end up having more than 180 days in a year.

For more information about visitor visas, visit the VFS website here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Home Affairs’ Rejection of Foreigners’ Applications Costs Millions in Litigation

The South African Supreme Court of Appeal recently threw out the department’s defense of its actions, describing them as ‘unconscionable … deliberately obstructive and dilatory’.

Delays and wrongful rejections by certain officials in SA’s home affairs department are resulting in unnecessary court cases that waste resources and cost the country millions.

As specialists in helping foreign clients to secure the necessary visas and permits to live and work in SA, De Saude Attorneys has seen more than its fair share of court appearances. Frustratingly, most of these should not be necessary at all.

Most court cases stem from the wrongful refusal of applications or delays in processing applications, which can push back outcomes for years. Appeals against wrongful refusal can take years more to process, leaving applicants without status in the interim and driving them to court.

These lawsuits are costly for everyone concerned since home affairs must allocate its already stretched resources to go to court. The cost per case can run into hundreds of thousands of rand, and with home affairs defending a reported average of 50 cases per week, the total costs to the state are staggering.

Challenging this situation, De Saude Attorneys and Visa One went to the Western Cape High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal earlier this year, arguing that “the department has, for years now, failed at a structural level to determine applications made to it in any reasonable or lawful time period, including … 473 applications the applicants now bring before this court”.

We noted that even simple applications to the department can take years to be resolved, if they are resolved at all. We therefore sought to compel the department to comply with its obligations in terms of the constitution and applicable legislation.

Describing the department’s stance on litigation as “deliberately obstructive and dilatory”, the Supreme Court of Appeal said its approach was “unconscionable, especially coming from a state department”. The department’s appeal against the high court finding in favor of De Saude and Visa One was dismissed with costs.

September 19, 2017. Pinetown Home Affairs . Picture: THULI DLAMINI

While this was a noteworthy victory, the challenge will remain as long as the department continues to operate in such a way that litigation becomes the only way for applicants to get a fair hearing.

The principles of “batho pele” (people first) require government officials to be polite, open and transparent and deliver good service to the public, and there are many dedicated home affairs officials who take this to heart. Unfortunately, some adopt an obstructionist attitude and do not appear to focus on public service, or indeed the country’s economic development.

According to recent procedures implemented by VFS on instruction of home affairs, foreigners may not file more than two appeal applications (regardless of whether the first two refusals are wrong) and may not file any appeal application later than the 10 working days provided (regardless of the reasons for the late filing). In practice, this still means that if an applicant has received two refusals — even if these refusals were incorrect through no fault of their own — they have no further avenue for appeal.

Normally, if circumstances beyond the applicant’s control have precluded them from filing their application within the 10 days allowed, condonation for late filing would be requested and would be granted where such good cause could be proved.

For example, where an applicant has fallen seriously ill during the preparation of his appeal application or lapsed into a coma immediately upon taking receipt of the negative decision against him, they cannot reasonably be expected to personally submit an appeal application within the 10 days allowed for such submission. But the department’s new policy could mean refusal, even when good cause can be proved.

The applicant against whom a wrongful decision has been taken twice is left with no recourse but to approach the court to have the matter lawfully adjudicated, and the department’s own position appears to be that these applicants should approach a court for assistance. This appears to encourage litigation and will no doubt result in an additional onslaught of court cases involving the department, to the severe detriment of all parties involved.

An already overwhelmed, understaffed and underfunded department should not invite legal action against itself in this manner, particularly when this could be easily avoided by allowing the adjudicator to exercise his or her authority to grant condonation on a case-by-case basis.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Opinion: Home Affairs Needs Attention

Various ward councillors and officials in the Randburg area held a site visit at the Randburg Department of Home Affairs on 8 April.

There they met with the management of the department to discuss the current state of the facilities.

In the past year, ward councillors worked hard to improve the parking area for visitors to the department. “There is still no proper waiting area for those who are coming to apply for their IDs, birth and marriage certificates,” said Ward 104 councillor Mike Wood.

Constituency Head Kate Lorimer said, “This particular home affairs covers a vast area of Johannesburg. We are all aware of how low the morale of the staff members are at the Randburg Home Affairs, and it tends to provide an unhappy experience for those coming to apply for various documents. There is an important project that needs to be undertaken by the government to upgrade this very busy Home Affairs.”

Wood continued, “In ward 104, I and my fellow ward 102 councillor David Potter are working hard to get this facility sorted out. Home Affairs have been in the press lately for all the wrong reasons, and this one is a prime example. The toilets and the kitchens are in a diabolical state, and the Department of Home Affairs needs to step up to the plate. The working conditions for staff leave a lot to be desired.”

Wood stated that the main aim of the visit was to see how facilities could be upgraded for both staff and visitors to make sure that the experience of coming to home affairs is a pleasant one for all.

Wood also said that there is a budget to improve both the Roodepoort and Randburg departments, but nothing has come to fruition as of yet.

“We need to start with improving the basics, for instance, waiting areas and abolition facilities. The services themselves are good, so good in fact that more and more people from the surrounding areas are making use of this home affairs and not ones closer to them,” Wood added.

During the meeting with home affairs officials, any plans to upgrade the facilities would take place during this financial year.

“Unfortunately, as ward councillors in this regard, we don’t have the power to physically handle the matter ourselves, and all we can do is push the Department of Home Affairs itself to take action.”

Member of the Provincial Legislature in Gauteng Makashule Gana added, “Another important issue to raise is the fact there are over 3 500 identity documents waiting to be collected. With huge elections just around the corner, we urge the community to collect their IDs to make sure they can vote on voting day.”

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].