3 years in South Africa has flown by, however this momentous juncture is not a cause for celebration, but rather tribulation as with it comes the expiry of my Quota Work Permit mid April 2012. The date is just around the corner and it has been causing me a number of sleepless nights, due mainly to the centrality of Home Affairs in the proceedings. The delay to my permit processing has led to another major headache; come the date of my current permit’s expiry, ABSA will freeze my account and I will have to revert to trusty bed mattress banking until I can supply them with a new permit number! I am once again at the mercy of a system and a ‘computer says no’ mentality.
This time around I decided to pursue the route of the spousal permit since I was assured that it would be a much simpler and all-in-all quicker process (and by virtue of the fact that I am now married to a South African national). I’d do just about anything to numb the ball-ache (picture the Daniel Craig torture scene from Casino Royale…yes, the one with the chair!) which Home Affairs knowingly inflicts on all foreign nationals requiring a temporary resident permit. Even those who are considered ‘skilled’ labour and contribute to the economic growth of the country do not receive a slightly preferential treatment. And yet an organisation such as SARS will gladly accept your tax money without so much as a second thought as to your immigration status?
My temporary residency application was submitted in early March after tear-assing around Gauteng to acquire all the necessary documentation for submission within the space of a couple of weeks (beginning in February). In hindsight, I should have probably have started slightly sooner, however this would have ‘wasted’ the remaining time left on my current permit…which at the end of the day didn’t come cheap. I am now waiting for an SMS with my DHA application reference so that I can try and secure a letter from DHA which might help keep my bank account out of the deep freeze. Reference numbers are supposedly meant to be sent to applicants within 3 weeks of the date of submission and this date lapsed over a week ago. Apparently they are behind on sending out SMS’es and I now have to wait another 10 working days! Fingers crossed it’ll come sooner.
As of December 2009, DHA insisted that all regional visa submissions must be processed via their central Pretoria Office, aka ‘The Zoo’. The Zoo from all accounts cannot cope with the intensified workload which this ‘process’ (not sure if this is a worthy title) has created. In the meantime, applications keep on mounting and/or have been misplaced in the latest DHA headquarters move. Home Affairs never ceases to amaze me. I have had the delight of dealing with them on many occasions and have even visited their Refugee and Asylum office where I was required to attend an ‘interview’ in order to officially register my marriage. Spending a few hours mingling with deportees should be high up on everyone’s bucketlist.
One has to question why it is necessary to deal with an organisation who have been under investigation for fraudulent and corrupt dealings, which provides conflicting information and process potholes (which even their inmates cannot properly navigate), and which has a number of pending lawsuits against it; most notably from a conglomerate of South African immigration practitioners for (no marks for correct guesses)….failing to timeously adjudicate temporary resident applications; and another case involving 4 married couples (with foreign partners) for the very same reason. I begin wonder who came up with their almost comical slogan, “We Care”?
DHA is a lumbering oaf of an organisation, superiorly inefficient at their immigration role (I can’t comment on their civic service offerings) and staffed by the hopelessly incompetent. Their illustrious leader, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has her impressive health-profession credentials posted on the Home Affairs webpage when you click on her mug shot (not sure how these apply in her current role), however since her appointment in May 2009 it seems that she has done little to assist the system. She has however indicated that she did not want immigration practitioners representing applicants in Home Affairs offices (so she’d rather have her staff process incomplete and unchecked applications with the current backlog?). Good luck to anyone who tries to navigate the process alone – even with a guide, organising a mission to the moon would probably be easier. Also, what she fails to understand is that not everyone has the time to represent themselves when you are in full time employment and have to stand for hours on end at a DHA office until someone has finished with their mandatory tea and lunch break.
If the system operated more efficiently, as it once did pre-centralisation when regional offices had the power to process applications, a 30 day turn-around time on most temporary permits could be expected. With the swish of Dr Zuma’s wand however, the backlog which the now lack-of-process has created, has ultimately ended up extending handling times to several months (3 and up).
Skimming through forums concerning the many failures of Home Affairs, I’ve noted that there are mixed comments regarding articles on application delays. On one hand you have the group who stand for improved efficiency and who choose to openly criticise DHA and their leaders for the organisation’s failings; and then those who think that Home Affairs are doing South African nationals a favour by making ‘the foreigners’ wait, so that it might dissuade these individuals from pilfering the local job market. In a country with approximately 25% unemployment, the latter group may have a good point on their hands, however on the flip side can they unequivocally say that out of this 25%, there are individuals who can supplement the skills deficit which the country is currently facing? (I think not).
There were also an amusing couple of lines on ‘The Expatriate’ (.co.za) website which listed what Home Affairs hopes to aspire to in 2012. Needless to say, the author of the article was slightly pessimistic of their promises.
“Well, according to Home Affairs, we will see a more service orientated, efficient, friendly, well organized department which will process all applications without undue delay and to the utmost satisfaction of the public. Of course I cannot predict the future, but I can assure you this will not happen; certainly not with the kind of speed that is being promised here. “
So there we have it! I have about a week left to wait until my SMS and then I can beat a few people around the head to get the necessary information I require. If Home Affairs want to try and implement an efficient immigration system, why not use the UK as an example (it works well I’m told) and then adapt? It can’t be rocket science.