What is the change? The Department of Home Affairs, or DHA, has contracted with VFS Global to open visa facilitation centers across the country to handle applications within South Africa under upcoming amendments to South African immigration legislation.

What does the change mean? The amendments require foreign nationals to appear in person at VFS visa facilitation centers to submit their applications and biometric data. They will no longer submit their applications to the regional offices of the DHA.

  • Implementation timeframe: The visa centers are expected to launch on June 1, 2014.
  • Visas/permits affected: All visas.
  • Who is affected: All foreign nationals submitting applications from within South Africa.
  • Impact on processing times: The change is anticipated to slow processing times in the early days of adoption, but should eventually furnish a speedier process once well-established.
  • Business impact: The new process will cost slightly more, due to an additional VFS fee which will be charged in addition to DHA fees. There may be temporary processing delays when the visa facilitation centers become operational.
  • Next steps: Where possible, apply for visas before June 1. For applications submitted under the new system, plan for extra processing time and potential delays. Foreign nationals located outside of major cities will have to travel to their nearest Visa Facilitation Centre which will, in some cases, require lengthy journeys.

Background: This change is part of a major immigration overhaul that BAL reported earlier this month. All applicants must report in person, including children. However, designated representatives may accompany applicants to the visa facilitation centers to submit applications and sit for biometric data. Applicants must present their passports, but can keep them while their applications are pending. Other details are as follows:

  • The centers will be open between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on all working days.
  • An automated queuing system will take applicants in order on a walk-in basis.
  • Payment of fees will be accepted via credit or debit card and electronic funds transfers (EFTs).
  • To streamline the process, VFS will scan applications and forward them electronically to DHS for adjudication. Foreign nationals may designate a representative to receive the decision rather than appearing in person again.
  • The 11 VFS Global center locations are: Cape Town, Durban, George, Johannesburg, Kimberley, Mangaung, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Port Elizabeth, Rustenburg and Pretoria.

BAL Analysis: Once established, the visa facilitation centers are expected to streamline and improve the visa application processes from within South Africa. Businesses and foreign nationals should anticipate delays and challenges during the implementation phase.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in South Africa. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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