Motsoaledi: Changes are needed in spousal visa protocols

Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has highlighted a need to look at reworking spousal visa protocols after they contributed to a backlog at the department more so than any other visa category.

Speaking to media on amended immigration regulations on Tuesday, Motsoaledi and other officials also spent time explaining how businesses — particularly small businesses — can benefit from new visa schemes.

Visa backlog

The minister said about 90% of the visas in their backlog are applications for relative visas and spousal visas, and this needs looking at.

Motsoaledi described a “conundrum” of having to check that just about every spouse who applies is indeed legally married to the South African citizen.

“Unfortunately, we are reaching a situation were spouses are created where they don’t exist.” he said, explaining this includes couples who go to notary generals to write a contract that they are staying together as partners, and then taking that to Home Affairs to apply for spousal visas.

“But when we send immigration officers to visit such families they never find a spouse.”

Some couples claiming to be spouses also do not have marriage contract numbers, which makes verifying their legal union difficult.

Motsoaledi said critical skills, general work, and business visas generally do not see a backlog.

However, another problem Home Affairs experiences is waiting for proof of qualifications from employers before issuing work visas.

Project team tackles the backlog

Director General Livhuwani Tommy Makhode said there is a project team working to clear the visa backlog.

In fact, the turnaround time of critical skills visas has been shortened from eight weeks to about four weeks, he said.

“We have also had an offer from the private sector that wants to come and assist and we are working on the modalities with regards to that,” Makhode said.

The exact figures detailing the visa backlog will be provided to the media at a later date, the officials said.

Trusted employer scheme

Deputy director-general of immigration services at Home Affairs Yusuf Simons said the trusted employer scheme was in its first round as a pilot programme.

“It is a new introduction of a world-wide phenomenon that is taking place to have relationships with employers,” he said.

“We are looking at taking another cohort from May onwards so if you meet the criteria of course you can apply.”

However, those who do not meet the criteria may approach the corporate account unit. This will allow SMMEs and NGOs to register through them, although they will not have the same privileges as larger companies.

The advantage of a start-up visa

As a recommended new visa category, the start-up visa will be implemented alongside a business visa that was already approved.

“The start-up visa makes provision for any person who intends to establish or want to invest in any business can then apply under the regulation 14(1) of the Immigration Act… that gives the opportunity for any small business that falls out of the trusted employer scheme category to slot into that category, or go to our large account unit and register there as an employer, where we will also have a team that looks at those applications,” Simons said.

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