26 May 2015, 07:30
Department of Home Affairs is openly xenophobic.
I am a South African citizen but emigrated to the U.K. for business reasons in 2002 and lived there for 8 years. I met and married a U.K. citizen and we decided to return to South Arica in 2010, partly influenced by the “Homecoming Revolution”.
I have 2 step-children. Both are U.K. citizens and have been in S.A. on a student’s permit since 2010. My wife and I have 2 children of our own. One is a U.K. citizen (we have applied for S.A. citizenship for him) and the other was born in S.A. and is a South African citizen.
My wife and step-children and one of my sons are in danger of being deported due to the fact that their visas/permits have elapsed. The details are set out below and indicate that there are some serious problems within the new system implemented by DHA via VFS.
We have previously applied for and been granted permits/visas on two occasions, via Bellville DHA.
My wife again went to Home Affairs in Bellville in January 2015, 3 months before her most recent visa was due to expire on 27th March 2015 with the intention of applying for renewal of her relative’s visa and her children’s study visas. The staff there advised her that they no longer take visa applications and that she must apply through the agency VFS in Cape Town.
She immediately applied for an appointment at VFS. The earliest appointment she could get was 6 weeks later, on the 16th March 2015. This was only 12 days before her visa was due to expire.
When she arrived at VFS for her application appointment she was advised that they could not accept her application as she did not have the required police clearance certificates. She had applied for a South African police clearance but had not yet received it. Previously when she have applied for her visa at Home Affairs, Bellville they have allowed her to submit her application without the police clearance certificates on the basis that she submit them later when they come through. VFS would not allow this although this had been the practice at DHA before.
The staff member she spoke to also insisted she had to get an up to date police clearance certificate from the U.K. even though she have not been there in three years and had police clearance certificates dating back to only two years ago. She had not been in the UK since then and could not have committed any crimes there.
The information given was clearly incorrect – VFS website clearly states that “the certificate shall not be required from a foreign country in the case of renewal or extension of a visa”.
She advised the staff member at VFS that her visa was due to expire on 27th March and that by the time she had waited for police clearance certificates from the UK her visa would have expired. The VFS representative assured my wife this would not be a problem and that she could just come back with her appointment letter, once her police clearance certificates came through. The appointment letter would apparently be sufficient to prove that an attempt was made to apply before the visas expired.
My wife’s South African police clearance came through one week later, so still in time for her to apply for visa renewal before the visas expired.
My wife had to wait 6 weeks for her police clearance to come from the UK, by which time her visa, and those of my step-children, had expired.
My wife then went on Thursday 30th April 2015 with her U.K. police clearance to VFS to apply to renew her relative’s visa, together with those of our step-children. She had to take the children out of school to accompany her as VFS require the children to be there in person. They refused to accept her application on the basis that her current visa expired on 27th March 2015.
This was despite the fact that the previous staff member, when she visited on 16th March, assured my wife that this would not be a problem as long as she had her original appointment letter showing she had tried to apply for renewal before her visa had expired.
The staff at VFS advised her that before she can apply for renewal of her visa she must go to Home Affairs and get legalized with a form 20 and that she must explain why she had not applied for renewal before the visas expired.
She was also advised on Thursday 30th April 2015 that she DID NOT actually need the UK police clearance that she had previously been told was required! She had not had to wait 6 weeks for the UK police clearance and she would have been able to apply for renewal before her visa expired.
My wife has been trying for three months to apply for renewal of visas for herself, my son and my step-children but has been stopped from doing so due to long waits for appointments and the wrong and contradictory information being given by staff at VFS.
My wife went on 04th May 2015 to Home Affairs in Barrack Street to apply for legalization through a form 20 bridging visa. They have taken in her application but this may now take months before she can even get the result of this application as to whether she will be given legalization. They may still tell her she may have to go back to the UK and apply from there for the visas. My wife, my children, my step-children and I are in limbo. My wife, my one son, and my step-children currently have no status in South Africa and we may not know for months whether they can stay.
Further, my step-children are court ordered to travel overseas to the U.K. to visit their father at the end of June during the school holidays and will not be allowed to re-enter S.A. without valid visas. If the children do not go, my wife will be in contempt of a court order and may face imprisonment or a fine. If they do go, we risk them not being allowed to return to South Africa.
It is only natural that changes in any system can lead to problems but it is also important that those problems do not infringe the rights of citizens and residents. The results for my family will be catastrophic if this is not addressed. I will have to stay in South Africa with my two year old son while his mother, my other son and my step-children will be deported. This cannot be correct, fair or in anyone’s best interests.
Two weeks ago we were informed by my 14 year old stepson’s high school that he will no longer be allowed to attend the school as he no longer has a valid study permit. Aside from the obvious negative impact this will have upon his education coming up to the exams in 3 weeks time, this is a blatant infringement of his Constitutional rights.
This was reported to DHA and we received a flurry of emails claiming the matter was being “expedited” but nothing tangible has happened.
There is NO EXCUSE for the way my family and I are being treated and there is absolutely no effort being made to address our situation, despite the platitudes offered.
The case officer, Ms Adonisi, has been impossibly difficult from the beginning and when I spoke to her directly 2 weeks ago she told me my wife and family were illegally in the country and my wife would have to go to Court and may even be deported. I have no faith in this case officer – she has been negative and hostile from the beginning, has clearly made up her mind already and I have asked for her to be removed with immediate effect. She cannot exercise an administrative discretion in these circumstances.
Further, I have been informed that my wife and I need to prove that we “co-habit” by receiving a home visit from DHA at some unspecified time. This is insane!!!
My wife and I do not need to prove co-habitation as we are actually married. We got married in 2009. We have provided a marriage certificate to DHA years ago. We have 2 children together and I am also responsible for my two step-children. Even more pertinent though is the fact that we did, in fact, have an interview to prove our relationship/co-habitation (whatever you call it) some two years ago with an officer from DHA at Barrack Street. My heavily pregnant wife and I travelled a few times to Bellville and then to Barrack Street and then finally were interviewed by an officer there, who expressed himself satisfied and issued the necessary paperwork.
Now we apparently have to ONCE AGAIN prove that we are co-habiting??? This is not only insulting and degrading but quite unnecessary. I am embarrassed, ashamed and extremely upset at the pathetic treatment meted out to my family and myself. I returned to SA from UK with my UK wife and family, to start our life anew in the country of my birth. All I have been asked I have done –I have never asked for, nor do I expect, special treatment. I simply expect proper, decent and humane treatment – and I am not receiving this.
My wife is court-ordered to send her children (my step-children) to the UK in June. If she does not do so she will be in contempt of court. If she does so without the correct visas she and my children and step-children will not be allowed back into the country. So my wife faces two stark and equally horrific choices: face imprisonment for contempt of court in South Africa or face being denied entrance to South Africa and the rest of her family on her return.
The recent xenophobic attacks were horrific but are unsurprising given the open and institutionalized xenophobia practiced by this government’s departments, especially the DHA. They constantly change their rules and procedures, with little or no warning or announcements. They provide little or no information on their websites and, often, the information is outdated or incorrect. They do not make forms available online, so you actually have to queue for a form BEFORE you even get in the queue for the application. I feel sorry for the staff – most are hard-working and attempt to help but the circumstances they work in are deplorable. They have implemented a flawed and expensive system via VFS but take no responsibility for its failings. We are informed that there are about 40 (FORTY!!) people in the same boat as us. This is unbelievable. Where will it end?
26 May 2015, 07:30