Visa Application

South Africa’s New Visa System

Home Affairs announced a major overhaul of South Africa’s immigration system at the beginning of June. Foreign citizens applying for long-term visas to stay in South Africa for periods longer than three months are the first area of change.

Foreigners used to submit their visa applications through South African Missions or Visa and Permit Facilitation Centers (VFS). After that, one of the two centers would process the applications and notify the foreign national of the results. However, going forward, these visa requests will be handled by a centralised adjudication system to ensure consistency and uniformity in the adjudication of visa requests.

Foreign citizens will still essentially submit an application through the VFS Center or South African Mission, but these organisations will scan and email the application to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) office for vetting before being sent back to the embassy for the visa/permit or rejection letter to be printed.

The final approval or rejection document is saved on the Movement Control System (MCS), a system that makes it easier for foreign nationals to enter and leave a country. It is a digital system that keeps track of entrances and exits as well as enables users to examine a person’s whole travel history, records and relevant papers. However, the applicant will still need the visa or permit to enter and exit South Africa.

The Department of Home Affairs is unable to predict how long processing times will take under the new system; nevertheless, given difficulties including shortages of staff, frequent system failures, communication problems and current backlogs, a temporary delay in processing times may result from time to time. Based on our experience, temporary residency visas being issued at embassies abroad are taking between 6-8 months.

For individuals awaiting the results of their visa applications from within South Africa, the measures offer a broad interim extension of foreign nationals’ present visa status until 30 September 2022. Until September 30, 2022, foreign nationals may opt out of the procedure and leave the country instead as it is anticipated that more formal adjustments will be made known in the upcoming weeks.