It is the end of January 2021 and things are starting to look more positive in South Africa. Our first batch of vaccines arrived and our president announced an easing of the alcohol ban and permission to visit beaches and parks again.

Most importantly, the number of new infections has reduced significantly from 12.000 to around 4000 cases reported per day.

Yes, we are all “over” Covid-19, but I had no idea about the level of frustration from some of my European clients. From the conversations I had just this week, I was really surprised how critical for instance Germans and French nationals see the performance of their governments during the past months. From our perspective, in South Africa, some of the complaints rather seemed strange. It confirmed again the old truth that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

A surprising large number of visitors from Europe and the USA preferred spending time in South Africa during Covid-19. They welcomed the ‘blanket’ visa extensions that the Government allowed during this time, but these privileges are due to expire at the end of March 2021.

So – what has the Department of Home Affairs been up to in recent months?

Beside the visa extensions, they have also granted Intra-Company Transfer Visa (ICT) holders the option of extending their visas for a further 2 years. These extension concession is applicable to the ICT visa holders whose visas expired during lock-down and to those which will expire by 31 June 2021.

The government is in the process of confirming an updated critical skills list and will provide the immigration industry with some new initiatives and regulations. We will keep you abreast with any new legislation as it happens.

While many other services were offered by Home Affairs during the past months, the opportunity for submitting new applications for Permanent Residence Visas remains impossible.

On inquiring with Home Affairs as to their reasons, we were told that they are trying to clear the huge backlog of applications.

Since only a few outcomes were received by us and we have submitted many applications, this information seems correct. Many of our clients will have to be patient since it may be a while before the backlog is cleared.

The great news is that according to the Department, this status quo is very temporary and they are considering opening the department very soon. No clear date has been given but it could be as early as 1 March 2021! What facts do we have here if people should come back to us? I only heard from someone who heard from someone, so I’m very skeptical about this sentence.

For those who have plans to apply for a Permanent Residence Permit, it is best to start the application process early, in fact right away. This will allow for any delays incurred while preparing and legalising documents for submission.

Particularly in the case of those who currently have a critical skills visa since we expect a change to the critical skills list to be imminent. Applicants who now qualify for permanent residence might not be able to do so in a few months, so we want to encourage anyone who wants to submit these type of applications to start with this process early to avoid any disappointment.

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By Andreas Krensel