In the month of September, we had the benefit of attending two important workshops with government officials, organized by the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry: a workshop with Mr Ben Makhalemele, the Deputy Director of Permitting at Home Affairs with regards to challenges experienced for South African visas, as well as an Information Session on German Schengen Visas with Mr Johannes Moosburner and Mr Dirk Berg from the German Embassy in Pretoria. Both sessions provided important insights from first-hand sources.
- While the delegations for adjudication have been returned to the missions for applications submitted outside of South Africa, Mr Makhalemele confirmed that for applications submitted in South Africa, the higher level of delegation to the Director General (DG) remains in place for now.
- However, he confirmed that there is a constant reflection and reporting and that delegations may be returned to lower-level officials over time, based on impact reports similar to those that were crucial to the return of delegations to the missions.
- There can be no doubt that there is an awareness of the processing delays within Home Affairs, and we learned that the Department is seeking to draw and allocate resources as efficiently as possible.
- An encouraging conversation and ensuing clarification during the workshop touched on the aspect of the new Critical Skills List strictly prescribing a minimum NQF level, which is a grave concern when faced with persons who have over 20 years of professional experience, but lack the NQF level, which for most occupations is the uniquely South African level of an Honours degree and therefore disqualifies Bachelor-degree holders.
- Mr Makhalemele confirmed that the Technical Report by the Department of Higher Education leaves room for the Department of Home Affairs to grant acknowledge a person as holding a Critical Skill based on experience, rather than the stated NQF level, provided a sufficient motivation has been provided.
- However, he further indicated that the applicable tool would have to be a waiver application, which, given the current processing times of 9 – 12 months or more for a waiver, is still a far way away from a true solution to the problem.
- We would suggest that the Department of Home Affairs considers a Directive that grants blanket waivers, based on certain blanket time-periods of work example, such as equating each increment of 5 years of work experience (which can be verified through organisations such as MIE) to 1 NQF level. In practice such a system could mean that a person who holds a High School level education only (typically level 4), can meet the required NQF level 8, if person has 20 years or more of verifiable professional experience.
Schengen Visa applications for Germany – processing delays resolved
- For business travelers to Germany, the information session with the German embassy officials provided many good news, most importantly that the processing delay experienced during June/July has been cleared, with the total application process now possible within 5 – 7 working days in most cases, which matches our recent practical experience. It sure is encouraging to see that processing delays can change for the better.
Schengen Visas – how to get a long term, multiple entry visa
- The information session also reiterated the 2020 change of the Schengen Visa Code with regards to long term multiple entry visas for frequent business travelers, that have become subject to more strict requirements to meet, compared to the previous process based on a general motivation and assessment of the merits of the case for frequent travel.
- In terms of the current framework, the following ladder applies:
- 1 year multiple-entry Schengen visa: Can be obtained if a person has obtained and lawfully used (i.e., travelled with) three Schengen Visas (from any countries) within the previous two years.
- 3 year multiple-entry Schengen visa: Can be obtained if a person has obtained and lawfully used (i.e., travelled with) a previous 1-year multiple entry visa within the previous two years.
- 5 year multiple-entry Schengen visa: Can be obtained if a person has obtained and lawfully used (i.e., travelled with) a previous 2 or 3-year multiple entry visa within the previous three years.
- Mr Moosburner acknowledged that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has of course made it complicated to prove such frequent travel over the past few years, and that solutions are being worked with, to acknowledge that a person meets the needs of a frequent traveler, even if they were not able to frequently travel in the past 3 years.
The workshop and information session with the government officials provided important knowledge that we can hereby share with you and we are grateful for the opportunities organized by the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Written by Hannah Mminele
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