Unfortunately, the only time that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) provides any feedback with regards to its progress (or lack thereof) with catching up on the visa backlog is when it is required to appear before the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in Parliament. This backlog is now affecting so many people that one would hope that they would be more transparent and display better governance in the matter. It would not be difficult to provide a monthly update.
At the beginning of the year DHA advised that they had a backlog of 62 000 applications and were hoping to catch this up by the middle of 2024. The Minister of Home Affairs appeared before Parliament in the last week, and the update was extremely concerning. Instead of decreasing the backlog has now increased from 62 000 applications to 74 000 applications.
It is very difficult to fathom how this has happened. The issue that led to the backlog i.e. centralizing the adjudication process in Pretoria was reversed so it can’t be the reason. The Minister blamed it on issues such as too many categories of visas, “forum shopping” by applicants, and insufficient budget to employ more staff. Quite frankly these reasons (other than possibly the ability to employ more staff) are red herrings as they all existed prior to the centralization decision and yet visas were always processed within a 3 month period during that time.
Of the 74 000 visas in backlog it was revealed that 35 000 of these were visas related to spousal relationships. The Minister partly blamed this on the fact that these applicants also wanted to work in the country and thus the applications also had to be approved by the Department of Employment and Labour. This is patently incorrect as such visa applications do not contain this requirement and he is getting the visa categories mixed up.
The unfortunate conclusion to be drawn from the most recent Portfolio Committee meeting is that no progress has been made to reduce the visa backlog, and it will not be caught up any time soon.
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