Cape Town – Since home affairs announced a new set of rather stringent visa rules, set to be implemented on October 1, many people’s lives have been thrown into a state of chaos.
UK national, Emma Thelwell, recently shared her story of an agonising nine-month wait for any news from home affairs regarding her spousal visa application. She had moved to South Africa at the end of 2013 to join her local partner, Jeremy Behrmann in Cape Town.
The two had lived together in the UK and travelled the world and looked forward to continuing their relationship in South Africa. However, their plans were put on hold as Thelwell’s application for a spousal visa seemed to all but disappear into the ether of home affairs administration.
In fear of being declared ‘undesirable’ and banned from the country for five years, Thelwell’s life was put on hold, affecting not only her own self-esteem, but also their relationship.
Also see: Changes to be made to the new visa rules to minimise impact
The couple have in the meantime been saved from their state of limbo, as Thelwell was granted a two year temporary residency visa to stay in South Africa.
“It means I can get on with my life, plan stuff and, hopefully, settle in here a little bit more. And get on with life,” she said in an interview with News24 Live.
But, how did Thelwell’s story reach a happy ending, while so many other families and couples find themselves torn apart?
Well, according to Thelwell, getting legal help is really the only way to be sure that you’re on the right track, especially as far as doing the paperwork correctly is concerned.
She made use of the services of Black Pen Immigration, based in Cape Town and highly recommended their services.
We got in touch with Nora Dawud, the lawyer who assisted Thelwell in her application process, to find out more about taking the legal route.
At what point in a drawn-out visa application battle should one opt for legal help?
Dawud strongly recommends that anyone embroiled in this sort of battle, should go to an Immigration Consultancy from the word go, as they know exactly what is required to put together a solid application.
“We have seen applications put together by applicants themselves and more often than not, most of the documents are missing or are not presented in the correct manner,” she says.
Most difficult part of an application
Following up on visa applications can be an absolute nightmare for ordinary citizens and often leaves you with more questions than answers. According to Dawud, the department of home affairs adjudicating hub in Pretoria is exceptionally busy and people don’t always realise that they are working incredibly hard to clear the backlogs as well as deal with current visa applications.
“One may call the department of home affairs call centre, however they can only inform you as to whether it has arrived in Pretoria, and when it is finalised,”she explains.
However, if you get legal help, your lawyer will be able to access information beyond the call centre.
Benefits of getting legal help
This access to information is also one of the main benefits of getting a lawyer to assist in your application process.
Getting a visa application expedited is not an easy process and requires hours upon hours of phone calls and emails back and forth. And frankly, if this is not your day job, you’re going to fail miserably.
“It takes complete dedication and commitment to see it through from start to finish,” Dawud says.
What are the costs involved
While it varies from company to company, Dawud says you can expect to pay between R7 000 and R10 000, depending on the type of visa you’re applying for.
Also see: New visa rules - direct route to Cape Town cancelled
Five steps for a successful visa application
So, just to be completely clear on the process, we asked Dawud to outline a simple five-step-plan for anyone about to embark on a visa battle:
1. Find a lawyer or immigration firm to help you establish which visa you need to apply for
While you would probably be able to find an agency through a good old Google session, Dawud suggest that you rather rely on the recommendations of people who have been through similar situations.
2. Establish which visa you require
Send the immigration firm your CV as well as a job offer (if any) and they will be able to advise you on which visa you should apply for.
3. Start collecting your documents
Examples of the types of documents you will need include a copy of your degree, academic transcript, police clearance as well as medical and radiological reports
4. Hand them over to your lawyer
Once you’ve collected all the documents, get them to your lawyer as quickly as possible. They will be able to put them together in the right order and communicate with the correct professional bodies.
5. Wait for feedback from your lawyer
Instead of frustrating yourself by trying to follow up with home affairs yourself, leave the communication to your lawyer. They will be able to give you satisfactory feedback sooner or later.
Have you been affected by the changing visa rules? Tell us in the comment section below or send us your story to firstname.lastname@example.org