GEORGE NEWS - A letter to confirm permanent residency for immigrants in South Africa takes months - in some cases even over a year - to be issued by the Department of Home Affairs.
It also comes at a high cost - a minimum of R1 450 if you do the application yourself and more if you work through an agency.
Bill Ashmole, who came to South Africa from the UK in 1978, has had permanent residency for many years and has been abroad several times. He was taken aback when a local travel agency who assisted him with travelling arrangements for another recent trip to the UK, advised him to apply for a document confirming his permanent residency status, before leaving the country.
He was referred to Executive Immigration where he was required to pay R3 100 before his application could be handled.
This included a fee of R1 650 for the agency to handle the application on his behalf, R1 350 for VFS Global, a facilitation company employed by Home Affairs, and a R100 government fee.
Ashmole was told that the receipt for the payment would be sufficient to show at customs when he returned to South Africa.
He applied in May, went on his UK trip, and returned without customs requesting any such documentation. He became worried that he was being ripped off, especially as a friend of his has been waiting for a similar document for much longer.
According to Hein Stroebel, immigration practitioner at Executive Immigration, when a foreigner loses his original permanent residency certificate, he would be required to apply for proof by the department.
"There is, however such a massive backlog in the processing of applications, that customs would accept the receipt that proves that you have applied for the letter."
Stroebel says the VFS fee is compulsory as Home Affairs does not accept applications directly from clients.
"We follow up regularly with Home Affairs regarding every client's application, and we just get told that the client will have to wait.
"The process and time frame on these applications were discussed and explained to Mr Assmole. The applications are handed in at VFS who send them to Pretoria in a sealed bag."
David Hlabane, the department's media manager, confirmed that there is a backlog in the processing of applications for permanent residence.
Applications based on critical skills, business, and general work take eight months to process.
"Applications for permanent residence based on marriage, relatives, refugee status, retirement and financial independence take 18 months to finalise.
"This is due to investigations that we must conduct. Currently we have investigative capacity constraints."
'We bring you the latest George, Garden Route news'