Answer to a question from a reader

My fiancé and I have been waiting for four months to get his visiting visa approved by the High Commission in Nigeria. What can we do?

The short answer

South Africa's High Commission in Nigeria is over-burdened. You many have to engage the services of a lawyer.

The whole question

On 24 July 2019, my fiancé applied for a visiting visa in Nigeria so that we could hold our lobola ceremony and get married. Four months have passed, and we have heard nothing about his visa application. This is causing me frustrations and depression. Please what can we do?

The long answer

Thank you for your email asking what you can do about the fact that your fiancé is still waiting for the visitor’s visa he applied for in July this year.

VHS Global, the company that handles visa applications for the Department of Home Affairs, says that the processing time for visas by the South African High Commission in Nigeria is 8 weeks, but adds that each application is assessed individually and it can take longer than 8 weeks.

Since Home Affairs specifically says on its website that one of the grounds for granting a visitor’s visa is for a “fiancée/fiancé to join his or her partner with the intention of marrying within 90 days”, it is not clear why your fiance’s application should take so long to process.

But from a report by the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) in December 2018, it seems that the foreign missions in Nigeria, India, the DRC, Angola and Mauritius were all “experiencing challenges”. This, the AGSA said, was because of “the high number of applications, fraudulent documents and a lack of capacity to process the visas.”

The report went on to note that “many applications were being stored in toilets, passages and warehouses.”

So it looks as though the High Commission in Nigeria may have the same lack of capacity that Home Affairs has here in South Africa. Many, many people are experiencing the same frustrations as you are in dealing with Home Affairs. It seems incapable of doing its job.

Perhaps the most effective way to put pressure on the officials to issue the visa is to engage lawyers who have experience in dealing with Home Affairs. This is of course expensive, unless you can find lawyers who will do it “pro bono” or free, in the public interest. For example, there is an NGO called PROBONO.ORG that works with private lawyers to provide legal services to people who can’t afford to pay lawyers’ fees.

You could contact them at Info@probono.org.za to ask if they can assist you, or can direct you to experienced lawyers in your area.

Answered on Nov. 27, 2019, 11:44 a.m.

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