While the Department of Home Affairs fumbles with new visa regulations loved ones are banned from re-uniting in the country
In what is possibly one of South Africa’s biggest international embarrassments, new visa application rules are ripping families apart and declaring foreigners, supporting the South African community, as ‘undesirables’.
One such case came to the attention of New World Immigration.
We received a letter this week from a very distraught Rebecca Pragner a German national and doctor who had been working at Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town since early in 2012.
Rebecca also passed the Board Exam of the HPCSA and is a registered medical practitioner in this country.
Dr Pragner is one of the latest victims of the new immigration legislation which came into effect last week.
The Department of Home Affairs has since the inception of the law been plagued with complaints as almost none of their staff had been trained to handle the new visa requirements or the problems associated with the new process.
Dr Pragner shared her story of frustration with New World Immigration MD Mr Robbie Ragless.
Rebecca and Devan met at a party in Cape Town. It was love at first sight and the couple knew they wanted to eventually get married. Rebecca made a huge commitment to Devan by undertaking to leave her home country, friends and family and immigrate to South Africa.
Never short of work, as doctors are in short supply in the country, Rebecca quickly established her life and started building a career for herself and Devan supported her.
When Rebecca had to return to Germany to complete her doctorate the couple would make a point of visiting each other as often as they could.
By November 2012 their relationship was going strong and the couple decided they would find out if Rebecca would be eligible for a life partner permit from Germany at the South African consulate.
“I was told that I could only do that from SA as the two of us would have to proof that we live together. An immigration agency that I contacted at that time, confirmed this,” said Rebecca.
Rebecca also said that she was advised to immigrate to South Africa on a visitor’s permit and to extend it while she obtained the required paperwork.
“In July 2013 I came to South Africa and applied for extension of my visitor's permit in August 2013, about 90 days before expiry of the initial visa.
“Due to the fact that it took Home Affairs four long months to issue the extension, I could only apply for the life partner permit on the 18th of December 2013.
The expiry date of my extension was the 4th of January 2014,” Rebecca told Mr Ragless.
Left uncomfortable about the long processing time Rebecca expected, she inquired at both the Cape Town and Bellville Department of Home Affairs offices if she would be able to remain in the country should the processing of her life partner visa be delayed in any way.
Both offices reassured her she would be within the specifications of the law, “They even told me, that I was not supposed to leave the country before that as this would lead to the closure of my application,” said Rebecca.
By 4 April 2014 all of Rebecca’s documents were submitted and Rebecca learned that her application was still pending.
Rebecca returned to the home affairs office on 13 May to enquire about the status of her application. She was shocked and surprised to be issued with a letter of rejection of her application. Home Affairs stated that some of the required documentation remained outstanding, but granted Rebecca an appeal period of 10 days. She immediately submitted the documents that Home Affairs required and told an outcome would be available within two weeks.
But Rebecca had to leave the country to attend to business, “I also informed the offices in Bellville and Pretoria that I had to visit Germany on the 30th of May. Both offices confirmed that if the application was still pending by that time [30 May] I should expect to be fined at the airport.
“However they guaranteed that I would be able to re-enter the RSA once the fine was paid and that this would not adversely affect any new visa application I might have to do after my return. “
On 28 May, just one week before the new immigration legislation was implemented, Rebecca queued at the Cape Town Home Affairs office hoping to find out more about her application. She said there were notices everywhere in the office but none about the rules and regulations of the new immigration act.
“On the 30th of May I went to Cape Town International Airport, prepared to be fined, when the lady at the passport control told me that the regulations had changed and I would now have to face a ban for 5 years from the RSA.
“She made it very clear that she would not entertain any story and that her supervisor would issue me with the banning documents and explain everything to me,” a distraught Rebecca told Mr Ragless.
The supervisor at passport control issued Rebecca with a document declaring her as an undesirable person and she was told that the decision could be appealed by writing to the Director General.
Dr Pragner entered an appeal but at this stage the outcome is pending. “I have to say, that with my banning from the country, the South African government declared someone as undesirable, who is firstly due to her profession an asset to the community, who has never committed a crime or acted against any law in any country and who is living in a life partnership with a South African citizen and is engaged to get married,” said Rebecca in conclusion.