Home Affairs visa backlog ballooning due to increase in notarial contracts

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi briefs the media on the amended immigration regulations published on 28 March 2024. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi briefs the media on the amended immigration regulations published on 28 March 2024. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 9, 2024


Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has blamed backlogs experienced in his department due to an alarming growth in the number of notarial contracts being instituted by foreign nationals using non-existent spouses.

Motsoaledi was speaking at a media briefing in Hatfield, Pretoria, yesterday on the amended immigration regulations, over which he said there seemed to be some misunderstanding.

He said as a result of the confusion, the department would be withdrawing the gazetted amendments to clear up the misconceptions and re-gazette them as early as next week.

The minister admitted that his department was experiencing a backlog surrounding dependants, spouses and relatives’ visas being sought by foreign nationals who had been approved to come into the country after successfully obtaining employment.

He said in most cases while the approvals were easily obtained, they,= however, did not include spouses and dependants, which many were decrying as they were not willing to be separated from their families.

Despite understanding this need, Motsoaledi said there was a situation which allowed foreign nationals to obtain a spousal visa should they marry a South African citizen, which was causing a problem for the department.

With this loophole, he said they were finding that, in many cases, spouses that did not exist were being created through notarial contracts simply to obtain visas.

“Through the notarial contracts you come with a partner, and go to the notary general to write you a contract stating that you are staying together as partners and when you bring that to Home Affairs, they regard you as a spouse.

“The number of notarial contracts is increasing day by day but when we send immigration officers to visit such families, they don’t find any spouse and yet we have a document that says we must issue a spousal visa,” Motsoaledi said.

The minister said what was even more alarming was the fact that the number of these kinds of contracts were growing in “leaps and bounds”, resulting in the backlog.

“This backlog is changing every day because the notarials are growing daily. Now we have a situation where immigration officers visit families for six months with no spouse in sight, so what are we to do? Unfortunately, it’s a problem we are going to have to change because it’s in the law.”

He stressed that his department usually did not experience backlogs on critical skills, general work and business visas “but people with critical skills may be complaining of delays referring to delays in obtaining spouses for their visas”.

“The only way to know that indeed we have delayed giving someone a critical skills visa is for companies to provide us with a name of the employed person, because once you appear in the gazette and give us a letter of employment from your employer we issue it (the visa) immediately.”

Motsoaledi said that while several complaints have been received from the Chamber of Business units and allegations by the media when requested to provide a list of names to verify, none were forthcoming.

“The reality we face is that you might be an engineer with a PhD but if no company gives you a job in South Africa, why should we allow you to come? There must be a company that needs you and then we can come in and facilitate entry into the country.

“The change we are bringing in these amendments is to do away with the requirement of having to go to the Department of Employment and Labour and replace it with a point-based system.”

The minister said they were unable to expand more on the point-based system because it still needed to be gazetted as they wanted to hear what the public would say about the scoring or points awarded.