There are challenges with the evaluation of qualifications obtained at universities outside the Republic of South Africa.
It is a requirement in terms of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002(as amended) “the Act” that all qualifications upon which a foreign national application is reliant for the application of any visa in South Africa must be evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
The process requires that the degree and/or diploma certificate, obviously together with the application form for the evaluation to be done, must be presented to SAQA upon lodgement of the request for evaluation.
It is normally suggested that the original certificate should be presented at the time of lodgement, where possible, with certified copies thereof being physically lodged.
Academic transcripts from the tertiary educational institution must also be lodged simultaneously.
The application fee must be paid and, if an expedited evaluation is required, there is an additional fee which can be paid for such expedition.
A normal evaluation of qualifications would take anywhere between four to six weeks to finalise and an expedited application would take in the region of 10 to 14 days to finalise.
However at the time of writing this article major delays are being experienced in terms of obtaining the evaluations, even those that are in the stream of expedited applications. The reason for this has been a serious amount of fraud that has been committed by institutions elsewhere in the world and the unusually high amount of bogus certifications which have been lodged.
This has resulted in an additional step being inserted into the process whereby SAQA now has direct contact with the educational institution who ostensibly issued the degree or diploma certification. This unfortunately is a process which is time consuming and has caused delays, sometimes even up to months, in the evaluation process.
This does not bode well for a skilled foreigner who has applied for a position and now requires a SAQA evaluation of qualifications in order to support his or her work visa application.
Whilst general work visas do not necessarily only hinge on SAQA evaluations of qualifications, but also take into account other extraneous factors, those that apply in the critical skills visa category need to also provide proof of professional registration in respect of their trade, profession or occupation, in order to qualify.
A delay in obtaining a SAQA evaluation could prejudice the possibilities of a prospective employer holding the position open for an indefinite period whilst a SAQA evaluation is obtained and then only lodgement of the work visa application taking place. With delays being experienced in the processing of the work visa, this could potentially create an untenable situation both for the individual foreign national applicant and also for the prospective employer who obviously would require the skills urgently.
Another factor to consider, given what has been stated, is that, in the case of a general work visa with an advertisement placed in the national printed media, as is required in terms of the Immigration Regulations, that advertisement has a 90 day validity period only, calculated from the closing date for applications for that position. With the delays already mentioned, it is conceivable that that 90 day period will be exceeded and this would then result in a further, and perhaps unnecessary, advertisement having to be placed in the national printed media.
Another very important point to be factored into the HR process of applying for a work visa for a foreign national applicant is that when one adds in the delays discussed in this article and couple that to the inherent delays present in the processing of visas in the current system, then the process of applying for a work visa, calculated from date of actually putting the visa application together and complying with all the regulatory requirements, could conceivably end up being a period in excess of six months. Whether this is conducive to the importation of much-needed skills into the country is left in the mind of the reader.
The Law Society of South Africa, through its Immigration and Refugee law Committee, does meet with SAQA on a regular and ongoing basis in order to iron out difficulties such as these, and a meeting is scheduled for the foreseeable immediate future. An update will therefore appear in a later edition of HR Future.
With the severe skills shortage being experienced in South Africa in certain skills sets and shortages in certain trades, professions and occupations where South Africa is simply not producing the required skills or not enough of the required skills, delays of this nature can be counterproductive and have a negative impact on the situation. It is hoped that the situation will resolve in the foreseeable future.
Julian Pokroy is one of South Africa’s leading immigration specialist attorneys, www.immigration.org.za, and currently heads the Law Society of South Africa’s Immigration and Refugee Law Specialist Committee and the Immigration, Nationality and Refugee Law Committee of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces. He is a Member of the South African Law Reform Commission Committee.
This article appeared in the October 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.