On Tuesday the 30th of June 2015, there appeared shocking scenes on the evening news of the rampant corruption at the Home Affairs refugee office in Marabastaad. Videos showing officials being bribed in the exclusive expose by ANN7 led to the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minster of Police coming out and stating that these individuals will be held to account. We certainly hope that serious action will be taken against those who take advantage of individuals’ plight to swindle hard earned monies.
As Strategies Migration, we too feel the need to contribute to safeguarding the unsuspecting public against the scourge of corruption in the immigration space. We all know someone who has paid large sums of money to would be immigration agents, received SMSes confirming receipt of the application and later finalization of application, yet the permit is ultimately found to be fraudulent.
The Department of Home Affairs is clear on this point, there is a zero tolerance policy towards immigration fraud; and this is seen in the new immigration laws. Sections 49(7), 49(8) and 49(15) of the Immigration Act (13 of 2002), make it a criminal offense to conduct an activity intending to contravene the Act and willfully, or through gross negligence, produce false certification as contemplated in the Act. Subsection 15, perhaps, hits home in this department and shall be relevant for the purposes of this article.
S49(15) reads : “ Any natural or juristic person, or a partnership, who-

(a) for the purpose of entering the Republic, or of remaining therein, in contravention of this Act, or departing from the Republic, or of assisting any other person so as to enter or so to remain or so to depart, utters, uses or attempts to use-
(i) any permanent residence permit, port of entry visa, visa, certificate, written authority or other document which has been issued by lawful authority, or which, though issued by lawful authority, he, she or it is not entitled to use; or
(ii) any fabricated or falsified permanent residence permit, port of entry visa, visa, certificate, written authority or other document; or

(b) without sufficient cause has in his, her or its possession-
(i) any stamp or other instrument which is used or capable of being used for purposes of fabricating or falsifying or unlawfully recording on any document any endorsement under this Act or required to be submitted in terms of this Act;
(ii) any form officially printed for purposes of issuing any permanent residence permit, port of entry visa, visa, certificate, written authority or other document under this Act or required to be submitted in terms of this Act, or any reproduction or imitation of any such form;
(iii) any passport, travel document, identity document or other document used for the facilitation of movement across borders, which is blank or reflects particulars other than those of the person in whose possession it is found; or
(iv) any fabricated or falsified passport, travel document, identity document or other document used for the facilitation of movement across borders,
shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 15 years without the option of a fine.”

One need not go further to elaborate the consequences of this exhaustive section, but only to highlight the importance of being vigilant in your pursuit of a visa or permanent residence (PR).

Here are some helpful ways to avoid being found on the wrong side of the law and to protect yourself and loved ones, as well as your hard earned money:

1. Rule of Thumb/Golden rule- if you don’t qualify for it you should not have it- Visas and permits do not come out of thin air.

You need to qualify for a visa or permit first before you apply. A quick check on the VFS and Home Affairs websites will give an indication of the type of visa or permit you qualify for and then you can seek the aid of a specialist to assist you. Being in possession of a passport or being in the country alone is not enough, nor is providing a random set of documents. Immigration is a function of law and one of the cardinal rules in law is that the law must be certain and specific. Before you apply or give someone funds, you need to know exactly what type of visa you are applying for and the requirements, or at least have an idea of the requirements. When receiving a visa it must state, in specific terms, your status (General / Critical Skills Work Visa) and correct conditions.

2. Verify the Agent/lawyer or consultant first before engaging.

Any reputable service provider will have an office, website or at least a digital footprint somewhere. More importantly, they will have a track record that is verifiable. Many websites and Facebook pages have reviews and comments from clients and ratings. Scams normally operate from the shadows.

3. Always insist on a paper trail

Professional communications must always be conducted via email. Before making payment, insist on a written quotation and invoice. Verify the place of business first by calling any of the numbers listed by the service provider and insist on a face to face consultation with the service provider at his or her offices before parting with monies.

4. Be suspicious of people who give guarantees.

Unless you are speaking to the Minister of Home Affairs and the Director General in their offices in Pretoria, no one should be in a position to guarantee you an outcome. An agent, lawyer or consultant is a third party in this process and third parties can never guarantee an out come. An estimation of the likelihood of success is acceptable. Immigration is a scientific process with requirements. Success depends largely on your ability to secure the requirements.

5. Always be vigilant – go the Extra mile and be safe.

Just as you will never give out your particulars to a stranger, do not give your passport or hard earned money to people who you are not 100% sure are trustworthy. Avoid shortcuts. In immigration there are no shortcuts or fast solutions, only the law.

To conclude, here are some popular scams doing the rounds:

Scam 1- getting a visa or permit without going to VFS to lodge in person; and without getting your biometrics captured at any point at VFS; and without submitting any supporting documents provided for by DHA.

Scam 2- Exemptions under Section 53. Section 53 contains transitional provisions that recognize permits issued under the Aliens Control Act. Specifically, this exemption is where individuals are given an Exemption letter and PR sticker. The basis of this exemption is that the applicant qualified under the 1996 exemption issued to SADC countries. The rule then, however, was that the applicant must have been in SA prior to 1993 and must have been in possession of a work permit that had been renewed at least once at the time of application. Obviously, if you are under the age of 40 currently it means that in 1993 you were under 18 and could not have been on a work permit. If you have that Exemption, you are most likely a victim of a scam. Exemptions as of 2002 were issued under section 31 of the Immigration Act.

Scam 3- applying for a visa/ permit without knowing what visa or permit it is. If you just have a permit in your passport and you don’t know what type of visa or permit it is then you are probably sitting with a permit you should not have.

Scam 4- applying for an SA ID directly without a current status in the Republic or real basis. If you were not born in SA, or have parents who are SA citizens or were SA Citizens at the time of your birth, then you should not have an SA ID. This is unless you acquired the same via Naturalization, a process which take 10 years for individuals with no direct claim to permanent residence.

Scam 5- apply for a ZPS post the April 30th 2015 deadline. Much like the 1996 Exemption, dispensation programs come and go and do not remain available indefinitely. If you missed the boat then trying to catch it will cause you to sink.

Contact us for more to find out more.