SA unhappy with low special permit interest
South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has expressed concern over the apparent low interest in the Lesotho Special Permit (LSP).
In October 2015, the South African cabinet approved the LSP to regularise the stay of Lesotho nationals residing illegally in the country. The cost of an LSP application is M970 but would allow holders to either work, do business or study in South Africa.
“The special dispensation is for Lesotho nationals who are working, studying or running businesses in South Africa without appropriate documentation, and have been in the country in such capacity before 30 September 2015. Those who have been in South Africa for less than 12 months need to have a police clearance certificate from Lesotho that is not more than six months old.
“In the long run, this massive project will advance the goals of the National Development Plan, precisely because Lesotho nationals with special permits will work lawfully, pay taxes, and contribute to the country’s economic development and growth, as well as that of their country. We trust that the project will promote greater cooperation on managing migration challenges between the two countries,” Mr Gigaba said when announcing the permit in November last year.
The minister emphasised the permit would protect Basotho from exploitation and unnecessary harassment while in South Africa.
“Basotho in the country will enjoy protection from unlawful labour practices, fraud and corruption.
“This we owe to the people of the SADC region and our neighbour, Lesotho, which historically enjoys close kinship ties with South Africa and its people. It makes no business sense to sustain funding for deportations that can clearly be avoided, with Lesotho being among the four highest countries whose nationals South Africa deports.”
Applications for the LSP opened on 1 March and close on 30 June 2016. The LSP will be valid until 31 December 2019.
But with less than two months to go before the application deadline, Mr Gigaba says he is not happy with the response to the offer so far.
According to Lesotho’s National Register, there are between 400 000 and 500 000 Basotho based in South Africa, yet only 5694 had registered hence Mr Gigaba’s disappointment.
Mr Gigaba expressed his dissatisfaction on Tuesday during a visit to the Midrand Lesotho Special Permit Facilitation and Application Centre where the first batch of 117 LSP was handed over to their owners.
He was in the company of Lesotho Principal Secretary for Home Affairs, Advocate Borenahabokhethe Sekonyela.
“We are not happy with the uptake so far,” said Mr Gigaba.
“I wish to urgently appeal to those Lesotho nationals who have not visited these centers to do so and use this opportunity to regularize their stay in the country.”
In a bid to assist applicants with their registration which is done online, the facilitation centres are open over weekends.
“Every effort has been made to ensure this service is broadly available with application centers set up around the county in strategic regions of high Basotho population density. The consultants at each centre are well-equipped to provide support to applicants,” said Mr Gigaba.
He also warned Basotho against making last-minute applications while also appealing to the relevant authorities to ensure the applicants have the necessary documents.
“We have noted that most employers have been reluctant to issue employment letters to Lesotho nationals to allow them to finalize the application process. I must emphasize that once we close this process without them being registered and thus being in their employment without proper documentation, we will apply the law according to the Immigration Act,” explained Minister Gigaba.
“We want to see Basotho becoming part of South African society without fear of deportation and to formalize their stay in South Africa, mindful of the contribution they are making to the economy here and in their country.
“We understand there may be fear, but this initiative is designed to help all Basotho here in South Africa. It is important that you do this and become legal in South Africa.”
Meanwhile, as with the successful Zimbabwe Special Permit programme introduced in August 2014, applications are being facilitated online on the VFS Global website, but the adjudication is handled by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).
“Our teams are ready to handle the high volumes of applications,” said Jiten Vyas, VFS Global Chief Operations Officer for Africa. “We are making every effort to expand our community outreach. So besides fixed application centres, we are also launching mobile centres and weeklong registration drives at different locations to reach the maximum number of applicants. The application process itself is designed to be as easy and effective an experience as possible.
“Our hope is that by the end of June 2016, we will have had a high response rate from the citizens of Lesotho, so they can move freely between home and their places of work or business in South Africa.”
LSP application centres are in the following locations: Limpopo- Polokwane; North West- Rustenburg; Western Cape- Cape Town and George; Mpumalanga- Nelspruit; Gauteng- Midrand and Bedfordview in Johannesburg; Eastern Cape- Port Elizabeth; Free State- Bloemfontein; KwaZulu-Natal- Durban; Northern Cape- Kimberley.
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To qualify for the LSP
*You must be registered on the National Population Register (NPR) system of Lesotho, have a valid passport or travel document with a unique Lesotho identity (ID) number and ensure the passport is valid for a period of more than four years. If the validity period of the passport or the travel document is less than four years, the holder will bear the cost of the replacement passport and the LSP into the new passport.
*Lesotho nationals who are in South Africa for less than 12 months need to have a police clearance certificate from Lesotho that is not more than six months old.
*Provide proof of Employment or an affidavit from employer – to be issued with an LSP work permit; Business registration with SARS and CIPRO – to get an LSP business permit; Registration with an education institution – for an LSP study permit.
*All supporting documents or letters must prove that the applicant has been residing in South Africa since before 30 September 2015.
*Applicants do not need to apply for a South African police clearance certificate. The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in South Africa will obtain the South African Police Service clearance on behalf of all LSP applicants.
*Those applicants who may have fraudulently obtained South African documents need to surrender them to the nearest DHA office and obtain an amnesty letter.
How to apply for LSP
*Register on the National Population Register (NPR) in Lesotho to receive a unique ID number.
*Apply online through www.vfsglobal.com/lsp/southafrica.
*Applicant receives an appointment to appear in person at a VFS office.
*Applicant submits supporting documents i.e. Lesotho police clearance certificate, valid passport, proof of employment or affidavit from employer, proof of registration with an education institution or proof of business registration.
*Applicant awaits outcome which is delivered to the VFS office within eight weeks of the date of receipt at the DHA.
*Applicant collects the LSP outcome from VFS office.