The slow pace of work permit processing at the Department of Home Affairs is hampering job creation and chasing away foreign investments, immigration practitioners have warned.

The processing of work permits for skilled workers can take up to a year with the result that several investors who could boost job creation were “walking away”, say expert.

Relocation Online director Glynis Carroll said the chaotic state of permit processing at the department contradicted the government’s focus on job creation and attracting foreign investors into the country.

She said that in the past she used to assist at least four clients a week with business permits “but now, its one a month if I’m lucky”.

Carroll cited major foreign information technology companies who had signed tenders with the government and local banks but had been “stone walled” due to the department’s failure to process the required business permits.

“The repercussions are huge, foreigners don’t want to be seen as illegal,” she said.

Immigration practitioner Gerrit Van Rensburg said while President Jacob Zuma professed to want to attract foreign investors Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma appeared to be chasing them away.

“We have chief executives of companies who can’t get paid because their permits can’t be renewed.

“People are walking away from South Africa and businesses are shutting down. People outside are losing faith in South Africa,” he said.

He said in January he submitted 147 applications in Pretoria on behalf of his clients and was told the papers would be finalized by end of February. However, the permits for 50 clients had yet to be sorted out.

Van Rensburg said there appeared to be a lack of managerial skills within the department and knowledge about the Immigration Act.

He said that at times, some of the permit adjudicators would call requesting help regarding some of the applications and their appeared to be a prejudice against applicants from countries such as Nigeria, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka with applicants from those countries often denied work permits without a valid reason.

South Africa’s leading immigration lawyer Gary Eisenberg said the department treated foreigners with contempt.

He said that South Africans received “world class” services from the department but “foreigners get a rough time”.

He said that most of the rejections of foreigners’ applications defied logic.

“Many of the rejections are rubbish”, he said, calling for political will to change the situation in the department which he described as “dysfunctional”.

The department had not responded to queries on this matter by the time of going to print.

Gary Eisenberg is founding attorney and director of Eisenberg & Associates.

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