PLEASE NOTE: Immigration South Africa is a private immigration law firm and not VFS. We offer paid visa and permit application services. If you are looking for VFS, please contact them directly.
Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) is a recent introduction in the provision of services by the Department of Home Affairs. It represents an outsourcing strategy in the granting of visas and the processing of visa applications. So, while VFS is a part of the operations of Home Affairs, it is a private company and as such might not always have final authority in deciding on an application or an appeal.
VFS is a multinational enterprise and, according to its official site, it provides visa processing services in 115 countries. It has roughly 1300 visa service centres globally, and since 2001 it has processed more than 80 million visa applications. Its headquarters are in London in the UK. It’s number in South Africa is +27 12 425 3000.
In South Africa, VFS has 11 visa centres. They are in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Rustenburg, Kimberley, Polokwane, Nelspruit, George and Bloemfontein. The centres allow people to apply for the full range of immigration permits. They employ the usual application process, involving paperwork and the collection of biometric data. Appeals and waivers can also be attempted at these centres.
The use of a private company to deliver these services is a point of contention. The privatisation of other industries or services is a controversial topic in South Africa at this time, but an official government function such as the implementation of immigration policy would seem to require even more state regulation. However, many countries use VFS as an outsourced solution to their immigration administration, and South Africa has now followed suit.
In the past, South Africa had an almost entirely nationalised economy, a status which some local politicians are trying to advocate once more. How long the arrangement with VFS lasts will depend on whether national government can persuade the electorate, as well as its own representatives, to buy into the concept on a long-term basis.
The outsourcing process requires that the contracted service provider is able to maintain adequate standards of security and data integrity. Trusting a private enterprise based overseas with information of national importance is a departure from the usual protective attitude that sovereign states have towards their interior records. However, in the present era of high-speed electronic data exchange and globalised information networks and economic activity, outsourcing is a possibility.
National loyalty, and the distrust of foreigners, however, is a potential obstacle to the public acceptance of this option. This hostility towards foreign management of such an important national function may not even be based on a reasonable assessment of the service providerís performance or the relative cost of their contract. Home Affairs will therefore need to be able to address criticism, no matter how partisan, and also provide suitable education to an uninformed public, or answer politicians with ulterior motives.
NB: Information has been sourced from the Home Affairs and VFS websites and was correct at the time of writing. This article does not constitute promotional material for VFS and is intended merely to provide information on their South African operations.