Effective 31st December 2017, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) of South Africa will automate the process of checking a foreign national’s South African criminal record, so that it will no longer be necessary to apply for a hardcopy South African Police Clearance Certificate (“SA PCC”).
The DHA will continue to accept hard copy SA PCCs until 31st December at which point, the automated verification will become mandatory.
The new streamlined process is expected to significantly reduce document procurement time.
Who is affected?
A foreign national who has resided in South Africa for twelve months or more since their 18th birthday requires an SA PCC to support an application to renew their visa, change the visa conditions, change status to another visa category, apply for a Permanent Residence Permit or submit a new application for a long-term Temporary Residence Visa from abroad.
Please note that this is only applicable to SA PCCs in respect of applications filed from within South Africa. Foreign nationals who require SA PCCs for applications submitted to South African Missions abroad will still have to provide hardcopy SA PCCs in addition to any other applicable police clearance certificates from other countries.
What is the current process?
Currently, it is necessary to apply for a hardcopy SA PCC through the Criminal Records Centre of the South African Police Service (“SAPS CRC”) to support the application, and the process can take three to six weeks or more.
This can result in applicants failing to submit their applications no less than 60 days prior to the expiry of their existing visas, as required by law.
What is the new process?
From 31st December 2017, DHA will check the foreign national’s biometric fingerprints, which are recorded digitally at the Visa Application Centre (“VAC”) at the time of submission of the application, against the SAPS CRC’s database to check for any recorded criminal convictions in South Africa.
An additional fee of R175.00 (including VAT) will be levied by the VAC per applicant for the service.
Employers can plan for reduced document procurement times for in-country visa and residence applications.
Foreign nationals who suspect they might have a criminal conviction should contact their Newland Chase immigration specialist to establish the exact recorded conviction and its potential impact on the application.
For advice and information on immigration to South Africa in general, please email us at email@example.com.