Dream killers: How South Africa’s flawed visa process frustrates Nigerians

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Dailyechos.comAllegations of incessant visa denials to Nigerians by the South Africa High Commission have continued to mount. ALFRED OLUFEMI writes on the phenomenon and how it has cost Nigerians inestimable opportunities

Abiodun Ahamba, an Ibadan-based nurse had a long-held aspiration to migrate to the United States to practise her profession.

She was close to achieving her lofty ambition and had spent months preparing for the National Council Licensure Examination, one of the prerequisites to qualify her to practise as a certified nurse in the US.

The only challenge was that the global exam has its only Africa centre, where it can be written, in South Africa.

Others, PUNCH Investigations gathered, are spread across Europe, Asia and other continents.

Like many of her colleagues, Ahamba, 30, opted for the South Africa centre due to its proximity to Nigeria and was billed to sit for the exam on July 26, 2022.

To facilitate entry into South Africa, she submitted her visa application alongside the original copy of her international passport to the South Africa High Commission on May 11 and was optimistic that she would get favourable consideration.

She filed her application through Visa Facilitation Service Global, a multinational company that serves as an intermediary between applicants and the commission.

VFS Global, according to its website, is an outsourcing and technology services company for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide and manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-discretionary tasks.

As Ahamba waited with bated breath and watched as weeks rolled into months for her fate to be determined by the South Africa High Commission, the deadline for the exam elapsed.

Not long after, her visa application was declined, thus, putting a death knell on the exam.

While speaking to PUNCH Investigations, Ahamba, who was seething with rage, said she was miffed that despite presenting all necessary valid documents that indicated the purpose of her visa application and its expediency, the embassy held on to her passport without giving any reason until she lost the chance to write the qualifying exam.

The woman said she travelled to Abuja because the commission closed its visa offices in Lagos and Port Harcourt at the time.

She said, “The trip from Ibadan to Abuja to apply for the visa was so stressful. The letter containing details of the exam was attached to my application. The recruitment agency, Adevia Health, wrote a letter informing them that the organisation will accommodate me throughout my stay.”

Opportunity lost

Not only was Ahamba denied a visa, but the South Africa High Commission also failed to return her international passport, prompting her to write an official letter on September 11, to withdraw her application and have her passport returned so that she can apply to other eligible countries for the exam.

Ahamba told PUNCH Investigations that her passport was returned two weeks after, within which time, the Authorisation To Test, a document usually issued after the NCLEX registration to qualify a candidate for the exam within three months, had expired.

A distraught Ahamba said she would have to pay $200 (approximately N90, 000) to get another ATT.

The nurse said her colleagues that applied to the Philippines and United Kingdom were lucky as they were issued visas within two weeks.

“Even if they were refused, their passports would have been returned in good time so that they can find alternatives,” the nurse said.

South Africa Visa bottleneck

For quite some time now, obtaining a South African visa has become increasingly difficult for Nigerians and the processes involved could be metaphorically likened to a camel passing through the eye of a needle.

Visa applications, PUNCH Investigations gathered, are met with delayed responses, by which time, in most cases, the purpose of the visit would have elapsed.

This narrative aptly captured Ahamba’s case and that of others, who have allegedly been unfairly treated.

Based on PUNCH Investigations’ findings, the South Africa visa application website clearly stated that it officially takes between 10 to 15 days for a visitor’s visa application to be processed.

The same term was highlighted on the website of the VFS, as it stated that the timeline given by the South Africa High Commission in Nigeria for the processing of each application is a minimum of six working days.

However, based on the experiences of applicants, upon payment of a non-refundable fee of N32, 671, they are informed that it would take a minimum of 15 working days for the processing to be completed.