This information is for those ACP holders who have applied for an Angolan Special Permit (‘ASP’) through VFS. See our press release on this issue here.
* As soon as you receive your ASP permit, please make a copy, for safekeeping.*
1. I have applied for my ASP but I have not received it. What can I do?
VFS will contact you when your ASP permit is ready to be collected at their offices. VFS will call you or they will SMS you. Scalabrini understands that the Department of Home Affairs is issuing the ASP permits in batches. We have been told that Home Affairs and VFS wish to issue all ASP permits by the end of June 2018.
We request that clients ask VFS directly for more information on the collection of their permits. Clients must go to the VFS office in Cape Town, Durban or Pretoria to ask for more information.
2. When will VFS finish issuing ASP permits?
VFS has indicated that they aim to finish issuing ASP permits by the end of June 2018. if you have not had news from VFS by mid-June, please go directly to VFS.
3. I have received my ASP. What do the conditions mean?
There are four conditions attached to the ASP:
1. The right to work and study – this means you can work in any position in any organization in South Africa. It also means that you can work as a self-employed person (run your own business). This means you can study at any school or institution.
2. Cannot apply for permanent residency – this means you cannot apply for permanent residency, however you may be eligible for another visa in South Africa which could have a pathway to permanent residency. If you want to understand if you can apply for a different type of visa, we advise you to consult with a registered immigration lawyer.
3. Not extendable/renewable – this means that the ASP in its current form cannot be extended or renewed. There is more information about this at question 6, below.
4. Conditions cannot be changed – this means that the above conditions (conditions 1 – 3, written above) cannot be changed or altered.
4. There is an error on my ASP permit. What shall I do?
If there is an error on your ASP permit (for example, your name is spelled wrong) you must return to the VFS office where you received your permit as soon as possible and ask how to correct the mistake on the permit.
5. What can I do now?
If you are eligible for another type of South African visa, such as a work or spouse visa, we recommend that you apply for this visa as soon as possible to allow time for the visa to be processed, in advance of the 2021 expiry. You should consult with a registered immigration lawyer to see if this is possible.
6. These permits will expire in 2021. What will happen then?
These applications to permanent residency were ‘exemption’ applications. Under this section of the immigration law, the Minister of Home Affairs has a right to grant the rights of permanent residency for a specified period of time. Home Affairs has not acted illegally by granting this ASP permit. In this case, the Minister decided to grant the right so permanent residency for a period of four years. It is completely up to the Minister of Home Affairs, in 2021, to decide what happens with the ASP permits.
A year before expiry, you could apply for another exemption or consider other visas that may be made available to you at that time.
** A Angolan Committee has been formed. This committee will seek to meet with Home Affairs and the Angolan authorities, with the support of Scalabrini, to discuss Angolan ASP issues. We will communicate more news about this in the future. If you want to apply to be in this committee, please send an email to email@example.com. **
8. I did not apply for an ASP permit. What can I do?
Unfortunately, VFS are closed for ASP permit applications. You will have to see an immigration lawyer to understand what options there are to become re-documented in South Africa.
9. I have an ASP permit. My husband / wife / child is undocumented. What can I do?
Scalabrini is trying to negotiate with Home Affairs a way for undocumented children and spouses of ASP-permit holders to apply for a visa in South Africa. Please check www.scalabrini.org.za for any updates about this matter. At the moment, these spouses and children should apply for a valid passport. If you are able to afford an immigration lawyer to assist you with a study permit for your children, you could choose this option. An immigration lawyer might suggest that your spouse apply for a visitor visa to accompany you on the ASP permit. Alternatively, you can keep checking our website for updates in this regard.
10. I applied for an Angolan passport and it has not been issued. What can I do?
The Angolan consulate deals with Angolan passports. Please keep enquiring with the Angolan consulate about this matter. If your ASP permit is ready for collection, please inform VFS that you are waiting for your Angolan passport and ask them to keep the ASP permit for you, until you are issued your Angolan passport.
11. Can I exit South Africa, and travel, with the ASP permit?
Yes. The ASP permit allows ‘multiple entries’. This means you can exit and re-enter South Africa with the ASP permit.
12. I have had problems with my bank account due to my expired ACP permit. What can I do?
Once you have been issued the ASP permit, your bank should accept the permit and allow you proper access to your account. Please come to Scalabrini (Tuesdays to Fridays 9am) or email firstname.lastname@example.org if there are any issues.
13. I have another question. Who can I ask?
Please email more questions to email@example.com.
14. What is the history behind the ASP permit?
Several ASP permit holders have asked for an explanation of the history behind ASP and how we got to this stage.
During the 1990s, thousands of Angolans sought refuge in the new democracy of South Africa, escaping a devastating civil war that continued for decades. This group of Angolans were granted temporary refugee status by the South African government which was renewed approximately every four years.
In 2012, the UNHCR recommended that, due to changes in Angola, States could cease refugee status for Angolans. Pursuant to this UNHCR recommendation, the South African government, the UNHCR and the government of Angola agreed that Angolan refugees living in South Africa no longer needed the protection of the South African government since the Angolan civil war had concluded and political stability had returned to Angola. In 2013, the South African government announced cessation and between May and August 2013, withdrew the refugee status of Angolan refugees.
The Angolan refugee community – which has integrated into South African society over the last twenty years – was deeply impacted by the possibility of forced return. A 2014 research report by the Scalabrini Centre identified the community’s deep levels of socioeconomic integration and The Cessation, a short documentary, traced the impact of the cessation process on three Angolan refugees living in Cape Town. Aside from the socioeconomic integration of the Angolan community, an entire generation of children born to Angolan parents have never set foot in Angola and know South Africa as their home.
The legal process for cessation involved the withdrawal of refugee status through the issuance of notification to the individual by the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs, to which he or she may respond.
Angolan refugees who had their status withdrawn were provided with three options: voluntary repatriation to Angola, apply for continued refugee status, or apply for a temporary residency visa to remain in South Africa.
The large majority of affected Angolans applied for the temporary residency visa. This came to be known as the ACP permit: a two-year work, study or business permit which was issued under relaxed immigration rules valid from 2013 to 2015. According to the Department of Home Affairs, 2,049 ACP permits were issued in total.
As the expiry dates of the ACP permits neared, it became apparent that ACP permit holders could not extend their permits, due the strict Regulations of the Immigration Act. In May 2014, the Scalabrini Centre began discussions with Home Affairs to advocate for continued legal stay of ACP permit holders, under relaxed immigration conditions, based on their strong ties to South Africa.
The Scalabrini Centre asked Home Affairs to extend these permits or provide permanent residency. However, Home Affairs declined. In October 2015, the Scalabrini Centre submitted an application for permanent residency made on behalf of the entire category of ACP-permit holders. Home Affairs did not respond.
In November 2016, after a year of legal steps and negotiations, the Minister for Home Affairs agreed in an out of court settlement to consider and determine applications for permanent residence in terms of section 31(2)(b) of the Immigration Act for all ACP permit holders. The procedure for this application was set out in a Court Order by the Western Cape High Court.
The Court Order tasked the Scalabrini Centre with receiving permanent residency applications, and was bound to deliver these applications to Home Affairs on 15 February 2017. In December 2016, the Scalabrini Centre opened a receiving centre. This ran until 20 January 2017, at which point 1,776 Angolan applicants had come through its doors. In total, 1,241 permanent residency applications were received at the Scalabrini Centre.
Angolans in other South African cities sent their applications to the Scalabrini Centre via the Legal Resources Centre, Lawyers for Human Rights and the Refugee Rights Centre at Nelson Mandela University. This brought the total number of applications to 1,737.
Angolan ACP permit holders were asked to provide a variety of documents, including police clearance certificates, proof of work, bank statements and proof of integration into South African life. Some applicants submitted applications that were hundreds of pages long, documenting two decades of lives and the Angolan community’s contribution to democratic South Africa.
These applications – bound in 160 files comprising of an estimated 80,000 pages – were delivered to Home Affairs on 15, 16 and 17 February 2017. It took three days to process receipts for the lodgment of these applications.
The Court Order stipulated that the Minister of Home Affairs must issue individual decisions for each applicant by 15 May 2017. An extension was agreed upon and in July 2017, the Minister of Home Affairs decided to grant conditional rights of permanent residency to the entire class, for a period of four years. Conditions included that applicants must submit photos, biometrics, police clearance certificates and supporting documents via VFS. Applicants had until 15 December 2017 to provide the necessary documentation to VFS.