Answer to a question from a reader

I applied for a spousal visa in October 2018 in Harare. I'm still waiting for Home Affairs and/or VFS to process my application. What can I do?

The short answer

You could take the Minister to court to compel him to issue the permit on the basis of an unreasonably long delay, but this could be costly.

The whole question

I applied for a spouse permit in October 2018 in Harare, via VFS. To this day, I have not received an answer why my application has not been processed.

It has been seven months and we're still waiting. We are trying to document ourselves and we're not being documented.

Is there a way of escalating this issue to the Minister of Home Affairs? I understand that students complained and their voices where heard and their permits were processed. Is there any recourse for the rest of the permit applicants. We feel left in the dark and placed on hold.

I'm stuck in Harare, Zimbabwe. I cannot be with my wife and family in South Africa. Its fast approaching one year and nobody can provide me with information as to what's going on.

The long answer

Thank you for your email about the seven month delay in processing your spousal permit. It must be extremely frustrating to have to wait so long to join your wife and children in South Africa.

We're afraid your complaint about the unacceptable delay in processing your spousal permit application is a very familiar one to us: many people are experiencing unreasonably long waiting periods and in most cases.Home Affairs fails to give any reason for the delay.

This year, Home Affairs had to be subpoenaed to appear before the Human Rights Commission to answer questions about the long waiting times to process applications. Home Affairs said they were severely under-resourced; they had only 22 adjudicators to process applications nationally, and so there was a huge backlog.

They said that usually the department would take about eight months to process an application, but they were thinking of extending this to 18 months because of the backlog. They do not have an automated system to update information, apparently, but are looking into this.

We could not find any reference to the students you mentioned in your email, whose permits were processed after they had escalated their complaints to the Minister, but generally, a person is able to appeal to the Minister after an application has been rejected by Home Affairs.

You could also take the Minister to court to compel him to issue the permit on the basis of an unreasonably long delay, but unless there is a lawyer who is prepared to take on the case without payment on the basis of it being in the public interest, this would be costly. As a new Minister has been appointed after the 8 May elections, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, perhaps things may begin to improve.

  • The Home Affairs website ( gives this HOTLINE number to ask about the status of your application: 0800 60 11 90, and these are their head office telephone numbers:

  • DHA Head Quarters. Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa. Phone: 012 406 2500.

  • Contact Centre. Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa. Phone: 0800 601 190.

Wishing you all the best.

Answered on June 6, 2019, 4:02 p.m.

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Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.