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I've been in SA for 10 years now, and I'm heading back to Norway with my long-term girlfriend in 2 months. I thought my experiences with home affairs might help someone.

It started off with a 3 year study visa, which was fairly simple to obtain from the SA embassy in Oslo. The lady at the main counter was extremely rude and arrogant and it took nearly 3 months, but overall it was simple with the right documents from the university, student loan facility and a family doctor friend.

After the initial 3 year honeymoon I experience home affairs hell first hand for each subsequent year (I studied for 6 years total, and they only grant 1 year visa extensions). You have to go into the worst part of town and queue for HOURS and face extremely rude and unhelpful staff. Try to print everything out from the home affairs website if you can, otherwise you have to queue for the forms first. Take a note of the phone number and phone regularly to find out if your visa is ready. You'll have to phone MANY times before someone picks up. Some days they don't at all.

Then I wanted to work in SA. Now, I should mention that during my final year at university I worked full-time on the side. You're only supposed to work 20 hours, but companies are generally ignorant of the law, and nobody enforces it. You can still register for taxes, get health insurance etc.

Now my real visa hell story starts. I applied for a "life partner with work" visa 3 months before I finished studying, fully expecting it to sort itself out. It didn't. On the day of my annual trip back to Norway there was no visa, but the home affairs officials assured me that I only needed my application receipt to get back in. This worked out fine, and I had no issues with leaving or re-entering the country. Luckily my employer didn't keep track of the fact that my study visa had expired, and that I was technically working illegally, and I had no issues. 6 months later there was still no visa and I was getting worried. At the end of the year I was going overseas again and the officials admitted the application must be lost and advised that I should reapply.

I did, left the country and this is now 1.5 years later and the same things has happened. I haven't heard anything from anybody and have given up. I just hope that I don't have any issues when leaving on my one way flight in 2 months, but judging by the very casual attitude I've experienced before I don't expect any problems. It obviously helps that I look/sound completely South African....

I think the lesson is that if you really need a visa and you aren't as lucky with your employer as I was you should cough up and pay an immigration agency. Otherwise your application will bet lost and you'll spend countless horrible hours in the most horrible building in South Africa that you'll never get back.
 

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Unfortunately, andysor, even if you use services of an immigration agency there's NO guarantee they won't lose your application... Agencies usually deal with your local Home Affairs office but all the applications are sent to Pretoria anyway. So they might lose your application over there.
 

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andysor,
using egency may be a bit costly for even nothing ,especially if you don't find a trustworthy one ,you will become their instant income generating material ,otherwise these people of immigration they don't care or mind about how you suffer because it is their advantage and ways of chasing you out of the country so that you dont take thier so called jobs. it look like an indirect ways of keeping foreigners out of south africa. before zuma regime ,geting a permit was 3months latest ,but now days it takes years or never.
 
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