How to get documents
In all immigration, permit and visa applications, numerous documents are submitted by you or on your behalf. Normally, one does not have all these documents ready, and often there isn’t a clear indication as to where one may find them. This means that most people are not prepared, and obtain these documents only after a long wait and thereby postpone their immigration to South Africa.
In comparison with many other countries, South Africa does not actually ask for that many documents. The most difficult to obtain depend on where you are applying from. For example, in many countries, to receive proof of a clean criminal record is a lengthy process. For South Africans, however, this has been reduced to under a week due to a new private company now handling this process.
Tips on obtaining the following documents are given below:
Usually there are not many problems here, since even in developing countries, having your photograph taken and developed is done in under an hour. The trouble comes in when your photo is not the right size or doesn’t fit into the characteristics set out below.
- Two identical colour photos which are not more than one month old
- Photo dimensions: 35mm in width and 45mm in height
- The photo should depict a close-up of your head and the top of your shoulders, so that your face takes up about 70% – 80% of the photo
- The photo must be high quality – no ink marks, creases or damaged
- It must show you looking directly at the camera
- It must show your natural skin colour
- Your eyes must be open and clearly visible – no hair across your face
- Be on a white background with nothing else in the background
Therefore it is important to take these specifications along with you to your photographer or photo-shop. They will be able to print exactly matching photos, so there will be no problems with your application from this point of view.
Medical documents and certificates
Some visas require a medical document confirming your health status on a number of possible conditions.
Make an appointment immediately with your doctor and tell him or her exactly what you need. Often doctors think you need something, but later you realize that they have signed off for a condition slightly different.
An example is having X-rays done to prove that you have no tuberculosis (TB). Telling the doctor here that you require this for an immigration application will enable them to perhaps only take one X-ray and save you time and money.
Any document needing an official stamp and/or signature proving that it is a copy of a certain original, means finding such a person and making an appointment with them. This can take time and cost money. An example is Russia, where very few people can do this, and it does cost. This is opposed to South Africa, where you can walk into a police station and have it done for free in 5 minutes.
Find out on the internet what kind of people have the power to certify documents (often called notaries or a commissioner of oaths). You’re bound to find one close to you, who is often available for a minimal cost.
Banking institutions and other financial companies are very strict and careful in what they will sign and print out, and often this part will require patience on your side. Be sure to take all the relevant proof and identification with you, and be prepared to wait in a queue.
The usual documents are proof of funds and sometimes bank statement. Be sure to get these printed in banking letterheads and not merely on blank white paper. South African authorities rarely accept documents printed out from the Internet, either.
The trick with translated documents is to speak first to your immigration consultancy. They know what the final document needs to say, and often a translator will not translate the correct meaning for what you want to achieve.
Regarding the costs – they can be steep. Usually, immigration to South Africa requires a stamp of a proper translator, so it would be good to phone around and follow this route. Often, however, you can ask a bilingual friend to do it, and then submit both the original and translated documents to be checked and edited by the translator, which is much cheaper.
Some further tips are as follows. Make digital copies and photocopies of all your documents. Keep a flash drive with all your documents on it, whether scanned in or as photos. Firstly, this helps with keeping everything organized, but secondly, in the unlikely even that everything is mislaid, lost or destroyed, you have a perfect copy and can re-apply in a very short space of time.
Get duplicate copies of everything, especially certified documents. When certifying copies of your passport, for example, make 10 copies and have them all certified. You can still use them in future and they are invaluable should your passport go missing.
Some people even send the documents to their online email address, meaning that they have copies on the Internet that can be accessed from any computer, and virtually untouchable by anyone else.
Create a physical file for your application
Everything will go very smoothly when you meet your immigration consultant and they ask for various documents which you have ready for them.
Take your complete file with you and make sure to give them every document they need and a copy too, meaning that you now have three safe places where your documents exist.
All in all, preparing to immigrate to South Africa is easier than most places, so prioritise your documents and choose a good immigration consultant, and you’ll have a smooth process without a doubt!