International students delayed in beginning the academic year

REFILWE MOFOKENG

A number of international students raised complaints concerning their inability to return to South Africa to commence the academic year as their study VISAs had expired and they were awaiting their renewal by relevant international bodies.

Visa and Permit Faculty Centre (VFS) Global which is an organisation that is responsible for renewing students VISAs had started the VISA renewal procedure and as a result, students had to wait until their VISAs were ready for collection. Due to this process, international students did not start their academic programme on time.

The VFS worked on a first-come-first-serve basis which meant that the renewal of students’ VISAs was dependent on how early they submitted their applications.

The SRC raised this issue on social media to attract the attention of such students. According to the International Students Office on UP main campus, large numbers of students who were unable to come to South Africa were from Zimbabwe and Swaziland.

The International Office also stated that their duty is to ensure that all international students are complying with South Africa’s Immigration Act which stipulates the requirements for studying in South Africa to international students. The office also rejected the statement posted by one of the SRC members that the International office will speed up the VISA renewal process.

The office stated that international students have to apply for the renewal of their VISAs well before the expiry date.

“Last year we invited VFS officials here (UP main campus) to help students apply for new VISAs but of the 150 international students whose VISAs was close to the expiry date, under 100 international students came” said the International Students Office. While most of the blame is placed on the pace with which VSF is handling the renewal of VISAs, part of it is placed on students who apply for such renewals late.

Other factors include late university applications on the part of students which results in them having to submit their applications late. The international student office said “Students must check the expiry date on their VISAs in order to apply on time and avoid complications at the beginning of the academic year”.

According to an Honours Engineering student, Ngonidzashe Mutangara, “My registration process was slightly delayed because I did not have a study permit. After applying for the VISA I was then allowed to register with the receipt from VFS and I was advised that I had till the end of March to send a copy of the VISA on its arrival”. He added that the Faculty of Engineering did offer assistance for a late registration if need be until end of March.

According to SRC representative for Postgraduate & International Student Affairs, Jodie Chikowi, “The international office agreed to register students who had applied for their VISA in South Africa if the students presented proof of receipt. The office agreed to register the student until the 31 March latest without the actual VISA. With regards to international students who did not apply for their VISA in South Africa, they are welcome to contact me and we may be able to sort something out for them also with the condition they have their VISA by 31 March latest”.

Jodie added that, “Most International student[s] know the requirements for VFS seeing as they are the same requirements needed to get a VISA. The only requirements they may not know of is if they want to renew their VISA they have to do it at least three months before the expiration date.

We are working together with the international office to try and get VFS on campus in September so students who need to renew their VISA can do so easily and conveniently”.

  

 Photo: Elmarie Kruger

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