WITSIES were spared the traditional queues at the Department of Home Affairs when officials came to campus on January 21 and 28 to help foreign students apply for new study permits and renewals.

The officials, from the Johannesburg Regional Office: Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) Division, were on campus for a limited time. International House was so busy that some students were worried they would not get served. However, student reaction to their visits was positive.

Milla Malavoloneque, 3rd year LLB, from Angola, said she was glad to have the officials on campus. “There are long queues in town. So if they come here they will send the visa here and international office will call you. Then you won’t have problems.”

Malavoloneque chronicled the problems she had experienced in the past. “I studied at Dansa International College in Pretoria before coming to Wits,” she said. “When I got a place here I applied for a four-year study permit but was only issued with a 15-day one for my previous school.”

She said she was grateful to Wits International Office as they took care of everything to ensure that she eventually got a permit, which came after a year. “I sat for a year without a visa. I had problems with changing my account at the bank, I couldn’t travel home, and could not get my driver’s licence without it.”

An MSc Engineering student from Zimbabwe, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he feared giving his name would worsen his plight, said he was disgruntled with how home affairs had handled his application for permanent residence.

He was given a five-year quota work permit which had to be endorsed annually. “The first three endorsements went well. In February 2011 and again in 2012, I did not get the stickers to show the renewal of my permit. They kept telling me to ‘come back and check again, it’s coming’.

“After five years here, I now qualified for permanent residence which I applied for. I was told that my PR could not be processed until I got the two endorsements. It’s just that I’m naturally a cool person or I’d be really cross.”

Acting Head of WIO, Gita Patel, said her department invited the Department of Home Affairs onto campus four times in a year, January and February, July, and October.

“The purpose of the drive is to assist the international Wits community (staff and students) to submit their applications for work and study visas,” she said.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 1st edition, 6th February 2013