Every time I hear this question, I cringe. I will finish my time at my current university on June 30th. Hopefully, my house will have a contract for sale no later than the end of July. But when will I actually pack my household into a shipping container and take flight for my new world? The answer is “I will leave when I have a temporary residence permit (TRP) in place.”
I’ve added an figure that should illustrate the complexity of acquiring my TRP. Until Friday, I had thought I was drawing near the end of the first stage, colored red. SAQA is the South African Qualifications Authority, created just after the first democratic elections in 1994. SAQA ensures that job applicants have the credentials that they claim to possess. Given the variability of educational quality in the world, SAQA also needs to be able to determine if foreign degrees are equivalent to the degrees offered by domestic universities. I am now within a week of verification (hopefully) for my Ph.D., granted at the University of Washington in 2003.
The verification of my degree then passes to SACNASP, the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions. Like SAQA, SACNASP plays a role defined by legislation, specifically the 2003 Natural Scientific Professions Act. Here’s a fun fact: once I’m a professional natural scientist enrolled with SACNASP, I can add “Pr. Sci. Nat.” to my business card! SACNASP plays an important role in the Temporary Residence Permit because the organization is able to write Critical Skills attestation letters that the Department of Home Affairs recognizes. On Friday, I learned that SACNASP needed to verify my 1996 Bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas (via SAQA). Had I realized this before, I would have included that diploma and transcript in the original set of documents I sent SAQA. Instead, I am looking at another month of lag time to get the fees in place and the right documents to the right people, followed by an indeterminate interval in which SAQA mulls the paperwork.
Hopefully, the above has explained why I don’t know when I will leave for South Africa. My first clear look at the date of that departure will come when I buy a flight ticket for South Africa with at least four weeks of lead time. This will happen just before I send the full set of documents for the BI-1738 to the Department of Home Affairs. It seems certain that I’m at least a couple of months from the time when I get to buy my flight to South Africa!