Starting the visa countdown

After months of work, my journey to South Africa is about to begin.  The next month will include a host of activities: submission of my visa application, shipment of my furniture, sale of my home, visit with Colorado State, sale of my car, celebration of my 42nd birthday, and then departure for South Africa.

I’ve included a picture of my nearly-complete DHA-1738 application.  Last year, South Africa enacted a law that requires anyone needing a visa to submit their application in-person at a consulate. As a result, I will need to fly to New York, home to the consulate that serves Tennessee.  The DHA-1738 is quite complex.  I’ve constructed an index to help me track all the documents it includes:

  • DHA-1738 form
  • Passport valid for at least 30 days after expiry
  • Passport photos
  • Fingerprints
  • Medical Report (BI-811)
  • Radiological Report (BI-806)
  • Divorce Decree
  • FBI Clearance Certificate
  • Flight Itinerary
  • Fee of $127 money order
  • Proof of Financial Means
  • SUN Letter of Responsibilities
  • SUN Position Specification
  • SUN Appointment Letter
  • SUN Letter confirming exceptional skills
  • Prior Employer Testimonial Letter 1
  • Prior Employer Testimonial Letter 2
  • DLT Proof to Substantiate: Publication title pages
  • DLT Proof to Substantiate: Academic CV
  • DLT Letter of Motivation
  • Department of Science and Technology Letter
  • SAQA Evaluation

A word of explanation might help!  I am applying for a “Critical Skills” Temporary Residence Permit.  A citizen of the USA can travel to South Africa for tourism without a visa, but I will be taking a job there, so I must have a visa.  A TRP can last up to three years, after which I will need to renew or to acquire a permanent residency permit.  The “Critical Skills” route is a new one from the 2014 law; it merges the “Quota” and “Exceptional Skills” permits.  One must be careful in acquiring a DHA-1738 form that reflects the new law.  Many consulates still offer the bi-1738 form that preceded last year’s law on their websites.

Almost any police precinct in the United States can produce fingerprints, but only one precinct in Nashville (at Madison) has the standard form on-hand to produce completed fingerprint cards.  One of my colleagues was compelled to acquire the form via eBay before visiting his precinct.

The medical report required many vials of blood from me, but my doctor was able to certify that I’m not carrying anything nasty to South Africa.  The radiological report was to check for the presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in my lungs.  South Africa has quite enough in its citizens to be importing it.

In many cases, immigrants to South Africa are bringing family members with them.  As a result they want documents that verify the relationship status of their immigrants.  Their 2014 rules for people bringing children into the country are challenging in an attempt to prevent human trafficking.  I have neither children nor spouse, but I needed to document that for them.

South Africa wants to protect itself against the immigration of people with bad habits, and so I was required to get an FBI report based on my fingerprints and social security number.  Working with MyFBIReport.com made that process reasonably painless.

I had expected to pay the $127 fee for this visa application with my credit card, but the website specifies I need a money order.  I had never acquired one of those before, but it was painless.  I just walked into my bank and purchased one for that amount.  The website doesn’t specify who the recipient of those funds should be, but I can fill that in when I get there (at the risk of losing the money if someone takes it from me).

The “Proof of Financial Means” is my documentation that I can support myself after I arrive in the country.  South Africa hopes not to gain more empty mouths through the visa process, so I included a financial statement that I think will take care of this concern.  Similarly, the institution hiring me (abbreviated SUN) was required to certify that they would pay the costs if the government decided to deport me!

Happily, SUN also provided letters that attested to the skills that caused them to hire me.  A couple of letters from my previous university joined in that refrain.  After that, it was my turn.  To prove I had critical skills, I decided to print the first page of every research article for which I had served as first or last author.  Happily I had PDFs for 27 of those 28 papers.  My CV helped to round out the picture, showing invited talks, student training, scientific association membership, etc.  My “Letter of Motivation” was a two-pager that explained why I see such potential to broaden the impact of my research in South Africa.

Rounding out the packet is a letter from the South African Department of Science and Technology, which is funding three of the five years for my contract.  We had planned a critical skills letter from SACNASP, but the delays they incurred just to decide whether or not I could be a member caused us to opt for the Department of Science and Technology route, instead.  The South African Qualifications Authority, however, was still quite necessary.  Their verification of my undergraduate and graduate diplomas was a required element for the Criticial Skills visa application.

At this point, all I need to submit the application is my flight itinerary.  SUN is completing its purchase now.  I plan to depart the United States on November 22nd, 2015.  To achieve that date, I must submit my DHA-1738 application at least four weeks before that date.  Wish me luck!

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2 thoughts on “Starting the visa countdown

  1. Pingback: Whatever happened to SACNASP? | Picking Up The Tabb

  2. Pingback: Should you leave the United States? | Picking Up The Tabb

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