Whatever happened to SACNASP?

When I received my faculty appointment letter in April of 2015, I charted out a path to my South African visa including degree validation by SAQA, a critical skills letter by SACNASP, and a Temporary Residence Permit application to the Department of Home Affairs.  By October, though, I had opted for a critical skills letter from the Department of Science and Technology instead.  What happened?

In brief, acquiring a critical skills letter from SACNASP turned out to be fairly expensive and time consuming.  I need to note that because of SACNASP, I had already encountered a delay with SAQA; instead of validating only my Ph.D. I needed to validate both my B.S. and my Ph.D.  I’ve already written about applying for SACNASP membership.  I submitted my application on July 13th, 2015, along with the fee of 2580 ZAR ($208.29 USD, at the time).  That same day, the researchers in South Africa whom I had listed as referees were contacted to provide their evaluations of my professional standing.  Both of them had responded with their evaluations by July 22nd, 2015.  With my application, fee, and referee reports at SACNASP, all I needed to do was wait for a reply, right?

By August 24th, I had become somewhat anxious.  I wrote to a SACNASP staff member who had responsibilities in writing the critical skills letter process.  She responded on August 25th with this report: “it looks like they have not received the proof of payment hence kept the application pending.”  Naturally, I responded to SACNASP with a terse message that included the proof of payment that they had sent me in July.  I developed a strong “GULP” reflex when I read the rest of the critical skills staffer’s message: “Usually if everything is in order then you should be registered within 3-6 months.”  Considering that I was hoping to fly to South Africa in October at that point, learning that the SACNASP process could linger into 2016 was very disheartening.  The SACNASP employee also pointed out a rather valuable bit of information: “But for applying for critical skills you just need a proof of application for registration which you can ask the registration department to give you after all documents are sent and fees are paid.”  I didn’t need to be a member to request a critical skills letter.  All I needed was to have applied!

One should not think of SACNASP as one approval.  There are two separate applications one must make to go this route for the critical skills letter.  The first is just a membership application, and in my case, it should lead to two separate approvals: first I must be approved for general membership (at their meeting in October, 2015), and then I must be approved for professional membership (at a subsequent meeting in November, 2015).  They anticipated notifying me whether or not I had been awarded professional standing on November 19th, 2015.  The second application is for the critical skills letter.  In a September 21st email, the SACNASP Critical Skills staffer laid out these requirements in applying for this letter:

  1. CV
  2. Work experience report
  3. Job description
  4. 2 reference letters from your current or past employer highlighting your skills
  5. Certified copies of your degree certificates and transcripts
  6. Certified copy of SAQA for all your foreign degrees, starting from the lowest
  7. Proof of Payment for R2810.

That’s right, having paid $200 for the application to become a SACNASP member, I would need to shell out an additional $200 fee to apply for a critical skills letter.  When would that letter be produced?  She estimated that I could have the letter in two months.  If I only received the critical skills letter in November, I would be looking at December as the earliest I could travel to South Africa.

Something else in her message chafed me, too.  I paid my membership application fee in full when I initially applied in July.  During the time that my application had been lying in a drawer, though, SACNASP increased the application fee to 2700 Rand.  If I were to press for a critical skills letter, I would need to pay the 2810 Rand fee, and they were still holding my application in stasis for lack of an additional 120 Rand.

That’s why I decided to forgo the SACNASP route to the Critical Skills letter.  It was apparent that I would incur more delays in my departure if I stayed with that plan.  A letter from the Department of Science and Technology (contributed on September 10th) obviated the need for any letter from SACNASP.

There remained the problem of my SACNASP application being immobilized because they’d changed the fee since I initially applied.  At this point, SACNASP membership seemed somewhat moot.  My friend Gerard, though, kindly kicked in 120 Rand so that they would move ahead with my application.  On December 3rd, 2015, I received email congratulating me for being registered as a Professional Natural Scientist in the field of practice Biological Science.  The certificate (appearing in the photo) was the first mail I received at my university mail box.

At long last, I have become Prof. David L. Tabb, Ph.D., Pr.Sci.Nat.!

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29 thoughts on “Whatever happened to SACNASP?

  1. Pim de Laat

    Dear Prof. David L. Tabb, Ph.D., Pr.Sci.Nat.,

    I stumbled upon your blog a couple of days ago while looking for examples/experiences with SACNASP and really liked the detailed descriptions. It is nice to see you finished your SACNASP procedure. I am preparing my application in order to obtain a critical skills letter and was wondering if I could also obtain a letter from the department of science and technology instead? Do you have any idea if that is possible without having a position in SA? And if so how to obtain one?

    Many thanks in advance,

    Pim

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    1. dtabb1973 Post author

      Hi, Pim. I am glad you like the blog! I had the option of a letter from the Department of Science and Technology because they are paying a part of my salary through a Medical Research Council grant. My mentor at my new university had gotten DST’s agreement to provide funds, and that resulted in both my appointment letter from the school and the critical skills letter from the government office. If DST were not providing funds for my position, acquiring the letter from them would have been much harder. If you are currently working in research in another country, it is possible that a program officer for your current funding organization will have a contact in a government office here. Still, I think this critical skills visa option becomes much, much harder if you do not already have a job awaiting your arrival. I wish you good luck!

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  2. Kay

    Good day

    Thank you for your blog it has been helpful as i am trying to embark on the same process. I however, would like to know what the reference letters should entail. I am currently working in a law firm and am struggling on how i can explain to my referees what is required for purposes of the reference letters

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    1. dtabb1973 Post author

      Hello, Kay. I have filed many letters on behalf of people immigrating to the United States, but I have less experience doing the same for South African immigration. My letter from DST was a pretty straightforward one-pager. The key phrases didn’t immediately leap to my eye. If you’d like to discuss this, I would suggest writing to dtabb1973 over at gmail. Thanks for reading the blog!

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  3. OKEZIE RAYMOND NWOSU

    Goodday, thanks for you blog as it has reassured me that am also on the right track,I however have completed my SAQA evaluation for my bsc (geology) and msc degrees(sedimentology and petroleum geology),I also hav been granted members of the geological society of south africa GSSA but my SACNASP evaluation they say is still ongoing stating that they are yet to receive feedback from professional advisory comittee for geological science which incidently has already granted and sent to me my membership registration number/details.I am really hoping that I finish my SACNASP registration just like you did.thanks once again.

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    1. dtabb1973 Post author

      I am glad the blog has been useful to you! Yes, every step of the process feels like it should be faster than it is. I had to counsel myself to patience any number of times. In the end, I think it will be worth it, as it was for me! Good luck.

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  4. OKEZIE NWOSU

    Thank you for your reply., am happy to inform you that I finally received my certificate and visa.please where would you advice that I reside in southafrica as a geologist in terms of job opportunities and cost of living

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    1. dtabb1973 Post author

      Congratulations, Okezie! If you want to work professionally as a geologist, I should think that Gauteng is the best option simply because of the extensive mining activities taking place there and the commercial development of that area. If you were more interested in working in academia, you’ll find universities in any major city (and even some smaller cities: see my post on Kimberley https://pickingupthetabb.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/in-search-of-diamonds-at-kimberley/). Geologists are probably needed in connection with dam construction; I should think that the areas abutting Lesotho might be interesting for that. Your new professional society may be able to extend some more useful pointers. My familiarity is mostly with biomedical research, instead! Good luck!

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  5. Kavonje N

    Hello professor.
    Thank you for sharing your experience with SACNASP. I am in the process of applying for a critical skills visa and currently looking for the needed documents. My main problem is with SACNASP as I have read that it may take 3 + months to be confirmed as my job offer may lapse (this is assuming they grant me membership). Like in your case, I will need to submit my BSc qualification to SAQA again( My MSc was evaluated last year as I didn’t know that the body would need all foreign qualifications). Since I already have a job offer, might it be easier to seek if I can get a letter from DST or a relevant department? Thanks.

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    1. dtabb1973 Post author

      Hi, Kavonje. Yes, SACNASP can take quite a long time, especially if the schedule of their meetings is out of phase with your request for membership. At least South Africa is now emerging from the month when nothing happens due to the holiday season! I was able to get a letter from DST because the government was providing funds directly to the university to hire me. It may be somewhat more challenging if the relationship is less direct. The SACNASP process seems to be a workable route, but it does take time. Remember that you can apply for the critical skills letter as soon as you apply for membership; you need not wait until you are accepted as a member before applying for the letter. Acquiring the letter from a government office is a faster route, but it is not open to all. Good luck!

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      1. Kavonje N

        Dear professor,
        I have another question and would appreciate your help. From the SACNASP website, we have fields of practice and another document with the specific professions that qualify for critical skills letter. My field of expertise doesn’t lie under the critical skills list (given by SACNASP) but is one of the fields of practice, and I was wondering if I may fail to get the letter on these grounds? My field is statistical science.

        Thanks.

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  6. dtabb1973 Post author

    I would be astonished if statistical science failed to qualify as a critical skill. Stellenbosch University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences has been trying to fill statistics positions in our Center for Evidence-Based Healthcare for a while, and the availability of candidates is a tremendous limitation.

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  7. Charles

    Thanks professor for such insights l have applied membership as well as critical skills with SACNASP in the field of materials science. I did my application end of October and submitted all the requirements. I phoned them this week when is my qualifications are going to be assessed they said on 20/01/2017.I need to know soon after assessment how long does it take for them to issue you with a critical skills assessment certificate.My field is in the plastics and rubber technology l am a holder in Diploma in plastics and rubber technology from abroad and B-Tech in Polymer technology (Tshwane University). Moreover my Quota permit renewal was put on hold by home affairs thy need this certificate.

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    1. dtabb1973 Post author

      Hi, Charles. Since I did not, in the end, pursue the critical skills letter from SACNASP, I cannot really answer from experience. The membership process seems to relate most strongly to when the committee holds its meetings. The critical skills letter process, though, seems almost entirely independent. You would have to ask the office about the timelines for letter creation. I am sorry I have no specific information to offer. Good luck!

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    1. dtabb1973 Post author

      Hello, Adetunjizion! To answer your question, I looked at this brochure: http://www.sacnasp.org.za/files/13/Information%20Brochure/137/Description%20of%20Categories.pdf. For someone with a four-years B.Sc or a B.Sc. plus Honours or even a B.Tech, , SACNASP recommends three years of experience in the field applied for. They also state that they prefer experience in a position of responsibility. By contrast, they expect only one year of experience after a three year Bachelor’s for the “Certificated” level of membership (and they still prefer experience in a position of responsibility). I hope that is useful to you!

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  8. adetunjizion

    Dear Prof, thanks for the previous response. Do you have an idea if there is restriction on the categories applied for I.e professional, certified,candidate when applying for a critical skill visa. For example would there be a restriction for me if I apply as a professional natural scientist and get a member ship and critical skill letter to apply for a critical skill visa as compare with candidate natural scientist category

    Secondly,how long in total is the current average Processing time for registration, membership and critical skills
    Thirdly,do you suggest being an educator of science subjects (biology and chemistry) as a relevant work experience for a BSc biochemistry?

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  9. dtabb1973 Post author

    Hi! I looked at the critical skills visa page for SACNASP.(http://www.sacnasp.org.za/new-submissions/critical-skills-visa.html). I did not see a requirement that the professional category was required, though I should think it would help. The PDF link at the bottom of that page, though, outlines particular skill sets that are eligible for critical skills letters. I would make sure that my registered skill set matched one of those on the list.
    Teaching is obviously very important, but I do not see science education singled out for their roster of specialties. If you are teaching biochemistry at a university, I think you will have a better claim than if you are teaching high school biology and / or chemistry. If you are serving as a research assistant or lab manager within a biochemistry department for a university, that would probably be stronger still.
    The registration process can take months, as was true for me. You can apply for the critical skills letter as soon as your application is filed, I decided to go another route for my letter because the SACNASP process was so time-consuming. I would ask someone at SACNASP what their schedule of meetings is for the next few months since that will guide you in preparing your application. If you are coming to South Africa to join a research institution as an instructor, you may want to see if the funding agency can write you a letter.

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  10. adetunjizion

    Dear Prof thanks for being really kind. So, I did try to register for the Sacnasp professional natural scientist category but unfortunately, I was told that I do not qualify due to my lack of relevant work experience, as such, I would also be unable to qualify for a critical skill letter which was very vital for my critical skill visa application. I was wondering however, if you know any other accredited professional body for biochemistry in southafrica that would suit me fine and infact qualify me for a critical skill letter. I do hope to hear from you as soon as possible

    Kind regards

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  11. dtabb1973 Post author

    Hi, Adetunjizion. I am sorry to hear that SACNASP will not be a viable option for you. I am glad, at least, that they were able to give you a concrete answer in a timely way! I might suggest that graduate studies are a viable option for you to enter South Africa, if you opt for a Master’s or Ph.D. program. This year’s Master’s students must register by March, so I think you would need to plan for 2018 (or the latter half of 2017, if that is an option). If you are from a SADC nation, the visa would be relatively straightforward. I think the problem you will encounter with the Critical Skills visa is convincing the Department of Home Affairs that your current skill set is critically needed in South Africa. DHA tends to put an emphasis on diplomas and other certifications. I thought SACE, the South African Council for Educators, might be a possibility, but they seem to be entirely focused on qualifications for domestic teachers.

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  12. adetunjizion

    Dear Prof,
    Do you perhaps have an information on the possibility of registering for two programs; a postgraduate diploma in education and a non degree purpose application?

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    1. dtabb1973 Post author

      Hi, Adetunjizion. I have not handled paperwork for a student visa, but I think those may be somewhat easier to acquire since the school to which you have been accepted would assist in the application. The Temporary Residence Permit for Critical Skills is a non-degree application; it presumes you already have training for an occupation on the critical skills list.

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  13. adetunjizion

    Dear Prof,
    I think I should rephrase my question this ways sir,
    Do you perhaps know if it is possible to register for two programmes in Southafrican university systems? For example a postgraduate diploma in education in a university and a non degree purpose programme in another university both in southafrica

    Thank you sir.

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    1. dtabb1973 Post author

      Degree-granting university programs are sometimes jealous of your time, since pursuing an advanced degree is generally a full-time occupation. In addition, being enrolled for a degree at a university generally gives you access to a broad array of coursework outside the program in which you’re pursuing your degree. As a result, I don’t really see what being enrolled in a non-degree program in addition to a postgraduate diploma would gain atop the benefits of being in a degree-granting one. I don’t think what you’re asking is impossible, though. I just think the degree program is likely to ask you _why_ you also need to be enrolled in a non-degree one.

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  14. Yanano

    Hi Prof,
    Thanks for this insightful post on the SACNASP process. I applied for my SACNASP certification sometime last year and I have just received confirmation that I am now a SACNASP registered scientist. I now want to apply for a critical skills visa. Does this mean then that I have to apply for a critical skills letter separately.

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    1. dtabb1973 Post author

      Yes, I believe that’s accurate. As, I understand it, membership in SACNASP is a separate application from the critical skills letter application. There’s also a separate charge for requesting that letter.

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  15. Lynette

    Hi Prof
    I know I’m so late but just stumbled upon this post, hope you will assist. I applied for a critical skills through the SA embassy back in my country last year, got it and moved to SA in Dec last year. I had used Saafost, which is an association for food scientist, as the board and it worked. But now that I’m in SA for the extention of my crit skills visa they require SACNASP, no chance of running away from the exorbitant fees now 🙂 I submitted my application in June they said the certificate will be out in Sept. My question is would you have any idea if the letter you mentioned really works to renew the permit, the one SACNASP gives you saying you have applied and are awaiting your registration to be approved? Because my permit expires end of Aug and I’m thinking of going to VFS to renew my permit using that letter before it expires. But also if they reject it and need me to submit the SACNASP certificate…an appeal takes 8-10 months to be processed. Just want to get it right the first time.

    Thank you for your post. It’s the only one I’ve come across that’s close to what I’m experiencing.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. dtabb1973 Post author

      Hi, Lynette. Actually, I think this process is different than you understood (sorry for causing any confusion). What I was saying is that you can start the process of acquiring a critical skills letter from SACNASP as soon as you can demonstrate that you have applied for SACNASP membership, not that you can apply for a TRP on the strength of an application to SACNASP. I do not believe you can apply for a TRP solely on having applied to SACNASP, though. My friend Gerard mapped out this path through SACNASP for me. I decided to keep renewing my SACNASP membership fees now that I am a member just in case I ever need to rely upon a critical skills letter from them, though it does cost money every year.

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