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:
- Work experience report
- Job description
- 2 reference letters from your current or past employer highlighting your skills
- Certified copies of your degree certificates and transcripts
- Certified copy of SAQA for all your foreign degrees, starting from the lowest
- 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.!