The Public Protector has ordered the Home Affairs Minister to review the 10-year period to apply for naturalisation and ensure it aligns with the five-year period in the Citizenship Act.
The Public Protector received communication from 18 individuals who complained about the time it took for the department to finalise their applications for naturalisation. She received the complaints between 2014 and 2017.
Some complained about the department of home affairs’ decision to reject their applications for naturalisation on the basis that their applications were made before the expiry of 10 years after obtaining a permanent resident permit.
Others complained of the long period it took before their applications were adjudicated.
One of the complainants stated that he received his permanent resident permit in January 2008. He lodged his application for naturalisation in January 2013. The department informed him that his application was premature.
The eight complainants submitted their applications for naturalisation‚ and the response from the department took between 13 months and 48 months to advise them of the outcome of their applications.
Ten other complainants had waited for between 13 months and 48 months and they had not received the response from the department at the time of lodging their complaints.
The Public Protector‚ in her findings‚ said Section 5 of the Citizenship Act provided that a person may be naturalised five years after being resident in South Africa.
This was in contrast with Regulation 3(2) of the Act‚ which provides that the period referred to the Act for naturalisation is 10 years.
“The Regulations … ascribe a period of ordinary residence as 10 years contrary to the 5 year period specified in the Act‚” the Public Protector said in her report.
She said ten of the complainants had the permanent residence permits and had met the minimum requirement of five years immediately preceding the date of their applications.
“Despite meeting these requirements‚ the (department) disqualified them on the basis that their applications for naturalisation were premature‚” the Public Protector said in her report.
She said the department‚ in adjudicating the applications‚ improperly applied section 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act and said the 10-year period prescribed in the regulations was inconsistent with the provisions of the Act.
In her remedial action‚ the public protector said the minister must initiate a review of the regulations‚ specifically the 10-year period to apply for naturalisation‚ as this was inconsistent with the Citizenship Act. She said this must be done within three months.
She also said the director-general of the department must issue letters of apology to the complainants within 30 days after the issuing of the report.
She said the department must also review the naturalisation applications submitted by the complainants.
She said the director-general must‚ within six months of the report‚ publish standard operating procedures with turnaround times on how long it should take to adjudicate upon applications for naturalisation.
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