The Department of Home Affairs has postponed the introduction of an automated biometric criminal records check system, without announcing a new launch date.
The automated system, originally due to be launched on 1 October 2016, is meant to replace hard-copy police clearance certificates. These are currently required for temporary residence visa and permanent residence applications by foreign nationals over the age of 18 who have previously resided in South Africa for 12 months or more.
Obtaining a hard-copy South African police clearance certificate can take several months and severely delay application processing. The postponed system would significantly reduce application processing times.
The planned new system would use applicants’ fingerprints, recorded digitally at VFS visa application centres and checked against a South African police database, with the results sent directly to the Department of Home Affairs for processing. It would not be available for applications submitted outside South Africa.