Virginia, US
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| Pamela Ganyi

Living The “Immigrant Applicant” Experience

As an immigration expert in Africa, you think you’ve experienced it all, and you do not expect to be surprised by anything related to immigration. This perception changes when you become an “immigrant expert” and experience the immigration process first hand.

Having done your research, you are confident that you know what is required from you in order to reside and work in a country other than your home country. So you prepare your documents and walk CONFIDENTLY into the relevant embassy to submit your application. In your head a speech is prepared in the event that anyone questions you. All you have to do is introduce yourself, not forgetting to mention your profession, and have a little chat with the officials. After all you are colleagues in the line of work, or so you think.

Then reality sets in. After a long drive, documents neatly placed in files, you arrive on a Wednesday only to realise that work permit applicants are interviewed on Thursdays. For some reason, this was not mentioned in the official website of the embassy. Granted, a notice has been posted at the front gate of the embassy, and it is expected that information should have reached you even though you had never been to the front gate of the embassy prior to arriving for submission of your application. So you return home, disappointed, but nevertheless glad that Thursday is 24 hours away which isn’t too bad.

Thursday morning, and you are back at the embassy at 7:30am, speech rehearsed again. You are ushered into a waiting room, pleased at how courteous the security officials are. Work resumes at 8am so a 30 minute wait isn’t bad. You wait for 2 hours, for which there never is an explanation. Then you are informed that work permit applications will only be reviewed after all other applications are tended to. Again, this information was not mentioned anywhere. You know because you’d checked the website in preparation for your application. You are quite disappointed and at this point, anxiety sets in. You wait patiently for another 2 hours, and finally you are called in for your interview. Your documents are reviewed, and you are informed that “additional information/documents” are required. As you can imagine, this “additional information” was not indicated in the website and is requested at the “discretion” of the visa officer. You are now beyond anxious. Imagine that you have to wait a full week for the next Thursday in order to resubmit your application.

A New Insight into Client Experience

All of these experiences give you a new insight into the client experience. You know what it feels like for one who is traveling to several countries and who has to go through the process multiple times. What you know as an immigration expert is that one cannot be prepared enough for logistics and unforeseen changes to the procedures. You may have as much guidance as possible with regards to processes and document requirements, but each embassy operates on its own terms. This knowledge, however, likely will not diminish your irritation at the inefficiency of the process.

Being an immigration expert who has also been in the position of a work permit applicant, my advice to those immigrating in Africa is to expect delays and additional requests for documents. A common expression when it comes to immigration in Africa is “AT THE DISCRETION OF THE OFFICIALS”.

Key Takeaways

Keep in mind, from the onset of your application, that processes change with little or no prior notice and that unregulated requests are normal and often legal. The key to having a quick turn around on your application is to comply with the requests made, no matter how irrelevant these may seem. However, if you deem a request to be unlawful, you should immediately contact your Immigration Service provider to advise and guide you through the process.

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