Virginia, US

Immigration takes time, even in a best case scenario. If immigration takes place into Africa, add a few weeks or at least some uncertainty to the process.

Once a decision has been made to move a foreign national to Africa a number of processes have to start. Relocation will be one: the foreign national will be keen know where he or she will live, where kids will conduct their studies, how to get internet and telephone as soon as possible, and so forth. All in all an exciting time but also a lot of stress. Household to pack up, and a new life to start, all often in just a few weeks.

Somewhere along the line this terribly boring piece of immigration starts. There is a lot of paperwork to organise and authorities to deal with and a process that makes little or, in a worse case, no sense at all. The foreign national starts obtaining the necessary documents and this is already adding stress to the move. There may be a need for official documents that are not readily available like university transcripts, unabridged birth certificates or a police clearance certificate from a country the foreign national lived in a decade ago. Maybe the documents then need to be legalised, another step on the way that can cost time, money and nerves.

But once the documents have been collated the stress isn’t over yet. An application is submitted to the immigration authority of the country the foreign national wishes to go to. In the African context, a lot has been done by many countries to streamline processes. Some countries have introduced online processes. But these do not necessarily work reliably and a lot is still done on paper. With this comes the risk of documents being lost at any stage of the process. Even if the application stays intact, an official with adjudicating power may be sick or on leave, a visa printing machine may be broken and needs to be fixed, internet may not be available for a number of days, public holidays may delay processing beyond an estimated time frame, and many other circumstances may lead to unexpected delays.

All the while the foreign national and his or her family may be sitting on packed bags, with furniture about to be shipped and increasingly anxious and potentially aggravated.

Don’t put immigration processes at the end of the to-do list before an international move! Service providers offer assistance and can, based on years of experience, give guidance on document requirements, steps in the process and processing times.

A few pointers to keep in mind:

  • Acknowledge that a work visa and other permissions are mandatory and not voluntary
  • Never take shortcuts, stay within legal limits, make only receipted payments and don’t give gifts
  • Start well in advance and allow sufficient time to complete the process
  • Don’t pack up any documents before immigration is done
  • Keep copies of everything you submit to authorities


If you need any assistance or guidance, you can reach out to one of our many Fragomen offices globally. For Sub-Saharan Africa reach us via