The idea of living in a foreign country sounds quite adventurous for many people, but in a time of isolation it can become frustrating and near impossible to access certain essential services.

Moeketsi Seboko, Immigration Manager at Xpatweb, says under normal circumstances the most common headaches South African expatriates are experiencing relate to civic affairs.

It includes services that relate to applications for unabridged birth certificates, death certificates, police clearance certificates and passport and identification documents.

The introduction of safety measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease makes it near impossible to access these services, says Seboko.

There are several checks and balances and security measures to ensure that when someone applies for a birth certificate, or for an identification document they comply with all the stringent verification processes.

This is needed to safeguard the systems and to satisfy the South African government that the person is indeed a South African.

“That is why the process (even under normal circumstances) tends to be more protracted when applying for these documentation,” notes Seboko.

The general practice for South Africans living abroad is to visit the South African embassy in the country they are living in. They submit the applications through the embassy to the Department of Home Affairs in SA for issuance.

“We have received notifications that most of the embassies in foreign countries are closing due to the spread of the COVID-19 decease and the safety measures taken in those countries to contain the spread of the virus.”

Seboko says this has exacerbated the situation. However, if people find themselves stranded most embassies will have emergency numbers where South Africans can call on for assistance.

He says they have found that it is generally impossible to get an application that is currently pending through the system. However, where there is a compelling case to be made Xpatweb is able to engage with the relevant embassy to request intervention.

In terms of the applications for unabridged birth certificates we have advised our clients to complete the forms and to send them to us.

“We will facilitate with the submission of the documents in SA. Once they have been issued we can courier it back to them. The same applies to applications for police clearance certificates.”

However, in terms of passports and identification documents the process requires the individual to have their fingerprints and photos taken.

If these applications have already been submitted at the embassies and send to the department’s head office, we can laisse with the department to request them to expedite an application, or we can follow up on where the applications are in the process.

“We are all being affected by the impact of the coronavirus and this has interrupted many people’s livelihood. Where possible, people should stay put and not make any travel arrangements, unless it is an emergency,” advises Seboko.

It is important to stay healthy and to observe the protocols issued by the different countries. If there is the need for more clarity or urgent assistance, we are available to assist, says Seboko.