Front-Loading: En Route to Acquire South African Life Partner Permit
Did everything really have to be this complicated? And I’m not even at the Embassy yet!
Part one: Written on August 20th, 2018
I am in the last couple days before I leave for Los Angeles from Cape Town, South Africa. My stomach is in knots and I’m depressed about having to leave Jonathan behind (I’m in big trouble if the South African Embassy requires his presence…). But I am determined to acquire a Life Partner Permit so I can stay for 2–3 years in my partner’s home country.
I’ve been working my butt off trying to get everything together that might even be remotely needed. I read dozens of articles on government pages, visa service sites, expat websites, as well as the few and far between forums and personal blogs. Man, is it difficult to find out information about this Life Partner Permit! It’s like they’re just daring you to try to piece everything together correctly, properly, and legally. Some of the aforementioned links don’t even have anything to do with acquiring an LPP but rather just a standard South African tourist visa. But I wanted to know as much as I could about everything involved before I touched down in LA.
I'm Crossing the Ocean for You
A little insight on what it's like to apply for the South African Life Partner Permit
It’s been hectic, but I managed to pull everything together (I think. I assume… I hope). There were a few last-minute snags that I either forgot about or accidentally removed from my to-do list. There was even one I had no idea I was supposed to acquire… A notarial contract. I breezed right over it while I was making my to-do list. I assumed the letters of support would have covered that, since I didn’t understand what it was. Like, what does “notarial contract”even mean? A piece of paper stating that Jonathan and I are in it to win it, stated on a document informing anyone reading it that we live together and are in love? Weird.
“Do You Take This Woman To Be Your Lawfully Notarised Partner?”
I have ten full days in South Africa before I leave for Los Angeles but… What am I missing?
So that was our Tuesday morning this week. The Thursday and Friday prior I madly scrambled around, hunting down attorneys who would be willing to draw up a contract and notarise it for us. Thankfully, there were two attorneys who responded (out of the five I contacted). One of the two proved to be a very informative resource. Tuesday at 11, we rolled up with my passport and Jonathan’s ID and got civil union’d as hell.
Last weekend, I spent my Saturday afternoon labeling 112 photos (that morning I was officially given signing power to Jonathan’s local bank account). I was originally going to print out like 200 photos, but that would’ve just been costing like $80 and a lot of the photos were just repeats taken on the same day anyways. So, what the hell. I’m sure a hundred selfies should be a pretty vivid timeline depicting our love and devotion for each other. Thank god for that private photo album I made on Facebook where I used to just dump all the excess photos of Jonathan and I.
Photos were not officially on the list, but they do ask for documentation supporting your relationship. I also printed out emails between Jonathan and I, my grandmother and I talking about Jonathan, and various screenshots of Facebook messenger conversations to fill out the timeline where there’s a break (we were long distance for several months in 2016) in the selfie pile.
Because they were not officially on the list, I was not exactly sure how I would present the photos. I was certain that I wanted the embassy officials or whomever looking over my application to do as little work as possible. Jonathan helped me write down the exact dates on the backs of all 112 photos. After that, I labeled the first photo of the month (for instance, if there were a photo from July 5th and several more from July 7th, 9th, 12th, etc., I would put the label “July” on the July 5th photo) with a colourful tab on the back, sticking up over the photo. Then I applied another label with the date in neat handwriting on the front of the photo. So, no matter how they look at it, they will know exactly when the photos were taken.
- I got Jonathan’s mother to produce proof of home ownership and sign a host’s invitation.
- I went to the Department of Home Affairs to register Jonathan and I acquiring a civil union.
- Jonathan will be emailing me the PDFs of his bank statements so I can print them out in the States.
All in all, I’m relieved. I am so so so relieved that (nearly) everything is done. I still need to print out a couple bank statements from my side (to prove I have enough funds to purchase a return ticket) and Jonathan’s side (since he is one half of the couple). I will also need to acquire an FBI clearance once I arrive in Los Angeles. I’ve found suitable places that allow me to request an FBI clearance near to where I’m staying. But when it comes to things that I needed to specifically require in South Africa, I am set!
Part two: Written on September 11th, 2018
First things first, I need to clear up a couple points I discussed earlier. The most important thing is that Jonathan and I did not get civil union’d as hell. Even though I spelled things out completely for my oh-so-(not)helpful attorney, he still managed to give us and let us sign the entirely wrong thing. Jonathan was assuming I knew what we needed, and I was assuming that the attorney knew what we needed.
He didn’t know what we needed.
Or if he did, he didn’t draw it up for us. It was a very tiring and frustrating ordeal. We ended up signing a prenup (yes) which isn’t even valid unless we get married in a couple months. Which isn’t happening. Even if we wanted to get a civil union (which, originally, I thought was the affidavit that we needed), it wouldn’t have been physically possible because the woman at the Department of Home Affairs who performs the interviews of foreigners wishing to be legally bound to South Africans was out of town until the Thursday after I left for the United States. What’s more is that she was fully booked up for two months! To be clear, the reason why I thought our attorney was performing a civil union is because our piece of paper literally said “Civil Union” in parenthesis. I wasn’t clued in on the fact that ante-nuptial meant “prenup” because, clearly, I am an idiot. We didn’t learn about the whole interviewer-booked-up-for-two-months thing until after we left the attorney’s office and visited the DHA. Luckily, I easily found the actual notarial contract I needed. I edited it, printed it out, and was able to get it approved by a commissioner of oaths on Thursday, August 30th.
The second thing I wanted to clear up is that the South African Consulate General did not take my hefty stack of 112 hand-labeled photos. They didn’t even glance at them! The lady behind the window said, and I quote, “We don’t need photos anymore”. So perhaps they did use them before, but not anymore. It made me feel like it wasn’t a complete waste of time that way (although, yes, it was still a waste of time).
She did, however, take all my email print outs and the screenshots of my Facebook and Instagram posts about Jonathan. Those were all dated and I hoped they would provide accurate evidence of us being in a loving, genuine relationship. I got kinda antsy because I wasn’t expecting them to only take those screenshots… They were mainly just printed out to fill in the gaps between the photos I printed. So that is one fear my anxiety has latched onto. Another is that we have not actually resided in South Africa together for two years, although we have lived together elsewhere for two years…
So anyways, I got to the consulate around 10:30 AM on Thursday (they opened at 9, closed at 12), September 6th, and was there for about two hours. Thursday was the absolute soonest I could go. I landed on Tuesday (not Wednesday, like I was so convinced was the case), September 4th, and hustled hard on Wednesday. I called up a bank to talk about opening up a business account and made an appointment with them for Friday, located and got to a place nearby that would give me an electronic FBI report (on the same day, which I was not expecting but was amazing and super appreciated!), printed out Jonathan’s bank statements, and acquired various odds and ends I needed to make my stay in Los Angeles more comfortable. Like a laundry bag, some goldfish crackers, and — most importantly — Taco Bell.
At the consulate, I talked with a fellow visa applicant who was excited to be working as a makeup artist on a film shot in Cape Town. He had his application placed neatly in clear sleeves in a binder, which was very impressive-looking in comparison to my messy pages stuffed and organised in half a dozen different brown paper sleeves. We all waited around for a while as people got called one by one to interview in a small room. I was one of the last ones to go in, but I think it went quite well.
One of the things the interviewer told me is that they do not offer Life Partner Permits for more than two years. They are only valid for two years, and can be renewed up to two times. The lady at the front desk had also told me this, and I impressed her with my knowledge about how they only renewed it twice because after five years, I can apply for my permanent residence visa, in contrast to this temporary one.
The only thing I was missing was a flight itinerary into South Africa. I had been planning (but forgot) to print out a flight reservation online, but the interviewer told me that they were looking for “commitment”. So, the more legit my itinerary was, the better my chances were.
“Uh… Would an Expedia flight confirmation work?”
He said it would, and to forward him that email as soon as possible. Once received, my application would begin the processing…process…in 2–3 days. I was stoked! I lost my cool for a moment as I exhaled loudly followed by a very small squeal, confusing the interviewer entirely. “I’m just so happy,” I informed him. “I miss Jon so much…” Not sure if that was the professional thing to say, but oh well. I’m just glad that everything is out of my hands now, and now I just have to hold tight and let my anxiety take the wheel as I wait for my visa outcome.