Hi Ozzy (and others)
I've joined this forum just to reply to you as for once I actually have some useful info. I've been reading posts on here for ages and would like to thank everyone for all the great and useful info! So here's my small contribution...
Regarding SA police clearances, it is actually quite easy. There are agents who will help you with this but it can also be done by anyone on your behalf in person in Pretoria, which might cost a lot less.
Ok. So I'm not really sure if I can mention the name of the agent we used here (I could do so if you want). They charged us £170 for myself and my wife, but its £150 for one certificate. This included postage and delivery of all the documents. But as I said, it is possible to get a relative or friend to do this for you for free. the SAPS charge R54 (or R58) per certificate - I forget exactly....
We used the agent as it was easier and they provide great service.
Probably the most difficult thing to arrange will be fingerprints, which need to be done by the UK police (Local to you). We were charged £66.50 each for this service and had to make an appointment to get these. Apparently the SA embassy will not do this for police clearances. I think the price differs slightly depending on which police force...
I have copies of the fingerprint forms and the application form, and would be happy to sends these to you if you like. I think you can email me directly via this website??
SAPS give a guideline of 4 to 8 weeks for clearance certs to come through, but ours took 3 weeks, and a friend of mine who went to america last year had the same experience - 3 weeks.
Another point to note (if applicable), is that by default married womens' maiden names will not be included on the police clearance, unless proof is provided of their maiden names. They accept certified copies of any form of ID (marriage certs, ID document, driving licence, etc) or scanned copies by email.
We sent off my wife's certificate to DIAC without her maiden name, but as we were unsure, contacted the SAPS directly (via an email address i got from one of these forums), and surprisingly, I got a reply within an hour, and was asked to send marriage certificate scan by email. The woman in charge there is very efficient and professional in my experience!
They re-issued my wife's certificate for free and that all took only 1 day! And anyone can collect it as long as they have the right ID number.
But after that, DIAC still accepted my wife's police clearance without her maiden name anyway
So a pleasant surprise as far as South African efficiency goes huh!
Hope this is helpful for you and anyone else who has lived in South Africa.