It used to be that anyone found guilty of overstaying their South African visa was slapped with a fine of up to R3000. Then, in 2014, the immigration legislation changed and much harsher penalties replaced the overstay fine. These penalties, still in effect today, was an ‘undesirable person’ status and a ban on entering South Africa.
Surprisingly, some people still think that paying a fine is the only penalty for overstaying a visa. You can imagine the chaos these people are dumped into when receiving a ban of up to 5 years.
Visas have expiry dates – adhere to them or apply for an extension
Every South African visa has an expiry date on it. The condition is that you must leave the country on or before this date. If you’d like to continue your stay past this date, you must apply for an extension.
Should an extension application not happen, for whatever reason, your stay in the country will be illegal after the expiry date. In most instances, your illegal status will be discovered during a passport and visa check when you try and leave South Africa. It’s at this stage that you’ll be declared undesirable and receive a ban on entering South Africa again within a specified time frame.
Bans of up to 5 years applied to all offenders
The duration of the ban that’s imposed depend on how long the visa overstay was:
- Less than 30 days: Undesirable status and a 12-month ban from re-entering South Africa.
- More than 30 days: Undesirable status and a 5-year ban from re-entering South Africa.
You’ll only be able to enter South Africa again after the 12 months or five year ban have lapsed.
Please note that a declaration of undesirability and overstay bans are applied to anyone and everyone at border controls. This includes foreign nationals whose existing visas expired while waiting on an extension application’s outcome and – incredulously – even children. Intergate Immigration has come across cases where families were split up! These families then have to endure the anxiety of waiting on the outcome of their overstay appeal before the family can be reunited again.
You may lodge an appeal for overstaying a visa
The Immigration Act provides for the opportunity to appeal a declaration of undesirability and an overstay ban. You must do so within 10 days though.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the outcome will be favourable. To give yourself the best shot at success, work with an immigration lawyer when lodging an appeal.