New visa requirements for foreign nationals awaiting residency in South Africa

By on June 25, 2014

We chat with Zahida Ebrahim, a Director in Immigration at ENSafrica, about the changes the Department of Home Affairs has instituted regarding visa requirements in South Africa.

  • The Department of Home Affairs removed directive 43 of 2010 from the Immigration Regulations in February this year. What is the implication of this on foreigners in South Africa? 

The withdrawal of this directive means that even where a foreign national has an application for residence pending in South Africa, such a foreigner would be fined for an overstay if he attempts to depart from South Africa in the absence of a valid visa.  This is the case even where the foreigner’s application for status was submitted well before the expiry of the existing permit.

  • What did the directive previously state and how is this different to the current directive?

The directive previously allowed foreigners awaiting the outcome of applications for temporary residence permits to leave and to re-enter South Africa on the basis that they had an application pending within the country, by presenting their acknowledgement of receipt from the Department of Home Affairs as proof of the pending application.  Upon presentation of such proof, a foreigner was allowed to depart and re-enter the country even if their permit had expired.  It allowed individuals from non-visa exempt countries to travel and to re-enter South Africa without obtaining a visa. Such individuals were granted a thirty day visitor’s visa upon re-entry.  Although the directive was partially reinstated on 28 February 2014, this partial reinstatement only benefits foreigners who were out of South Africa at the date of its withdrawal by allowing them to re-enter the country.

  • Are foreign nationals included in this directive allowed to work in South Africa? 

Although a visa exempt national is still authorised to re-enter the country provided he/she holds a return ticket and is entering for the purpose of visiting / to await the outcome of the application, such an individual is still precluded from working. Under the partially reinstated directive, a non-visa exempt national will now be denied re-entry into South Africa in the absence of a visa.

  • When will the new changes come into effect?

New immigration regulations were proposed to come into effect on 1 April 2014.  The changes have, however, not yet come into operation and there is no certainty of when they will.

  • What ramifications are there for people who overstay their visa? 

Amongst other proposed changes, the new regulations propose that any foreigner who overstayed their visa for even one day will automatically be declared an undesirable person. The period for which such a foreigner will be prohibited re-entry into South Africa ranges from two to ten years, depending on the length of the overstay.

In light of the dire penalty associated with being regarded as having overstayed one’s visa, no person should travel after their existing visa has expired and every individual should ensure that he/she holds a valid visa when exiting and re-entering the country. 

A visa exempt national may return after the expiry of a permit, but would need to hold a return ticket in order to be landed on a visitor’s visaA non-visa exempt national who attempts to return after their existing permit has expired will be denied re-entry into South Africa.

  • What should foreign nationals be aware of in light of this recent directive?

It has become imperative to allow sufficient time not only for the processing of one’s application for renewal of your temporary residence application, but also for any delays that may be associated with the granting of such renewal. Individuals dealing with such matters must seek advice well in advance of any travel needs which may overlap with residence application processes and / or visa expiry.

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