The Home Affairs Department no longer allows foreigners to travel on expired visas! Under Directive 43, a foreigner could travel across the borders of the country with impunity as long as they presented a receipt from the Home Affairs to show that they were awaiting a change of status or an extension to the expired one. This came out in media reports on Tuesday and they added that there could be a penalty of between two and ten year ban from South Africa if a foreigner is declared undesirable.
According to the Government Gazzette of April 14, section 27 of the new draft regulations to the Immigration Laws states that a foreigner who remains in South Africa beyond the expiry of his or her visa risks being excluded from the country for a period of up to ten years, a sharp and drastic change from the original maximum fine of up to three thousand rands. This is a sure sign that the new minister of Home Affairs, Naledi Pandor intends to really crack the whip and bring in line the troublesome department in terms of acceptance of foreigners. This is again in line with the recent changes to immigration laws that have seen the scraping of change of status of the visa from a visitor’s visa to a working one. The new laws now require that the foreigner who wishes to change their status can only do so from their country, using the many South African embassies there. These regulations came into full force on the first of April.
There has, however, been an outcry both from members of the legal fraternity and the international community in South Africa. According to Tarryn Pokroy Rietveld, attorney at Julian Pokroy Attorneys, the scrapping of directive 43 does not make sense at all as it used to cover the Department which has a reputation of taking too long in processing applications. Lawyers for Human Rights had in the meantime, submitted comments on the new regulations but had not yet received responses. She went on to state that, apart from the publication in the Government Gazzette, the process had not shown any public participation process. Adding weight to these protests, Doctor Paul Semugoma, a Ugandan medical practitioner who was detained at the OR Tambo International Airport for traveling on an expired visa said that these new regulations made little sense because there was no guarantee that the Department would issue the visas on time.
According to the new regulations, overstaying for 30 days will lead to a two year ban while a sixty day overstay will mean exclusion from Mzansi for up to three years. Those foreigners who decide to stay in South Africa for more than three months after the expiration of their visas will face a maximum ban of up to ten years.