During the 2010 holiday season, many visitors to South Africa found themselves in the unenviable position of their visitors visa having expired and extension applications having not been approved / processed by the Department of Home Affairs before their departure. This created anxiety, issues on departure and even fines being implemented.
There is little doubt the climate for extensions of visitors visas has improved somewhat since last year and with correct planning and the improvement in the Department of Home Affairs turn around times these issues should now become a thing of the past.
As South Africa enters the season for welcoming our regular long term visitors, affectionately known as “Swallows”, it is worth reviewing the current environment for visitors visa extensions.
For most countries, a 90 day visitors visa is issued on arrival in South Africa at the port of entry, please note there are citizens of some countries that are required to obtain their visa prior to arrival and / or can only receive a visa for shorter periods of time. If you wish to check you situation, you can view the information on the Department of Home Affairs website, contact your local South African Embassy or Consulate or consult with an independent Immigration company.
Should you wish to prolong your stay belong this period, it will be necessary to apply for an extension in South Africa. The period an extension can be applied for is based off of your first visa (that was issued for your entry into South Africa) – if you received a 90 day visitors visa, then a further 90 days can be requested. If you received 30 days, then a further 30 days can be requested.
The current processing times for extension applications are approximately 8 weeks, so it is essential to make your application as soon as possible. The stated time period is that such applications must be made 30 days prior to the expiry of the current visitors visa (although applications have been accepted and approved when made after this deadline).
For those foreigners already planning staying longer than the period specified on their visitors visa, we would encourage you to make an application as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary problems.
Applications can be made in person at your local Department of Home Affairs but be aware this can involve lengthy queues and sometimes more than one visit. Alternatively, you are able to instruct an immigration practitioner to make an extension application on your behalf and negate having to visit the Department of Home Affairs in person as well as ensuring that your application contains all the required documents.
In order to make an application the following will be required:
The appropriate application form – a BI-1739
The relevant Department of Home Affairs fee – currently ZAR450
An amended plane ticket showing your new date of departure (your initial plane ticket must coincide with the original date of your visitors visa expiry date when entering South Africa)
Your passport (valid for at least the date of your intended stay and with at least two clear pages)
A motivational letter indicating why you need the extension
Proof of funds such as a bank statement showing you have sufficient funds for your extended stay.
For applications that are not processed before the expiry of the current visitors visa, it is important to ensure the receipt is kept. Proof can therefore be provided that an application has indeed been made where issues of legal stay in South Africa arise.
For those on temporary residency visa’s (permits) it should be noted that once again extension applications should be made as soon as possible as processing times are currently around 6 – 8 weeks.
For those regular visitors, who have to go through this process each year, it is worth considering applications for temporary and / or permanent residency. This could alleviate the cost and need of constantly applying for visitors visas as well as the peace of mind of knowing you and your family’s entitlement to enter and stay in the Republic.
Contact us for further information regarding visa extensions.