How to protect yourself from being detained as an illegal foreigner

In an attempt to tighten national security in South Africa,  Minister Gigaba has been a strong acting force in having the department raid various businesses around the Western Cape, looking for undocumented workers (once again). According to one article, as many as 25 illegal foreigners are being picked up daily, from various places in the Western Cape. You can read more about the raids here. See a video of the operations which took place last year under the name operation fiela here.

To be legal in South Africa, you must have a valid visa in your passport. If you find yourself in South Africa without a valid visa, it is important to have documentation in place to show you are in the process of remedying your status, which may provide you with some relief from an immigration official. Documentation can be in the form of a receipt of application for a new visa (from VFS) or a Form 23, which allows a foreigner status in South Africa pending a good cause application which has been submitted to the Department of Home Affairs.

Given the current safety issues in South Africa, it is not advisable to carry original documentation with you, especially passports. However, it is advisable to have copies of your passport and visa, or at least proof of receipt/good cause application on you at all times. Home Affairs officials are entitled to ask for these documents at any time, and if not readily available, are entitled to detain you for a period of 48 hours whilst your status is verified. Therefore, it is also important that a family member, friend or colleague is aware of where your passport and paperwork is in the event it needs to be brought into SAPS or DHA for verification.

If you find yourself in a predicament where you do not have legal papers or a visa, you can contact us and we can advise you on the best way forward for your particular situation.