Visa Overstays and the Appeal Process

Visa Overstays and the Appeal Process

You must constantly check and be aware of the expiration date if you have a visa from the South African Department of Home Affairs. If you plan to stay in South Africa for a period of time longer than allowed by your visa, you must either file for a renewal of the visa 60 days before it expires or depart the country before your visa expires. Serious repercussions follow failure to do so. The Immigration Act of South Africa specifies this, and a person can be charged for a criminal offence and banned from returning from the Republic. 

New immigration laws were adopted by the Department of Home Affairs in 2014, and they effectively ban foreign people who overstay in the Republic from returning for a predetermined amount of time. According to South Africa’s immigration laws, anyone who stays in the country after their visa has expired would be labelled as an “undesirable person” in terms of section 30 of the Immigration Act. When this person leaves South Africa, they will be given a document attesting to their status as a “undesirable” person and they will be marked on the movement control system as a person unable to return to the Republic. This list is provided to airlines as well, to prevent people boarding planes to South Africa if they have been banned, even if it is to transit through the country. 

  • Those who overstay their visa for fewer than 30 days will be deemed undesirable and subject to a 12-month ban. This means that for a period of one year, this person will not be permitted to enter South Africa;  or
  • People whose visas are overstayed by more than 30 days will be deemed undesirable and prohibited for a five-year period. This means that for the following five years, this person will not be permitted to enter South Africa.

Regardless of the cause of the overstay, a person will be labelled “undesirable” and given a ban, regardless of their age. The only way to uplift the ban is once the paperwork declaring you an undesirable person has been received, via email to

You have ten working days from the day you receive your undesirability notice to electronically submit an appeal to the immigration department. This ought to explain the causes of your overstay and explain how it was neither negligent or intentional on your behalf. For instance, a pending application, a medical condition, or a change by an airline could be the cause of an overstay.

The appeal must be supported by documentation, such as your passport identification page, your undesirability letter, and records proving your right to be in the country illegally. If approved, you’ll get an electronic letter informing you that your undesirability status has been uplifted. 

In our experience, the minimum turn-around time for this is two weeks. If no response has been given in this timeframe, it may be worth considering hiring an immigration lawyer to expedite the response through a high court application. 

Contact us for more support and if you need assistance with an application to uplift your undesirability or if you haven’t heard anything about an application you’ve made to uplift your ban.