Heavy hand on visa laws

visa+passportThe current law fines foreigners who outstay their visas.

An amendment to the Immigration Act was gazetted in December and is due to be fast-tracked to become law. It now proposes that a person who overstays their visit to the country, even by one day, cannot get a visa to re-enter South Africa and cannot apply for a residence permit to live here.

They could also be banned for up to five years and appealing any decision or explaining what led to the transgression can take up to 18 months.

This sanction applies to first-time offenders as well.

The proposed law’s proponents argue that fines are not a sufficient deterrent to foreigners who overstay their visas.

Leon Isaacson, managing director of Global Migration SA, said the proposed law was not flexible and did not allow people who overstayed due to an emergency, illness, or by accident to be treated differently to visitors who stayed too long on purpose.

He said last month some Americans could not return home due to heavy snow in the US that led to a cancellation of flights for four days. This meant the Americans remained for four days longer than intended and overstayed their visas.