Effective immediately, The South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has issued a new policy circular making significant changes to the validity period of all visas, the rules for visa transfers and rectifications, and the appeals process for rejected applications. Some of these changes represent significant departures from past practice and have immediate impact – particularly for current visa holders already in South Africa.
Visa Validities May Not Exceed Passport Validity
In a change of potentially immediate concern for companies, foreign employees, and their families, the DHA will no longer accept applications for the transfer of a visa if the applicant’s passport is already expired. Going forward, new visas will not be issued for a validity period exceeding the applicant’s passport expiration date. However, if a visa is issued with a validity that exceeds the passport’s validity, the DHA will now consider it as issued in error and withdraw the visa entirely.
As the rules already require that foreign nationals’ passports be valid for at least 30 days after the time of departure from South Africa, the maximum possible validity period for any visa is now the validity period of the passport minus 30 days. Under these new rules, if foreign nationals are in South Africa within 30 days of their passport expiring, their visa will be considered withdrawn or expired, and they will be liable for an overstay, resulting in a one-year entry bar.
In addition, foreign national visa holders currently outside of South Africa should take note that the previous practice of entering South Africa with two passports – the expired passport containing the valid visa, and a new passport without a visa – is no longer permitted. Therefore, they should renew their passport before applying for their visa if the expected visa validity period will extend beyond 30 days before their current passport expires.
New Restrictions for Transfer of Valid Visas
As visas cannot outlive the validity of the passport, the DHA has also issued new regulations regarding the transfer of visas to a new passport. Thus, the DHA will now only accept applications to transfer visas from an old passport to a new passport under one of the two following conditions: (1) the passport containing the valid visa is lost, stolen, or damaged, or (2) the passport containing the visa is full and there are no blank pages available for the holder to travel. Again, under these new rules, the visa cannot be transferred if the passport has expired. While there is no government fee, a VFS service fee of ZAR 1350 will be charged for all visa transfers.
Rectification of Visa Errors
The DHA will now only accept applications for visa rectifications under one of the following conditions:
- The name of the applicant is spelled incorrectly or not captured correctly from the application form;
- The visa category is captured incorrectly and is not the same as that applied for in the application;
- The visa reference number is incorrect and does not correspond to the reference number given when the application was accepted; or
- The visa issue date or expiry date do not correspond to the correct validity period for the visa type for which the holder applied.
For visas issued by South African overseas consular posts, rectification can only be made after receiving an email from the consular post confirming the visa’s authenticity. There are no government or VFS fee for applications for visa rectification.
Appeals of Rejected Applications
The DHA will now only accept appeals from decisions rejecting visa applications if submitted in-person within 10 business days at a VFS office after payment of a ZAR 1350 service fee. Acceptable grounds for appeal include:
- Mistakes by the adjudicator;
- The application was rejected based on the wrong category;
- The adjudicator claimed that required documents were missing from the application, but the applicant believes all required documents were provided;
- The application was rejected based on grounds the applicant believes to be wrongful; and
- “Any other negative reason not mentioned above.”