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Expired visas and permits are not always spotted by looking at the date.

Many foreigners with all kinds of visas and permits in South Africa simply do not take the necessary steps to make sure that they remain valid. And by this, we are not talking of a visa that simply expires because it reaches its “valid until” date. Due to the immigration act’s various regulations, there are many other ways that a visa can become expired and even more ways that one can actually “default” on one’s specific and relevant visa terms. Here are some of them.

Relatives Visas and ending your relationship
Many South Africans are in permanent relationships or marriages with a foreign partner. That person is likely on a “spousal visa” or “life partner visa“, both of which are a type of Relatives Visa. The fact remains though that this visa is granted on the basis of that permanent relationship existing. Once if fails to exist, the visa’s tenets are undermined and it is immediately invalid. Thus, if you end your marriage or break up with your life partner, you are required to report to Home Affairs or leave the country. You may be granted an opportunity to apply for a new visa based on new grounds, if you qualify somehow (e.g. you work in SA or run a business, etc). However, in this case you may also be asked to apply from your home country.

Work Visas – what if I resign?
The various types of South African work visas received a revamp in 2014, cutting the main types down to three: the general work visa, the critical skills work visa and the intra-company transfer work visa. The first and third allow you to work for one company only. Thus, if you are on a general work visa for one firm, then resign and find a new SA opportunity to work for, you are required to apply anew. What’s more, you will probably have to return to your home country to do so. Even the critical skills visa sometimes has a company written into the visa itself and it is not always clear if Home Affairs has issued this according to the Act or under special circumstances.

Visa overstays – waiting for the new visa
Since the new rules regarding those who have not yet received new visas (timely applied for) by the expiration of their current visas, many people have overstayed. This is simply setting oneself up for disaster. While some complain that they have no choice, should you overstay while waiting for your new visa, any number of tragedies could occur to you. Firstly, Home Affairs (or another government body) could find out about this and in effect have you deported with a hefty ban on returning. Secondly, your bank could notice and freeze your account, since without a valid visa you cannot hold a bank account in SA. Another reason (but definitely not the last reason) is that your visa application may be rejected and you will be left with an expired visa in your passport and no choice but to leave SA and receive a ban.

When you think of the things at stake, is it not necessary to make absolutely sure that you are complying with both the immigration laws of SA as well as the terms on your specific visa?

The writing on the wall is clear – make very sure you understand what your visa type in general allows you to do and whether there are specifics to your actual visa issued in your passport. Also investigate what would happen if something changed and you had a different situation, a different employer or if you suddenly had to travel. All these things (and more) can automatically create a visa nightmare for you and potentially your loved ones.