If you have made South Africa your home, whether for a few years or with the intention to stay permanently, one of the worst (immigration) nightmares is being declared an undesirable person. We understand the fears related to this topic and aim to give some understanding to the topic, ways of avoiding being declared undesirable and what to do to uplift a declaration of undesirability.

First, some key information on the declaration as an undesirable person:

  • In the majority of cases we experience, the declaration of undesirability is issued at the airport, to a person leaving South Africa after the expiry of their visa.
  • A person will be declared undesirable for 12 months for overstaying up to 30 days and for five years, for overstaying for more than 30 days.
  • A person who is declared undesirable cannot enter South Africa, obtain a visa or apply for permanent residence.
  • The status of undesirability is also often referred to as being on the “V-List” or “Ban List”.

Avoiding a declaration of undesirability

The key to avoiding putting yourself at risk of a declaration of undesirability is being aware of the expiry date of your visa. At IBN, after assisting with an application, we will continue to keep track of the expiry date and will send a reminder that a renewal will be required well in advance, to allow for the preparation, submission and processing of the application.

If you are a frequent traveler, for leisure or business, and usually obtain a 90-day stamp on arrival, it remains important to check the date the official has noted on the entry stamp, as we have experienced officials issuing less than 90 days from time to time and this can catch you off-guard if you have been planning to stay in South Africa for the full 90 days.

When we receive a call or email from a person who has noticed that they have overstayed their visa, our response is to seek swift, but thought-through action. Depending on the individual situation, we have assisted clients in legalising their immigration status from within South Africa or by providing a letter, to explain the reasons for overstaying to the airport officials upon leaving the country and advising the client of the supporting documents to carry with them to the airport, which may avoid a declaration of undesirability.

How to uplift a declaration of undesirability

Should you be declared undesirably, which in some cases may be unavoidable, this is no reason to panic. The good news is that the status can be uplifted and IBN has a good success rate with such applications.

There are two routes to consider: either an appeal, where the declaration of undesirability was legally wrong, or an application showing a good cause for overstaying.

Our key advice to our clients is to remain calm at the airport and ensure that they are issued with the written declaration of undesirability, to allow for the best possible application for upliftment. From there, IBN can assist in preparing the application to uplift the declaration of undesirability, to enable re-entry into South Africa as swiftly as possible. The application has a fairly slim set of requirements, and the key is either appeal or motivation letter, containing the reasons for uplifting the declaration of the application. We assist clients in writing the appeal or motivation letter, submitting the application for them and following up on the application.

It is important to note that the declaration of undesirability is in the most cases not removed automatically by the Department of Home Affairs after the expiry of the relevant period, but that an application for upliftment must be made. We have therefore also assisted clients, who after having patiently waited for 12 months, learned that they were still on the list that banned them from entering South Africa, to uplift the declaration as quickly as possible and enable them to return to South Africa.

We know and understand that life happens; human error happens. Officials may misinterpret the law or factual situation – all of which can lead to the dreaded declaration of undesirability. Having been in that situation with our clients, we can assure you that in the absolute majority of cases there is a solution to be found, and IBN is there to assist in finding it.

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Written by: Hannah Mminele