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I came into South Africa on a tourist visa but while travelling needed to get a new passport (it was stolen), which duly arrived all shiny and empty. Also, I have overstayed a little bit ...

My question is: do the authorities know I'm here and will they know about the overstay given that there is no stamp in the passport? Is there some sort of electronic record of when I entered? And will I have trouble when I leave? I know there's a travel ban for overstaying, but is there jail time or anything like that?

  • From experience in many other countries, seeing people who have overstayed, it's almost always a slap on the wrist or a small fine. But I don't have an official source, so just a comment for now. – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Jan 12 '15 at 6:38
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From the South African high commission website:

Any foreigner who leaves the Republic after the expiry of his or her permit shall be liable to an administrative fine of a prescribed amount not exceeding R3000.00 which fine shall be imposed by the Department on detection of the overstay and exacted when such foreigner is admitted or makes an application with the Department.

Failure to pay the prescribed fine will mean that a foreigner will not be admitted to South Africa, or issued with a Visa or Permit or if already admitted, a permit shall not be issued or renewed nor a subsequent permit issued.

So yes, there's a penalty, but while frustrating it's not the end of the world. Certainly no jail time, by law. You definitely want to make sure they know about it and pay the fine, however, as if it's discovered AFTER you leave and you've not paid, you'll potentially be barred from ever reentering. And yes, you may not think you'll return to South Africa, but do you really want to rule that out of the rest of your life?

Whether or not they'll find it is probably subjective, but you can probably at least play the sympathy card with the passport being stolen and so on - give them the details, and if you get the right person they may even reduce the fine, or remove it.

But definitely, pay it, don't try to avoid it.

EDIT: Went hunting for more information.

From South Africa House in the UK (updated October 7, 2014):

A person who overstays after the expiry of his or her visa, as contemplated in section 30(1)(h) of the Act, may:

  • In the case of a person who overstays for a period not exceeding 30 days, be declared undesirable for a period of 12 months;

  • In the case of a person who overstays for the second time within a period of 24months, be declared undesirable for a period of two years; and

  • In the case of a person who overstays for more than 30 days, be declared undesirable for a period of five years.

So from there, it seems it may depend on how long you overstayed, but again, no jail.

On the same page, an appeals process is provided, if you wish to make a case to return earlier.

Recently, Zimbabweans have been given a reprieve for overstaying.

The Department of Home Affairs lists a process for appeals for overstaying.

  • My biggest issue is that I've met someone here who I'd like to marry, so being banned for 5 years (likely outcome due to new rules imposed last June) is rather undesirable, but better than jail I guess. Thanks. – nearwildhelen Jan 12 '15 at 6:58
  • @nearwildhelen then definitely do the right thing, pay the fine (max R3000) and don't get banned. – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Jan 12 '15 at 6:59
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    There appears to be an appeals process. I imagine that involves a judgment both about why you overstayed, and whether you would be a good person to have in the country (wealthy, whatever). – Andrew Lazarus Jan 12 '15 at 8:21
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    For those wanting a sense of the size of the fine, ZAR 3000 is approximately EUR 220 or USD 250 at current exchange rates. – Nate Eldredge Jan 12 '15 at 16:49
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    @DavidRicherby agree, it's all in the wording, but they're in a heap of trouble regardless :/ Still better to address it and try and fix it, IMHO. – Mark Mayo Supports Monica May 3 '16 at 13:18
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I overstayed by two hours (missed my flight connection in Joburg) and I'm banned for a period of 12 months. However, I did't get a fine. I would have absolutely loved to pay the fine, because now i'm not able to visit my fiancé in SA up until Januari 31 2016.

My advice: pay the fine, especially when you met someone there.

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Since they changed the regulations in June 2014, they don't make you pay a fine anymore but you become an undesirable person for up to 5 years. Happened to me too, and I also have a fiancé there. I appealed 3 months ago and havn't heard back yet.

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