Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Some More Visa Complications

This is the letter I sent to my Rooftops Canada advisor yesterday.  I should have known when I went to the Department of Home Affairs that I wouldn’t get my visa: a tree outside the building was on fire.  If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.


Hi Kamba,

How have you been lately?  Enjoying the beautiful Canadian spring?  My friends and family keep sending me emails describing all the things we’re going to do this summer to make up for lost time and I’m starting to get super excited about moving back home!

I just wanted to send you an update on the complications I’ve had regarding my visitor’s visa.  As you know, I applied for a rectification of my original extension over a month ago.  I received a phone call at the end of April that although they would not extend the date to June 10 (my departure date), they would change it to May 30.

When I went to the Department of Home Affairs last week, I was told to come back the following week (today) because the woman who dealt with rectifications was on vacation.  When I returned today, I was told that my rectification has been rejected.

Unfortunately, operating on the assumption that I would have a valid visa until May 30, I booked tickets to Malawi next week with the intention of receiving a new visa when I returned June 2 to work my final week with MHA.  I discussed the situation with a representative from the Department of Home Affairs was told that I would have to pay R1000 when I leave South Africa, but shouldn’t have any problems when I return.

After listening to similar stories that the other interns went through, may I make a suggestion regarding South African visas?

While still in Canada last year, I applied for a 6 month South African visa.  The process was time consuming and expensive.  In the end, the visa I was issued was only valid until February 17 even though I requested one until at least February 28.  Regardless of whether or not I extended my internship, I would have had to pay another R450 for a visa extension.

On the other hand, if you simply come to South Africa with a Canadian passport, you are stamped a visitor’s visa upon arrival that is valid for 3 months.  Any time you leave the country, you are re-issued a 3 month visa.

I think it would have been easier make sure I leave the country – even just a weekend trip to Swaziland or Lesotho – once every three months than go through the bureaucracy of South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs.  I know someone who has lived here for 7 years through that strategy.

Alternatively, perhaps Rooftops Canada should write their letters claiming that the intern’s dates of departure are a month later than planned?  From my experience, the Department of Home Affairs takes about two weeks off the date you request.

All the best,

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