Hi, I have overstayed my stay in south africa. My visas expired on february 2017 and i was not able to return back to my country because my exams were delayed and i could not leave without writing my exams. But i did not realise that this is not acceptable by the south african goverment. I am student on a study visa and i have no intention of overstaying in south africa unneccesarily, also i have bought my return tickets back to Tanzania for 11th April 2017 (my home country) will i be in trouble at the airport for over staying a month in south africa? Please let me know what i can do to make this right. I do not want to be banned from south africa as i wish to renew my visas and come here to finish my studies. I am so worried, i really have no idea about any of this, please help..
I'm not sure why you didn't think overstaying was 'unacceptable'? All visas for any country have an end date. If overstaying was acceptable why would any country bother to issue visas at all?
No-one can tell you for certain what will happen when your overstay is discovered, as it will be at the airport. Everything depends on you, the reasons you give and the officers who deal with you on the day. Even the experience of others cannot be taken as an indication of what may happen to you.
You will certainly be questioned, you may be fined (and not allowed to return to South Africa until the fine is paid) and ...yes...in theory you can be banned from returning. Or you may simply be let off with a firm warning. Those penalties are normal practice for overstays in most countries and are not something specific to South Africa.
How to put things right? Accept that it is your own mistake and no-one else's fault. Answer questions truthfully and courteously. If you are fined, pay the fine.
You could also contact the relevant authorities before you go to the airport to see if there is anything you could do to mitigate matters.
If you are at university the student department may be able to offer you some advice.
Firstly, my sincere condolences. I assume that you have been caught up in the campus unrest that has beset South African universities in recent months. This has created circumstances beyond your control, and is probably very disappointing given the hefty overseas student fees you have been paying. As someone who was formerly lectured at Wits, you deserve better.
Yes, you have overstayed your student visa, and there's no denying that. But, instead of being judgemental based on a poor understanding of local circumstances, let's be positive, and accept that there are extenuating circumstances, on which you should motivate your case to the Department of Home Affairs.
Firstly, you will need documentation from your tutor or Head of Department to demonstrate that your exams were unavoidably delayed, and that this was beyond your control (the phrase 'force majeure' is a good one to bring into play).
Secondly, argue that the cost of returning home, renewing your student visa and possibly having to repeat an academic year (had you not been able to take your exams because you had to return to Tazania within the period of your valid visa) would have been prohibitive for you. If you really want to play this angle, reference former President Thabo Mbeki's vision of NEPAD and South Africa as the academic incubator for the African Renaissance, and how much it means to you to be able to study in the country.
Your strength is admitting that you were in the wrong, but that political and financial circumstances left you with no alternative. But be humble in your approach, as you do not have the moral high ground on this issue
I would strongly advise you to pre-empt the issue and first proactively approach Home Affairs, rather than leaving this to the discretion of immigration officials at the airport. If you need to engage the servies of an immigration lawyer, then its money well spent - if needs be, I can recommend an excellent practitioner in Johannesburg.
Good luck, and let us know how it goes.