Let’s shed some light into one of the most unpleasant administrative acts we can remember. Luckily it’s over since 2014. But unfortunately not for everyone…
For many years, South Africa requested a repatriation fee (deposit) from anybody applying for a temporary residence. The idea behind it was, should there be a need for a deportation, the SA taxpayer would not have to carry the burden of the cost. So from time to time Home Affairs would check how much a one-way ticket to the applicant’s home country would cost. The last amount I remember for somebody from Europe was R9.110. And if you are a family this could become quite a sum.
Home Affairs always had problems with the collection and refunding of these deposits and consequently abolished this requirement early in 2014.
You are entitled to be refunded this amount (without any interest), once you either leave South Africa for good and get your temporary visa cancelled or once your visa has expired or once you have been granted Permanent Residence.
Unfortunately there is some confusion now. Those who paid their repat fee in a SA mission abroad, should apply for their refund there. Same for those who have returned home for good.
It get’s problematic when you paid in SA and now only received your PR. The official notification on the Departments website can be found here.
NOTICE as it appears in the GOVERNMENT GAZETTE 13 October 2014 – Forfeiture of Repatriation Deposits
CLARIFICATION OF QUESTIONS RAISED IN RELATION TO REPATRIATION DEPOSIT REFUNDS AT 28 FEBRUARY 2015
So in order to clean up the old repat system, Home Affairs set a deadline for refund claims for 28 February 2015. Anybody who missed this deadline forfeited his money to the state. But there are some exceptions, as some people could not claim at the time because they were still waiting for their PRs to be issued and in fact DHA did not accept any refund applications from them.
Point 9 of the FAQ’s on the department’s website deals with that question:
“9. Are travellers with valid permits with expiry date beyond 28 February 2015 going to forfeit their deposits?
No, they will claim when their permits expiry or when they have changes status, or have been granted permanent residence status.”
However, the offices in Cape Town do not accept any applications for refunds anymore since 2015. So we recently escalated the problem to the Chief Financial Officer of Home Affairs, who also refused any refund applications in reply:
Please note that all deposits not claimed before 28 February 2015 were forfeited to the State as per the attached Government Gazette.”
And when we followed up, he confirmed:
I cannot defy the prescripts of the Government Gazette and regret to inform you that your deposit has been forfeited to the State.”
Home Affairs is known to remain rather stubborn and we have suggested to our professional body FIPSA (Forum of Immigration Practitioners) to obtain a legal opinion on this situation and to possibly collect a list of outstanding cases in order to consider a class action against the Department. Unfortunately the cost of any court action will be substantial, so suing as an individual will not be worth it.
by Dirk Meissner