How I got banned- and unbanned- from Africa

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Hello

Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there
I’ll tell you how-

 

I GOT BANNED FROM AFRICA

But let’s start at the beginning- shall we.

A little over a year ago, I moved to South Africa.

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I got the official invitation in September, and at the end of October I finally got all my paperwork in order. Working outside of Europe is a bit of a hassle I’m Dutch so I needed to provide a lot of details before I headed out of the continent.

At the start of the process I was asked by my agent if I’d like to stay for three months or for six. At the time, I thought three months would be plenty.

I’d be back in early February, which meant I’d be able to enroll in second semester classes if I wanted to go back to university.

Her response?

“Well of course, you can always extend while you’re here. No biggie.” 

Ahem- it turned out to become quite a “biggie”

I arrived in SA one happy little ray of sunshine in November, ready to start a new adventure. Within the first week, I fell in love with Cape Town and I knew I wanted to stay longer.
I wanted that extension.
My agency provided the paperwork, and told me I needed to make an appointment at the Department of Home Affairs to issue the extension in person.

Insert: VFS. 

Also known as the Visa and Permit Facilitation Centre.

Also known as hell on earth.

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I made my appointment and paid around 100 euros for the extension.

The problem?

I coulnd’t get an appointment until January, about a month before my original visa expired.
I was reassured that this was the procedure, and not to worry.

Government agencies freak me out in general already.
Dutch government institutions are nothing to be messed with, but they also follow very strict rules. When someone tells you not to worry there, you don’t worry.

As long as you get it in writing

 

 I trusted government agencies, and the people I worked with.

So I made the appointment, and went back to living my best life in Africa.

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All of this bs aside, I had a blast in Africa

  

January came, and so did my appointment.
I arrived at VFS Cape Town, and here’s where the horror truly began.

There was a giant power outage in the building, and I needed to go to the emergency location they set up three blocks away. I had to hurry though, because if I didn’t make it in time for my scheduled appointment I’d have to make a new one.
In April.
I practically sprinted there to make it, but I was not given a warm welcome.
Some dude in a suit yanked my passport out of my hand, looked at my paperwork for all but ten seconds and handed it back to me.

“Insufficient. Can’t process.”

Now, I wasn’t really having that.
I started to talk back. Not in a rude way, I just wanted him to tell me what was wrong with my application.
This dude had some major anger issues, and started screaming in my face.
Two managers had to come in to talk to me and the dude, and my paperwork was reviewed again. Dude number two  and three were much nicer, and they explained I forgot to add a medical exam.
I needed a full physical and an X-ray to prove I was healthy.

Hi, so-I’m Dutch.

I don’t have a South African doctor, and was told over and over again that wasn’t necessary because my own doctor had to prove the same damn thing before I left.
That was suddenly considered “insufficient”.

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I left feeling defeated, and decided I’d just leave Africa . I didn’t see how I could possibly stay.

I explained what happened to one of my closest friends in South Africa, and he flipped out.
We went back to the VFS building which suddenly had power again, and my friend just cut in line to talk to a different manager.
I stood back and thought it best to keep my mouth shut.

My friend argued with the dude for a while, and eventually the manager had someone review my paperwork again.

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After about an hour, my paperwork was considered sufficient after all.
Alrighty then. Not going to argue.
I handed everything in for processing, and I’d hear back within four weeks about when I could pick up my visa.

So, six weeks later this b*tch is starting to freak out a little.
We’re halfway through March at this point, season is ending and I want to go back to the Netherlands.

Once again- problem?

I couldn’t leave the country until I got my visa.
I only had the original visa, and if I left at that point I’d be seen as someone who overstayed and worked illegally.

CAN YOU TELL WHERE THIS IS GOING?

BECAUSE I CAN.

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Ten weeks later IN BLOODY APRIL AT THIS POINT BABY, I just booked a flight back.
Castings had severely died down at that point, and I had work in the Netherlands I needed to get back to.
I tried calling, but was told to wait. I tried emailing, but got no reply. I messaged VFS on Facebook and was left on ‘read’

 story of my life tbh

 

I made my last two weeks in Cape Town the best they could be, with the help of my amazing housemates.
You guys are family at this point.
The 11th of April came, and we drove to the airport. I was an absolute emotional wreck and wasn’t thinking about the whole visa situation at all.
I went through security sobbing like a baby and handed my passport to the lady behind the desk. She looked bored, and flicked through my passport- its like her eyes lit up when she saw the date on my visa.

“Ma’am, when did you arrive in the Republic?” 

Me- drooling and crying-replied honestly.

My passport was snapped shut and taken from me. She took me firmly by my arm to a dark little room straight out of Locked up Abroad.

There were posters of legit fugitives on the wall.
No bueno.

 I was left there for thirty minutes, crying and alone with no passport.
When someone finally came in the room, I frantically started to explain what had happened. I showed all the documents on my phone, and the lady eventually believed me. Apparently, I wasn’t the first.
It happens a lot.
She told me to get in touch with the Dutch authorities immediately and apply for an appeal when I’m back. For now though, I was fingerprinted and issued a very scary document;

 overstay

isn’t that just fine and dandy?

 

So, I hurried to my plane because on top of everything I damn near missed my flight. If I didn’t make it, ya girl would have been DEPORTED, so that was not about to go down.

I spent the sixteen hour flight sobbing some more and contemplating all my life choices, and arrived back in the Netherlands in an absolute state.

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So the Netherlands is a country which works like a well oiled machine when it comes to government agencies.
But even they couldn’t help.
The document was issued in Africa, it had to be fixed by Africa.
The only thing Dutch authorities could do was issue an appeal in my name, which I obviously agreed to.
Its something.

Then came months of letters, unanswered phone calls and just the general unknown.
My visa was still pending.

Nice little cherry on top was I couldn’t get a work permit anywhere else in the world, so meanwhile I decided to enroll at the University of Amsterdam.

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I got unbanned eventually, though.
I bet you’ll never guess how.

Power of social media, my friends.

I WENT ON A TWITTER RANT. AND IT WORKED.

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I tweeted the Department of Home Affairs, and they got back to me within a DAY.
After MONTHS of writing them, a TWEET got me unbanned.

Four weeks after my first tweet, I got the best Christmas present I could have ever wished for:

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Dobby is freeeeee

So there you have it.

That’s how I got banned, and eventually unbanned, from Africa.

It makes one hell of a story now, but going through it was no fun. I’m just glad I can get work permits again, and I don’t have to worry about being deported when I want to visit my friends.

If  you’re going to take away anything from this story, let it be this:

please don’t apply for a visa extension through VFS.

Ever.
Just get a longer visa from the get-go, you always have the option to leave earlier.
Leaving later is what causes some problems, clearly.

Have an awesome day kids, and don’t get deported.

Much love

xo

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Lizz

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