Why it’s good to check dates in your passport.

My stomach sank. Was she serious???

‘Can you just explain that again?’ I asked.

The check-in girl smiled sweetly and probably thought that I’d never travelled in my life before.

‘When you arrived in South Africa back in September, immigration only allowed you to stay until the 23 December 2011 so you’ve stayed over a month longer than you’re allowed to.’
She waited patiently, allowing her words to sink in – I was obviously showing signs of shock and disbelief. I asked the dreaded question.

‘So what happens now?’ I play scenes in my head of me phoning my mother from jail…

‘You pay a fine to the South African embassy in London.’ she replies.

‘How much will it cost?’

I didn’t want her to tell me. I was on a serious budget and had already spent more in South Africa than I should have during my ‘illegal’ 4 month stay.

‘Roughly R1000 (£82/$128/€97) per month but you’ve overstayed by a month and a half so it will be a bit more.’

‘CRAP!!’

Ok, so this blog hasn’t seen swearing before but as you can imagine, I was gutted. I felt sick but at the same time, I was kicking myself. I normally don’t stay for this long so I’ve never bothered checking the date but honestly, how could I be so stupid. I’ve travelled all over the world, why do I think South Africa is going to be so different.

The plus side (and only plus side) is that they are still going to allow me to fly.

‘You can pay the fine when you get back to London.’ the check-in girl continued.

This was a relief to hear because my bank card had been stopped because they were suspicious of the money being spent in South Africa. I wonder what would have happened if I wasn’t able to pay..

I hang my head in shame and join my friend who’d been patiently waiting for me throughout my embarrassing ordeal. We have a milkshake with extra chocolate to try and make light of the situation but it’s useless, I’ve stuffed up good and proper.

After the milkshake, my friend and I say our goodbyes and I bravely make my way to immigration. I smile sweetly and hope, so badly, that my South African immigration officer is having a lazy day and won’t notice the dreaded date in my passport.

After some pleasantries, she says kindly,

‘Oh my lovie, do you know what you’ve done?’

I smile sheepishly and answer, ‘Yes, I’m really sorry. I’ve been back to South Africa so many times but never stayed this long so I’ve never noticed the date.’

‘Don’t worry, I’ve done something like that before too and I should know better.’ She smiles.

I feel better…still stupid but my heart rate has slowed. She called me lovie, she’s hardly going to arrest me. We fill out paperwork, she ruins the moment by telling me the fine is R1500 (£123/$192/€146) and she disappears to photocopy my passport. This is when I notice the guy next to me also having problems.

‘Is everything okay?’ I ask.

‘My passport has expired!’ he replies.

‘Oh no! Will they still let you fly?’

‘Yes, of course, I just pay a fine.’

Okay then…

My immigration officer returns, I sign my ‘I am stupid’ form, wish the other passenger well and make my way towards the gate.

I consider my and my fellow passenger’s fines. I overstayed my welcome and his passport has expired. Both cured quickly by paying a fine…

So it’s true, money does indeed make the world go around.

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One Response to Why it’s good to check dates in your passport.

  1. Pigshed says:

    That seems a bit short sighted – by them :-) They should have punished you by delaying your exit for 2 weeks – then they could have fined you R2000 😀 Welcome back, you've landed just as Siberia have exported their weather system…

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