I waited in line another day at the South African Department of Home Affairs. Luckily, Stef was with me and the three hour march of pain went a little faster Tuesday than it did on Monday.
The good news pretty much ended there. Once we were in front of the officers designated to rule on our visa extension applications, things went rapidly downhill.
They approved us through February 3rd, after which time we will be illegally in the country and, technically, illegal aliens.
They said that we cannot technically be on holiday here for more than 6 consecutive months. We would have to return to our country of origin (USA) and then reapply for an extension, which they may or may not grant.
We asked what would happen if we attempted to leave (flee) the country in March (as planned) if we were illegal. They let us know that we would be stopped at the immigration office and forced to pay a hefty fine. Otherwise, our 5 weeks of illegality would be largely nominal, largely inconsequential.
There was also a slim possibility that we could apply for another type of visa, which would cost us an enormous amount of money (more than a hefty fine) and an enormous amount of time. This option looks highly unlikely.
What hangs over all of this is the rumor that scofflaws (like us) who leave the country while illegal in status will be forever banned from re-entering the country.
We don’t really know what to think. We do know that God has a plan and a purpose and somehow everything will be worked out. In the mean time, we are looking into every solution possible and preparing our hearts for the idea that the costs of this trip (financial and otherwise) may get even greater.
Sigh. Pray and trust with us.