Off to Mauritius, with plenty of time to spare at the airport. Enough time to eat, buy duty free and then get to the gate in good time. Well, not if Home Affairs have anything to do with it
As Rob and I are not married I had to apply for my life partner visa once we were in SA (standard procedure) as the paperwork is not valid in the UK. We made our application as soon as I arrived, yet I have overstayed my 90 day tourist visa by 7 days though, as it takes months and months for the application to be processed – I’ve met people who waited 9 months!
When we realised that I was flying on holiday outside of my visa dates, Rob’s company typed a letter for me explaining the circumstances and attached the confirmation from Home Affairs that they have received my application. I am still legally allowed to stay in the country until they make a decision on my application. I knew that I would have questions asked at passport control, but was in no way prepared for what would happen, and the general miscommunication and incompetence
At the gate my passport was scanned and there was an alert on the system as I had overstayed. If you overstay then you have to pay a fine before you can leave – I believe it is R1000 for 30 days and then increases the longer that you stay. This is fair enough, but I had all of my documents with me to show that I am allowed to stay here and shouldn’t pay the fine. Yet a “supervisor” was called. He took my passport and documents and told me to follow him. We had over an hour before our flight was due to leave so thought that we would be fine. He took me to 2 different windows, asking the person working there questions. He didn’t ask me anything. He obviously did not know what he was doing, and asked me to stay where I was and he would be back. He then proceeded to help at the windows with everyone else that was having trouble coming through, all the while holding my passport, boarding pass and visa documents. We stood there for 5-10 minutes before he called another guy over they took me to the “office”
We followed this guy through the airport, past all the wonderful duty free shops in into a dingey corridor. We went down a few flights into the stinky pit of the airport to the immigration “office”. They were busy, so he took my documents and told us to wait in the dirtiest room in all history, with a bunch of other people who were having immigration issues. He assured us that whatever they needed to do would only take 5 minutes and that we would have no problem catching our flight. The room was so depressing, and they used it as a bin room too!
By now, we had about 30 minutes until the gate closed for our flight, and we were not in the right part of the terminal for the gate. It said that it was 10 minute walk away. We waited for 15 minutes, whilst a strange Indian man who was also being detained asked us what our problem was (er, none of your business) and I sat opposite a woman that was being deported. Then Rob started to get annoyed. We literally had 15 minutes to get to the gate. We started asking people that worked there where my documents were and how long we had to wait. They all kept saying 5 minutes. After another 10 minutes I thought that Rob was going to burst a blood vessel. We would not have been able to afford another flight each if we missed this one, and I’m not sure whether our travel insurance would cover it
Eventually a guy came in and told us that everything was “lekker” and in 5 minutes they would give me my documents back. 10 minutes passed, and then Rob got really angry! We really did think that we were going to end up back home. No one in Immigration seemed fazed that our flight was about to depart. Finally, a guy came in and told us that they had called the airline and told them that we were going to be 5 minutes late and he would be back with my documents to take us to the gate. Another 5 minutes passed and I really did think that this was it for my Mauritian Christmas. Eventually a guy came along with my documents and took us back into the terminal. Strangely he wouldn’t give me my documents back. This really should have been a red flag to us. He then told us that we had to go back to passport control and be checked out. I’ve never seen Rob get so red – his face was redder than after a serious cardio session in the gym! We went back and he gave them my documents and disappeared. So much for taking us back to the gate
They scanned my passport and then asked me if I was aware that I had over stayed as there was an alert on the system and I would have to go to the office. I really did think that Rob’s head was going to explode at this point. By now, the gate for our flight was closed. Thankfully, the lady there listened to our story and got her supervisor to put a code in and stamped my passport. I was free! We ran to the gate, past the duty free and food *sob* and when we got to our gate there were people there for the next flight already. Thankfully our plane was still on the tarmac, and Air Mauritius were amazing and let us through without any problems. To my shock, it seems immigration did in fact call the airline in advance of us arriving at the gate
We were obviously the last people to get on the plane, but we did not delay it thankfully. By this point, all I had eaten/drank was a protein shake first thing in the morning (flight was at 4pm) and we asked the stewards if we could buy food after take off. They laughed at us, told us we could have it for free, and gave me 10 packets of crackers and a bottle of coke before take off! Thanks Air Mauritius for being so amazing. Your economy seats are shabby as hell, but your service is amazing