Answer to a question from a reader

I was denied a student visa because my name is on an “internal control list” but I have never even been to South Africa. What can I do?

The short answer

The simplest route would probably be to get help from an organisation that regularly deals with Home Affairs' dysfunction.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I was denied a student visa in 2021 after having been granted a full scholarship by the university and was then again denied a visa to attend my graduation ceremony in April 2023. These denials of visas were issued by the South African High Commission in Ghana, both times citing the appearance of my name on an “internal control list”. I wrote to the High Commission enclosing all necessary documents to show that I had never entered South Africa at all and was told to write to This I did and the appeal failed.

I took up the denial of my visa with the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Ghana and after checking with central passport control, they confirmed that the person who had travelled to South Africa was not me. Two other individuals who shared my name and date of birth came but their passports were renewals, while mine was a first issue. The place of birth and biological information such as fingerprints were also different. The Ghana Foreign Office told me that they had shared this information with the South African High Commission. However, this did not seem to make any difference.

The long answer

A rejected visa application can be appealed first by writing to the Director-General of Home Affairs and then to the Minister of Home Affairs, but you have to appeal within ten days of having the visa application denied, both locally in South Africa and abroad at a South African embassy. According to Immigration Services South Africa, these are the documents that must be submitted to the Director-General and the Minister in such an appeal:

  • Completed VFS Online Form

  • Have original documents on hand for verification while submitting photocopies for any visa/permit

  • Valid passport

  • Copy of the rejection letter from the Department of Home Affairs

  • Copy of your passport and copy of your latest visa/permit that was issued to you

  • Your written signed representation/motivation for an appeal in response to the rejection letter which includes any information that would assist the Director General or Minister to make an informed decision when considering your appeal

  • Supporting documents that you wish to include

  • Proof of the VFS funds paid. 

(VFS refers to Visa Facilitation Services which is a company contracted to Home Affairs to process applications and is known as VSF Global.)

It is widely acknowledged that the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA), which grants visas, is dysfunctional. After the Covid pandemic, the DHA has a huge backlog of visa applications. In addition, the new e-visa system, which was supposed to assist with this, is not working efficiently, and the same weaknesses in governance and oversight appear to be duplicated in the e-visa system. 

It may be worth your while to send the information and documents that you have sent the High Commission to one of the following organisations which have a lot of experience in dealing with DHA dysfunction, and ask for their advice and assistance:

  • Lawyers for Human Rights


It may also be worth contacting an organisation called Forum for Immigration Practitioners (FIPSA) which might be helpful:


Wishing you the best,

Answered on July 9, 2023, 10:49 p.m.

See more questions and answers

Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.