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Cape Town - A director of a non-profit chefs’ school in Cape Town has been declared “undesirable” by the Department of Home Affairs after overstaying his visa by 25 days.
Barry Berman, a US citizen who runs the Infinity Culinary Training school in Pinelands, may not re-enter the country before June.
He co-founded the school in 2009 with Zimbabwean-born Spencer Moyana. The school teaches basic cooking skills to people from poor communities to improve their chances of gaining employment.
Under new immigration regulations introduced in May, a person who overstays a visa is declared undesirable and prevented from re-entering the country for between one and five years. Berman’s temporary residence permit expired on May 14.
He was granted a temporary residence permit for three years in 2009 and it was renewed for two years in 2012.
“When it expired I went to Home Affairs in Cape Town to apply for a new permit.”
Berman said the office was closed and a notice said it would reopen on June 20.
“I did not do anything else, figuring that my 90-day, automatic US tourist visa would pick up where the expired temporary resident visa left off,” he said.
“I made assumptions, obviously incorrectly.”
When Berman left OR Tambo International Airport on June 10, Home Affairs officials noted he had stayed in the country after his visa lapsed, and declared him “undesirable”.
Berman said he sent his appeal to Home Affairs immediately after he landed in the US, but received no acknowledgement.
“I immediately filed my appeal, sent all the required documents along with an urgent and impassioned letter explaining everything.”
South African Kimon Christodoulou, who is temporarily managing the school, said it was difficult to run it without Berman.
“It is Skype calls, WhatsApp messages, e-mails and phone calls. We make do, but we need him here.”
On Tuesday, Jackie McKay, deputy director-general for immigration services, told Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs that it was necessary to introduce the new immigration regulations on declaring overstayers “undesirable” and refusing them re-entry for a period.
This replaced a system of fines. McKay said foreign citizens had abused immigration laws by staying here indefinitely. “When they left they paid the fine and came back the next day.”
Home Affairs spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete said an appeal process took two weeks to complete. He could not comment on Berman’s case on Wednesday.