A passport carrier is seen in this file image.

Johannesburg - Being the holder of a South African passport comes with the obligation of applying for a visa before you can travel to many countries. And seeing that visa application fees are non-refundable and can make up as much as 10 percent of the total cost of a trip, you will want to get your application right the first time.

Thankfully, despite how complicated the application process can be, the result is fairly predictable if you take some fairly easy-to-follow precautions, according to Daniel Anvari-Brown of Global Visas South Africa, a specialist in global immigration and visas for a range of popular destinations.

“The point of a travel visa application in most instances is to confirm your identity and establish the purpose of your trip, so it’s also inadvisable to provide false or misleading information,” he says.

False or misleading information, if discovered, can lead to your visa being denied, which can affect whether your future visa applications for travel to other destinations are approved. Most countries do ask if you have been previously denied entry into other countries.

Anvari-Brown adds: “Even if the visa is approved here in South Africa, an immigration official can still deny you entry when you land, and possibly cancel your visa, should any discrepancies in your identity and purposes of your trip be discovered.”

The grounds for refusing a visa in most countries can be grouped broadly into those that are procedural, where you as the applicant didn’t follow the right steps or didn’t provide all the required information, and those that relate to your history and past conduct.

“Procedural issues are easy to avoid because the requirements are usually spelled out. Fill in the application forms completely and accurately, pay the required fee in the prescribed method, and provide only the information the embassy or consulate requests,” says Anvari-Brown.

In case you are asked to provide further information to support your application, keep handy any other documents that confirm your identity, your financial means (such as bank statements), and anything that shows you intend to return to South Africa at the end of your trip. It’s advisable to travel with these documents, too, in case the immigration officer at your destination asks for them.

Visa application issues relating to your history and past conduct are a little harder to overcome – but not impossible.

As an example, if you have previously stayed in a country longer than your visa permitted, your next visa application to that country could be denied. To avoid this, advises Anvari-Brown, do not overstay.

“It can get tricky determining how long you are allowed to stay in a country, because this can differ from the period your visa is valid for, as is sometimes the case with visas to the US,” he says.

In these instances, you will be issued with a landing card that says how long you are allowed to stay or the immigration official at the airport will put a stamp in your passport with this date or period. Stick to these dates religiously to avoid future headaches.

But if you have previously overstayed and your visa is denied, don’t despair, you might still be able to get a visa if you make a case for why you did and why you won’t do it again.

However, this is on a case-by-case basis and is in no way guaranteed, advises Anvari-Brown. He says it’s best to be transparent about this when applying and during any visa interviews.

Other grounds for visa denials based on your past conduct, such as having violated the terms of previous travel visas by working or having been found guilty of certain criminal offences, are even more difficult to explain away.

“Previous criminal convictions are one thing that discourages people from applying, but in reality denials on this basis are generally limited to very serious crimes, including drugs, fraud and human trafficking.

“So it’s unlikely you’ll be denied a visa for a traffic offence, for example,” Anvari-Brown says. - Saturday Star