Today, the Minister of Home Affairs has published Directives 3 and 4 of 2023 in the Government Gazette, implementing the Minister’s decision to grant new exemption permits for Zimbabwean and Basotho Nationals who have been residing and working in South Africa under the Exemption Permits issued in accordance with section 31(2)(b) of the Immigration Act. This move marks a surprising departure from the Department’s previous stance, which initially suggested that these permits would not be renewed. The decision, made in late 2021, faced legal challenges that the Department ultimately lost, prompting their latest attempt to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Here are some commonly asked questions from concerned parties, along with our responses:
- Has the government issued a new Exemption Permit?
- Yes, the Minister has issued a new exemption permit for both Lesotho and Zimbabwean nationals. Holders of the LSP and ZEP can now apply for the new exemption permit at VFS. Applicants will have the opportunity to request rights for work, study, or business, and these new exemption permits will be valid until November 29, 2025.
- Do I need to lodge an application for this exemption?
- Yes, individuals must approach the designated VFS offices to apply for the new Exemption Permit. This is particularly relevant for Zimbabweans whose expired permits have been extended by Ministerial directives since 2021. They must apply for this exemption permit before December 2024.
- Can I continue to work, study, or run my business while I wait for my application?
- Yes, the Minister has extended both exemptions until December 29, 2024. This means that holders of these exemptions can continue to work, study, travel, and reside in South Africa during this period.
- I have a pending waiver or mainstream visa application, must I apply for the new exemption as well?
- No, there is no need to apply for the new exemption if you have a pending waiver or mainstream visa application. The Minister has exempted individuals with these applications from the requirement to apply for the new exemption. The Department aims to resolve these applications generously during the grace period, benefiting around 78,000 individuals.
- Can I still apply for the mainstream visa?
- The Gazette directive does not provide a clear answer to this question. While the Minister’s comments suggest a closing of this option, the situation appears fluid, and the intention seems to be a reduction in the number of individuals on these exemptions. Further clarification may arise in the coming days.
The publication of Directives 3 and 4 of 2023 in the Government Gazette marks a significant turn of events for Zimbabwean and Basotho Nationals residing and working in South Africa. The issuance of new exemption permits, contrary to the previous stance of non-renewal, provides a welcomed opportunity for individuals to continue their lives in the country.
As the application process opens, it is crucial for affected individuals, especially those with expired permits extended by Ministerial directives since 2021, to promptly approach the designated VFS offices and apply for the new Exemption Permit before the deadline in December 2024. This will ensure the continuation of their rights to work, study, or run a business until November 29, 2025.
Furthermore, individuals with pending waiver or mainstream visa applications need not apply for the new exemption, as they have been exempted by the Minister. The Department’s commitment to resolving these applications generously during the grace period aims to bring relief to approximately 78,000 applicants.
As uncertainties regarding mainstream visa applications persist, it is advisable to stay informed and vigilant for any updates or clarifications that may arise in the coming days. The evolving nature of the situation underscores the importance of staying engaged with official announcements and seeking legal advice if needed.
In light of these developments, we encourage all affected parties to act promptly, adhere to the application deadlines, and stay informed about any further changes. This proactive approach will not only ensure compliance with the new regulations but also contribute to a smoother transition for individuals navigating the complexities of immigration processes in South Africa.