For Zimbabweans who qualify for mainstream visas such as business owners, students, individuals with critical skills and those married to South Africans this is good news.
Under the new conditions, Zimbabweans has two options. The first is to apply for the new Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP), a kind of extension of the ZSP. This expires in December 2021, with little clarity on what comes next — it essentially just kicks the immigration can four years down the road.
Zimbabweans have grace until 2021
The second is to apply for a mainstream visa in South Africa, which means he does not have to risk his livelihood during a prolonged stay over the border.
Zimbabweans get South Africa permits reprieve
South Africa's Department of Home Affairs has extended the closing date for payments and submission of supporting documents and biometrics for the new Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) to February 15, 2018.
Through their website, SA's Home Affairs Department yesterday said the cut-off date was initially November 30, 2017.
"By January 29, 2018, 176 605 applicants had completed the entire process, which includes honoring their appointments with VFS and submitting supporting documents and bio metrics," the statement read.
"The extension to February 15, 2018 is only for submitting biometrics (fingerprints) and supporting documents at the 10 VFS offices, as well as for those who have submitted online applications by November 30, 2017, but did not pay the prescribed fee. New applications will not be accepted. By the end of September 2018, the department plans to have completed the whole project, including finalising adjudications and issuing out of all new permits."
"The ZSP started in 2014 with 197 951 permits issued, which expired on December 31, 2017. ZEP permit holders will be allowed to work, study or conduct business in South Africa. The ZEP permits are valid for a maximum period of four years, effective from January 1, 2018 and expiring on December 31, 2021, notwithstanding the date of issue. Exemption permits like the ZEP permits are not permanent or long-term. "
The department said they only serve a specific purpose with a view to ultimately have people returning to their countries of origin to build their lives anew.
ZIMBABWEANS in South Africa have welcomed the further extension
ZIMBABWEANS in South Africa have welcomed the further extension of the deadline for submissions of the new Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP), saying many people had failed to apply due to various challenges.
The South African Department of Home Affairs on Wednesday further extended the deadline for payments and submissions of supporting documents and biometrics for the new ZEP to February 15.
The cut-off date was initially November 30 last year and was extended to January 31 in the hope that all those who had applied online would have made the necessary payments and provided the required supporting documents and biometrics.
The department said by Monday this week, a total of 176 605 applicants had completed the entire process, which includes honouring their appointments and submitting supporting documents and biometrics.
The chairman of the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa, Mr Ngqabutho Mabhena, yesterday said the extension will give Zimbabweans who had not done the process, an opportunity to legalise their stay in the neighbouring country.
"This is a welcome development and we thank the South African Government for this further extension. It's quite a relief because many Zimbabweans are yet to secure the permits. I hope the affected Zimbabweans will take advantage of the extension," said Mr Mabhena.
"Some applicants' passports had expired and they applied for new passports at the Registrar General's department back home but they were taking long to be issued resulting in them failing to meet the deadline. The emergency passports are too expensive hence many are waiting for the ordinary passports."
Mr Mabhena said the online application system was also not user friendly, forcing applicants to seek help from internet shops and other organisations.
"There are other people who didn't attempt at all because they don't have access to the internet which makes it impossible for them to apply for permits," said Mr Mabhena.
He said they were in the process of engaging the South African government to lobby for the inclusion of crossborder traders and other Zimbabweans who do not qualify for the ZEP.
"In 2015, the SA government started the process of renewing its immigration policy to accommodate foreigners from the Sadc region wishing to work or do business in South Africa.
"We're therefore lobbying the Portfolio Committee of South Africa's Home Affairs Department to speed up the implementation of the policy so that those who have not been able to get permits through the ZEP can get crossborder Sadc visas and Sadc work visas," said Mr Mabhena.
He said most crossborder traders were being given limited days to spend in South Africa, resulting in them being banned from entering the neighbouring country after overstaying.
The SA Home Affairs Department has said the ZEP permits were valid for a maximum period of four years, effective from January 1 this year.
The department said exemption permits like the ZEP permits were not permanent or long-term as they only serve a specific purpose and the understanding is that the benficiaries will in future return to their countries of origin.
The special Zimbabwean permit
will be replaced by the Zimbabwean Exemption permit
The Department of Internal Affairs to issue new permits for Zimbabweans nationals in South Africa.
The Department of Home Affairs has introduced a new form of documentation for Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa.
This is called the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) and extends to those with valid special permits. It allows Zimbabweans permission to stay in the country for up to four years and will enter into force from January 2018 and will be valid until December 2021.
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Applicants must be in possession of a valid Zimbabwe passport and proof of employment, business or study, depending on the purpose of the stay.
A statement by the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa welcomed the decision, but expressed its hope that undocumented citizens would be considered.
"We would have liked the Minister to have considered the many undocumented Zimbabweans who work in South Africa. We hope that the Minister will at some point address this request."
When can Zimbabweans apply for the new permit?
Minister of Internal Affairs Hlengiwe Mkhize announced that applications for the ZEP will open on September 15, 2017 and will close on November 30 of this year.
"People have a week now, they've been waiting for it and no one will say it's a short period," he told a news conference.
Will this be valid for new applicants as well?
No, applications are valid only for those currently holding a Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP).
How can you apply for a ZEP and what does it cost?
Applications will be opened on September 15 via the VFS website. The deadline for submitting applications is November 30, 2017. The administrative fees are R 1090 per application.
Applicants must make an appointment via VFS and submit fingerprints as well as supporting documents from 1 October 2017. Applicants must submit a valid passport in Zimbabwe, proof of employment in the case of a permit work permit, application for a business permit and proof of admission letter from a recognized learning institution in the case of a study permit.
ZSP holders can apply for SPA in several provinces
The following are the places and addresses:
Durban: Musgrave Towers, Musgrave Shopping Center, 5th Floor Musgrave.
Cape Town: 2 Long street, 7th Floor.
Port Elizabeth: Office 7C, 1st floor, corner 17 Avenue and main road. Johannesburg: The Link, Old Pretoria Road, Halfway House, Midrand. Rustenburg: Corner of Boom and Fatima Bayet Street.
Kimberly: Unit 3, Building 2, Agri Office Park, N12.
Polokwane: Thornhill Shopping Center, Veldspaat and Munnik Avenue, Bendor Park.
Nelspruit: Office 5F, Nedbank Building, 30 Brown Street.
Bloemfontein: Suit 4, The Park, 14 Reid Street, Westdene.
George: Unit 5 Eagle View, Progress Street.
How many Zimbabweans are currently in South Africa?
There are approximately 250 000 citizens of Zimbabwe who live in South Africa with legal documentation. The number of those in the country illegally far exceeds that of those with valid permits. Zimbabwe has seen massive immigration in the past two decades due to a sharp economic decline.