SA visas can give ZEP holders the best chance of staying in SA


Holders of a Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) must take advantage of the six-month extension granted by the South African government to apply for a visa or an exemption.

The general but misguided feeling among ZEP holders seems to be that this is a pointless exercise as applicants will inevitably fail to apply.

The reality is that ZEP holders can benefit far more from acting now than waiting for their permit to expire.

In October, Zimbabwe’s Minister for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa, said less than 10% of the approximately 180,000 ZEP holders had applied for the available South African visas. This was against the previous deadline of December 31, 2022. Due to the low response rate, the Home Secretary extended the exemption period to June 30, 2023.


It seems obvious that the government wants to end the ZEP process itself rather than discourage the presence of Zimbabweans in South Africa. This is so that, as foreign nationals, their stay in the country is administered through the prescribed visa system and not independently of it.

The directive issued by the Minister on the implementation of the extension offers applicants concrete protection.

This includes the following provisions for ZEP holders during the extension period:

  • They cannot be arrested, ordered out of the country, detained for deportation, or deported for not having a valid exemption certificate tag or sticker in their passport.
  • They cannot be processed under Sections 29 (Prohibited), 30 (Undesirable) and 32 (Illegal Aliens) of the Immigration Act.
  • They can exit and re-enter the country freely provided they meet all entry/exit requirements except having a valid permit in their passport.
  • They are not required to produce a valid exemption certificate or letter of authorization to remain in South Africa when applying for any category of visa, including a temporary resident visa.

This means they can move freely and apply for the appropriate visa without fear of prosecution or bureaucratic discrimination.

Benefits of a visa

A ZEP holder only has to look at the limiting conditions reflected in his passport to realize the advantages of applying for a visa.

First, they do not have the right to apply for permanent residence in South Africa, regardless of the length of their stay in the country. Applying for a visa for which they are eligible offers the possibility of one day benefiting from permanent residence.

ZEPs also cannot be renewed or extended. The current extension applies to the total deletion of the ZEP system, not to the expiration of individual authorizations. On the other hand, visas can be renewed for qualified applicants.

In addition, the ZEP holder cannot change the conditions of his permit inside South Africa. For example, to obtain a work visa, they would have to return to Zimbabwe and apply through a South African embassy there. The extension gives them the option of applying for a visa while still in the country.

act now

Of course, the deciding factor is that the ZEP holder’s time will run out on June 30, 2023 anyway. So they have nothing to lose by applying, but nothing to gain if they don’t. . Home Affairs has made it clear that no further extensions will be granted.

Finally, a backlog may build up as the deadline approaches, causing delays in processing applications.

To ensure their status remains valid after June 30, 2023, ZEP holders should apply now to give themselves the best chance of success and enough time to plan ahead.

Marisa Jacobs is Managing Director of Xpatweb.


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