Insightful BlogsSeptember 5, 2022

Zimbabwean exemption permits termination – what employers should know

Good news for employers of Zimbabwean nationals is that the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, has extended the validity of the Zimbabwean Exemption permit to 30 June 2023.

South African employers of Zimbabwean nationals using the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) are advised to start making preparations ahead of this deadline as, according to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), there will be no further extensions after June.

The ZEP is a special dispensation permit that was established more than 10 years ago to provide legal protection to an estimated 178 000 Zimbabweans who live, work and study in South Africa.

The permit was first extended in 2009 for a five-year period and has since been extended several times.

The decision by the DHA to scrap the ZEPs only affects current ZEP holders. Zimbabweans who currently hold Asylum Seeker, Refugee, Critical Skills, Spousal, General Work or Business visas/permits are not affected. If and when applicable, they must follow the standard procedure set out for the renewal of these permits, exactly as they have in the past.

All Asylum Seeker/Refugee permit holders whose permit expired during the Covid-19 lockdown period were granted a grace validity period of their permits until 30 April 2022. Holders of these types of permits are advised to submit renewal applications as per the DHA directive.

Employers with ZEP-holder employees should know that these employees will be considered illegal immigrants after 30 June 2023 if they do not apply for another mainstream visa as requested by the DHA.

Mainstream visas are:

  • Critical Skills Work Visa, the requirements of which include:
    • The employee must already be employed in one of the occupations listed on the DHA Critical Skills List, as published in August 2022;
    • The employee must belong to the professional body regulating that specific industry/profession (such as ECSA, which is the Engineering Council of South Africa, if the employee is qualified in one of the engineering fields on the skills list);
    • South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) evaluation of the employee’s foreign qualifications; and
    • The employee must already have secured an employment contract in line with his/her critical skill occupation.
  • General Work Visa, the requirements of which include:
    • Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) recommendation motivating the employment of a foreign national;
      • This DEL recommendation can be waived by the DHA (this is a separate application procedure); and
    • The employee must already have secured an employment contract.
  • Spousal Visa with condition to work, the requirements of which include:
    • If the employee, as a Zimbabwean citizen with a ZEP, is married to or in a life-partner relationship with a South African citizen/permanent resident, the employee may apply for a spousal visa with condition to work;
    • The main requirement is a valid marriage certificate, or in the case of a life-partner relationship, the employee would need a notarial contract confirming at least two-year cohabitation as life partners; and
    • The employee must already have secured an employment contract.

It should be noted that ZEP holders cannot apply for permanent residence permits.

In addition, subject to proof of a Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) receipt, a ZEP holder is still allowed to perform work, even after the expiry date of 30 June 2023, until they receive the outcome of their visa application. They are also entitled, subject to proof of their VFS-application receipt, to continue receiving other South African services from banks, financial and/or learning institutions.

To apply for the mainstream visas, all visa applications must be done via VFS, not at a Department of Home Affairs office/branch.

All applicants must complete the online VFS application process first, in order to obtain an appointment date at their nearest VFS office. After the online procedure, all applications must be submitted in person at the relevant VFS office/branch.

Employers and employees are advised to make use of a specialist immigration practitioner as the compliance procedures and processing of these applications are complex.

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