South Africa: Foreign Nationals with Long-Term Residence Visas Permitted to Return Under Exceptional Circumstances
| Bulelwa Mfingwana

South Africa: Foreign Nationals with Long-Term Residence Visas Permitted to Return Under Exceptional Circumstances

Following amendments to the initial directives promulgated by the South African Minister of Home Affairs in June, the Department of Home Affairs has made a bold and positive move to allow foreign nationals in possession of long-term temporary residence visas to apply for permission to return to the Republic. While borders remain closed and international flights suspended, this new directive does allow foreign nationals to enter South Africa as long as they can provide motivation for exceptional circumstances.

This marks an important development toward borders re-opening in South Africa, and comes shortly after the Department issued a directive allowing South African citizens to return to the countries in which they are based for work, have family ties and for study-related reasons, amongst others.

Prior to this directive by the Department, only South African citizens and Permanent Residence Permit holders were permitted to return to the Republic.

Qualifying Guidelines for Re-entry

Only foreign nationals with valid South African long-term residence visas may apply for re-entry with the Minister of Home Affairs and must demonstrate exceptional circumstances for their request to re-enter South Africa during the lockdown period.

The following categories remain excluded from travelling to South Africa:

  • Revoked visas
  • Visa-exempt countries for short-term business, meetings and holiday purposes
  • High risk countries as regulated—including China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States

Process Outline

A detailed motivation statement outlining the applicant’s special and exceptional circumstances is required, along with copies of the passport and valid long-term residence visa.

The application is filed with the head office of the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa and further consultations are held with other departments before a final decision on the application is made. The Department of Home Affairs reserves the right to request additional information and/or documentation that will assist them in making an informed decision on the application. Approval is at the discretion of the Department of Home Affairs and must be obtained prior to travelling to South Africa.

What does this Mean for Employers?

In line with the government’s decision to slowly open the economy through a risk-adjusted strategy, persons are permitted to return to work and travel to and from work. This will allow for any essential workforce that is outside the country to return to the Republic to continue with projects for business continuity, especially for those projects of national interest.

COVID-19 Measures Upon Arrival

Upon receipt of approval of entry from the Department of Home Affairs, the returning resident will be subjected to the prescribed screening procedures and isolation or quarantine rules. The government-recommended quarantine time is 14 days; this could be at one's home or a government facility such as hotel, lodge, game park and field or hospital. The port of entry health services at the Airport will make the determination if the person should be given an option for self-isolation at home or be sent for quarantine in any of the mentioned facilities.

The situation remains very dynamic, so please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] or your Fragomen immigration professional for additional guidance.

This blog was released on July 22, 2020, and due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on global immigration, please visit our COVID-19 microsite, subscribe to our alerts and follow us on LinkedIn.