Zimbabwe Exemption Permit Holders: Consider Other Visa Options
May 12, 2023
With just two months remaining until the official end of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP), the importance of moving to available visa streams for those affected is paramount. Such a move would provide ZEP holders with much-needed peace of mind and pave the way for them to gain permanent residency when they reach the stage of eligibility.
It is noteworthy that the South African Immigration Act (Act No. 13 of 2002) was crafted with the realization that not all applicants may meet every requirement. As such, a provision for said applicants was made to apply for a waiver from requirements they will not be able to meet, submitted to the Minister of Home Affairs.
In brief, a waiver is a provision in terms of the law according to which a request can be made to the Minister to waive the applicability of certain regulation(s) pertinent to a visa. Although there is a prescribed form, a detailed motivation from the employer outlining the reasons for a specific waiver to be granted can be attached together with other set requirements, like a company profile. Despite the delays being experienced, the Minister has reiterated his determination to consider such applications if applicants show cause.
Most ZEP holders who do not have critical skills may fall under a category of applicants who could be required to apply for a waiver from certain requirements to qualify for a General Work Visa (GWV). For instance, a domestic worker may have to apply for a waiver that exempts them from the requirement of providing a certificate from the Department of Employment and Labour (DoEL) confirming a lack of South African citizens or permanent residents with skills to perform the work of a domestic worker. Another requirement from which a domestic worker may request to be waived is a “proof of qualifications” evaluation conducted by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA), especially if an individual does not have them.
To bolster the likelihood of a labour certificate being waived, the individual’s employer may share details regarding the employee’s long-term status and/or personal life details, illustrating that a change in structure may disrupt their livelihood in some capacity. Thus far, approvals have been made for ZEP holders in a range of positions.
Available Visa Options
Once a waiver has been approved, an application can be made for any work-related visa. These visas may entail the following:
- General Work Visa (GWV). Issued to any foreign national who will be doing the work that cannot be filled by a South African citizen or permanent resident. It is valid for up to five years and is renewable. It also leads to permanent residency.
- Critical Skills Work Visa (CSWV). Issued for foreign nationals whose skills have been determined as critical for the economy. It is issued for up to five years, is renewable and leads to permanent residency.
- Section 11(6) Visa. Issued for spouses of South African citizens and permanent residency. Issued for up to three years, and the holder qualifies for permanent residency if they have been married for at least five years.
It is noteworthy that ZEP holders intending to study in the Republic may apply for a study visa. Holders of study visas are permitted to work at least 20 hours per week. However, they must be authorized by the Department accordingly. Spouses of South African citizens and permanent residents not intending to work may also apply for a relative visa. It is valid for two years and is renewable.
Consequences of Failing to Move to Available Visa Streams
Failing to move to other visa streams will have a negative impact on ZEP holders. Additionally, it is unclear which strategy the authorities will use in dealing with those ZEP holders. By law, any person who overstays in the country may be arrested and, on conviction, could be sentenced to a fine or imprisonment. After serving time, such a person would be deported to a country of origin.
It is important to note that for any person found to be illegal in the country, a court may make a judgement in favour of the Department for the employer to defray the cost of deportation. Generally, the authorities avoid this route, especially in cases where the person is too poor to afford travel costs. Additionally, those providing them with employment and housing may find themselves suffering consequences, as such an act is prohibited by law. As immigration enforcement continues to increase, it is possible that landlords and even employers may find themselves in legal trouble for aiding such individuals to stay illegally in the Republic.
The simplest (and most costly) option that the authorities may take is to arrest and then deport the individual. The act of deportation automatically renders such an individual prohibited, and they may only be permitted to enter after five years of absence in the country.
Fragomen teams are prepared to handle these situations, as we have deep experience with these applications and recommend applicants comply with the law to avoid finding themselves in negative situations. Additionally, Fragomen recommends (and is available as a resource for counsel) using credible, experienced providers to guide individuals throughout their immigration odysseys.
Need to know more?
For further information on moving to other visa options, please reach out to Senior Manager Johannes Tiba at [email protected].
This blog was published on 12 May 2023, 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 dedicated COVID-19 site, subscribe to our alerts and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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