On the 31st of December 2021, the Minister of Home Affairs has effectively ended the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) that applies to Zimbabwean Nationals working and living in the Republic of South Africa. This has the resulting effect that numerous Zimbabweans will no longer be able to apply for an extension of the ZEP and therefore causing their continued presence in South Africa to be illegal, an as a result face deportation should they not have applied and or been granted the different kinds of visas allowing them to continue to stay and work in the Republic.
The Minister has however provided a grace period of 12-months ending on 31 December 2022, during which time ZEP holders need to regularise their stay through normal immigration laws of the Republic. The Minister took the decision in terms of the relevant provisions of the Immigration Act, 2002.
What does this exemption mean?
As per the Notice posted in the Government Gazette 45727 on the 7th of January 2022:
- No holder of the exemption may be arrested, ordered to deport, or be detained for purposes of deportation in terms of the Section 34 of the Immigration Act for any reason related to him or her not having any valid exemption certificate (i.e. permit label / sticker) in his or her passport. The holder of the exemption permit may not be dealt with in terms of Sections 29, 30 and 32 of the Immigration Act.
- The holder of the exemption may be allowed to enter or depart from the Republic of South Africa in terms of Section 9 of the Act (read together with the Immigration Regulations 2014), provided that he or she complies with all other requirements for entry into and departure from the Republic, save for the reason of not having valid permit indicated in his or her passport.
- The holder of exemption should be required to produce-
- A valid exemption certificate; and
- An authorisation letter to remain in the Republic contemplated in section 32(2) of the Immigration Act when making an application for any category of the visas, including temporary residence visa.
Although there have been court challenges in respect of the decision taken by the Minister to end the ZEP permits, none thus far have been successful. Without a further agreement between the Republic of South Africa and Zimbabwe in respect of the continuation of the ZEP permits, employees are urged to take advantage of the grace period provided and apply for the other types of visas that they may qualify for in terms of the Immigration Act.
Failure by employees to apply and obtain other visas upon expiry of the grace period, will result in their continued employment in South Africa being considered unlawful.
Employers are advised that at the current stage the continued employment of such employees are considered lawful. When coming closer to the end of the grace period however, the employer would be required to follow up on the progress of such employees applying for the different visas and should they not have obtained same, then their employment could be terminated.
Should you require any assistance or have any queries in respect hereof, kindly contact our administration team on 0861 737 263 or your designated Invictus consultant.