The Minister of Home Affairs effectively ended the ZEP, which applies to Zimbabwean Nationals working and living in the Republic of South Africa, on the 31st of December 2021, resulting in numerous Zimbabweans no longer being able to apply for an extension of the ZEP and 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.
Extension of Grace Period
The Minister initially provided a grace period of 12 months ending on 31 December 2022, which was subsequently extended on the 2nd of September 2022, through Immigration Directive 2 of 2022, for a further 6 months ending on the 30th of June 2023.
This grace period has again been extended through Immigration Directive 2 of 2023 for 6 months ending on the 31st of December 2023. During this grace period, ZEP holders are required to regularise their stay through customary immigration laws of the Republic.
Why the further extension?
The Minister took this decision regarding increased visa and waiver applications of more than 1000 daily, allowing the Department of Home Affairs to attend to processing the increased applications.
What does this exemption mean?
As per the Notice posted on the Government Gazette 45727 on the 7th of January 2022:
- No holder of the exemption may be arrested, ordered to depart or be detained for purposes of deportation or deported in terms of 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 into 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 her or her passport; and
- No holder of exemption should be required to produce-
- A valid exemption certificate; and
- An authorisation letter to remain in the Republic is contemplated in section 32(2) of the Immigration Act when applying for any category of visas, including temporary residence visas.
Employees are urged to take advantage of the extended grace period provided and apply for the other types of visas and waivers for which they may qualify under the Immigration Act.
Failure by employees to apply and obtain such other visas or waivers will lead to such employees being considered illegal in the Republic of South Africa upon the expiry of the extended grace period and result in their continued employment by businesses in South Africa is considered unlawful.
Employers are advised that at the current stage, the continued employment of such employees is considered lawful, and they must advise employees of the extended grace period to ensure that they become compliant sooner rather than later.
Employers are urged to ensure ultimatums are issued to employees advising them of the extended period and timeline in which they are required to obtain the required alternative visa or waiver. Employers are further advised to follow up on the progress of such employees applying for the different visas, and should they not obtain such alternative visa or waiver, their continued employment is required to be terminated upon the expiry of such grace period, through following a fair process.
Should you require any assistance regarding the ZEP’s extension of the grace period and Ultimatums or have any queries, kindly contact our Invictus team on 0861 737 263 or your designated consultant.