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Zimbabwean Exemption Permits: there are a variety of visa compliance options available to SA businesses

Qualifying Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) workers have less than ten months to successfully transfer their permit to an applicable mainstream visa to ensure that they can continue to live and work legally in the country.

In 2021, Home Affairs Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi announced that South Africa would not be renewing the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits and he approved a ‘grace period’ to the end of 2022 to allow qualifying ZEP holders to transfer their status to other mainstream visas. Subsequently, this has been extended to the 30th of June 2023.

South African business owners, with ZEP holders under their employment, are concerned as they potentially face losing large portions of their staff complement. However, despite the ‘hysterical’ headlines created by certain labour and industry organisations, South Africa’s Immigration Act provides for other types of visa options to which qualifying applicants can be transferred.

Employers will need to comply with the Act to ensure that all their employees in Zimbabwe are there under legal and valid South African visas. While illegal immigrants can be deported back to their country of origin, business owners caught employing illegal immigrants will be liable to pay fines with the possibility of imprisonment,” says , Senior Associate at Pretoria-based law firm, Barnard.

It is crucial that South African business owners do everything necessary to assist their staff in Zimbabwe in moving to a suitable mainstream visa in compliance with the Immigration Act”.

There are a wide range of mainstream visa options available to qualifying applicants, including:

  • General work visa
  • Critical skills visa
  • Study visa
  • Relatives visa
  • Spousal / Life Partner visa
  • Volunteer visa
  • Accompanying visa
  • Retired person visa
  • Business visa

In initiating the immigration compliance process, employers are encouraged to engage with attorneys and immigration consultants who will be able to advise on the correct visa applicable to each employee as it would be detrimental to a qualifying applicant should he/she apply under the wrong visa category.

For tailored law assistance, please contact Chanique Rautenbach to arrange a consultation – 012 001 2739