Zimbabwe is giving a reprieve to holders of the seven-year special dispensation visa. The visas, slated to expire in December, were issued in 2010. Those wishing to renew their visa will be able to apply for an entirely new visa: Zimbabwe exemption permits, or ZEPs for short.
Businesses will be impacted by the change if visa holders do not know and follow new laws.
“A number of visa processing changes have been made so far this year, and more are expected throughout the remainder of 2017” states Immigration Attorney Ronald Shapiro.
What visa holders and businesses need to know about the ZEPs is:
- Special dispensation visas were given to around 200,000 people in Zimbabwe that wanted to gain legal status in South Africa. The visas, no longer available at this time, were originally granted for a period of 3 years but were extended through the end of 2017.
- The only people that are eligible to apply for ZEP are those that have obtained and still possess a valid Zimbabwe Special Permit.
- The visa will cost R1,090 to obtain. Anyone that applies for the new permit will need to pay this cost before being granted their permit. You’ll only be able to renew the current permit for a period of four years. The new visa will last from January 1, 2018, through December 31, 2021.
- The cut off period for applying for the new permit is November 30, 2017. Businesses and workers that want to reside in South Africa under the permit will need to make sure that applications are received on time.
- Permanent residency is not granted under the visa. There will likely be new revisions and options as 2021 comes around, but there is no guarantee that Zimbabweans will be able to reside in South Africa following the expiration of the new permit.
If your visa does expire, you can apply for other visas in an attempt to enter Southern Africa. You can apply for work, business and education visas. This is the route that visa holders will need to take when their permit eventually expires.
The original special dispensation visa was created to help Zimbabwe residents that fled the country because of financial instability or political issues legally enter South Africa. Some fees and permits were waived by the South African government to allow Zimbabwe residents to enter the region.
Businesses working with visa holders that will be impacted under the new rule should start to find alternative avenues to keep their employees in the country.