COVID-19: Concessions announced for foreign nationals in South Africa

 

The SA government has implemented a number of temporary measures since March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures include travel bans and restrictions, the revocation of visas and provisions for foreigners already in South Africa.

There have been many unanswered questions relating to these temporary measures as well as the practicalities and implementation thereof. To keep you updated with new developments, we would like to share the most recent announcement from the authorities.

Government has issued an official statement on the 14th of April 2020. It has partially cleared up many of those unanswered questions that we have been receiving. Below we are going to discuss the seven points addressed by Home Affairs (DHA) hoping to provide some additional clarity.

1) Visas that have expired or are going to expire

Visas that expired on or after the 15th of February 2020 can be renewed once the lockdown is over. VFS Global is currently closed due to the nationwide lockdown, though. Submission can therefore only be done once VFS is operational again post lockdown.

If your visa expired before or during the lockdown, you won’t be penalised. Renewal applications will be accepted without a Letter of Good Cause (Form 20).

2) Departing South Africa after lockdown with an expired visa

Foreigners with expired visas who opt to leave South Africa after lockdown will not be declared undesirable.

For many, this would appear to be good news as this has been the most asked question in the industry. However, there are concerns relating to this for the following reasons:

  • There is no directive issued from government supporting this statement. When there is a rule or process change, it is usually supported by means of a formal document.
  • The window period for departure post lockdown has not been made clear.
  • History has shown us that things take a while to filter down to officials on the ground. There is no certainty that the implementation will be done correctly and timeously by border officials.

Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that the borders of most countries are still closed. Flights have been grounded and people may not be able to transit through certain countries for an undetermined period of time.

Things are changing daily on a global scale. It is therefore difficult for us to predict what will happen over the coming weeks.

Our advice currently is to err on the side of caution and proceed with an extension of your visa. This shows that you have gone through the formal channels available to you to extend your legality in the country.

3) Foreigners who hold work, business or study visas

Due to our nationwide lockdown, DHA is not processing or adjudicating any applications currently. As a result, there is going to be a backlog.

DHA has confirmed that those who have submitted work, business or study visa applications prior to lockdown can take up their respective activity once the lockdown has been lifted.

Under normal circumstances, you cannot conduct an activity if your visa has expired and you’re awaiting the outcome. However, due to expected backlog, a concession has been made.

4) Visas issued to foreign nationals from high-risk countries

As per the Directive issued in March 2020, foreign nationals who hold temporary residency visas and who are outside of South Africa have unfortunately had their visas revoked. Based on the most recent statement by Home Affairs, this unfortunately remains unchanged.

Industry professionals do suspect, however, that the DHA will make provisions for these cases. Unfortunately, we cannot comment on this at this time. We will keep you updated on developments in this regard.

5) Departure of foreign nationals

Foreigners currently in South Africa cannot depart South Africa during lockdown. Those being repatriated by their governments are an exception to this rule.

6) Lesotho Exemption Permits

Holders of a Lesotho Special Permit have until 15 June 2020 to make applications for the Lesotho Exemption Permit.

Those with Lesotho Special Permits that expired at the end of December 2019, remain valid until 15th June 2020. No new applications will be accepted – it is only for those who have held a Lesotho Special Permit.

7) Asylum Seeker Permits

Those with permits which have expired between 16 March 2020 up until the end of lockdown will not be penalised. Please note, submission to legalise your stay must be done within 30 calendar days post lockdown.

Important to note the following:

  • These visa concessions apply to those who have expired on or after the 15th of February 2020 or;
  • Those individuals who have already submitted prior to the 15th of February 2020.
  • A change of status or condition will not be allowed, only a renewal of your existing visa.
  • These measures will remain valid until the 31st of July 2020 but could possibly be extended.

There still remains some uncertainty and unanswered questions. It’s therefore important to discuss your case with an expert as there are many factors to take into consideration before making any decision.

Contact us for your free consultation

Get in touch with one of our South African immigration specialists if you have any questions or concerns. Simply give us a call on +27 (0) 21 424 2460 or email us at info@intergate-immigration.com.

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Our team looks forward to hearing from you and assisting you with your immigration related matters!