Landmark Constitutional Court judgement for asylum seekers and refugees

concourt judgementThe Constitutional Court’s judgement that asylum seekers and refugees can apply locally for South African visas or permits is the biggest news in immigration this month. This is a life-changing decision for thousands of asylum seeker and refugees in the country.

Asylum seekers and refugees can apply in South Africa

As South Africa’s immigration legislation stands at the moment, asylum seekers and refugees have to return home to apply for South African visas or permits.

Unfortunately returning home can be very expensive. Some refugees and asylum seekers also don’t have valid documentation to enable them to cross South Africa’s border. This makes it near impossible for many asylum seekers and refugees to change their legal status in South Africa, essentially leaving them trapped in their current situation indefinitely.

These facts were acknowledged by the Constitutional Court during a case brought before them in May 2018 and formed part of the ConCourt’s landmark judgement handed down on 9 October 2018 relating to asylum seekers and refugees.

The ConCourt has decided that:

  • Persons holding asylum seeker permits, awaiting outcomes on their appeals to rejected applications for refugee status, or who are recognized refugees, may apply for any category of permanent residence from within South Africa – provided the applicant meet the criteria as set out in the Immigration Act.
  • The persons as described above may apply for temporary residency visas from within South Africa – IF they meet the visa criteria AND first apply for and obtain an exemption from the requirements to apply from their home country.

The ConCourt also ruled that it is no longer necessary for individuals in possession of asylum seeker permits or refugees to have a valid passport to apply for or receive:

  • Temporary residence permits; or
  • An amendment to a temporary residence permit held by an asylum seeker or refugee.

Official go-ahead needed from Home Affairs before immigration industry can act

Everyone in the immigration industry is anxiously awaiting a directive, notice or publication from the Department of Home Affairs to put into action the Constitutional Court judgement.

Unfortunately immigration officials, such as Intergate Immigration, cannot act with on the ConCourt’s judgement without such an official go-ahead.

At the time of publishing, there has been no indication of when a directive, notice or publication can be expected.

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