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South Africa introduces new rules for Zimbabwe permit holders

The South African government has announced new regulations for the new four-year, non-renewable permit for nearly 200 000 Zimbabweans working and studying in South Africa.

The new permits, known as the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP), will replace the current Zimbabwean Special Permit (ZSP), the Department of Home Affairs announced on Friday.

The initial Special Dispensation for Zimbabweans was approved in April 2009 to document Zimbabwean nationals, who were in South Africa illegally. The ZSP allowed applications from Zimbabweans with a valid Zimbabwean passport, evidence of employment, business or accredited study and a clear criminal record. Successful applicants were granted permits to stay and work, study or run a business in South Africa.

The permits expire on 31 December 2017 for the 197 941 approved permit holders.

Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize on Friday said the application process for ZEP opens on 15 September and will close on 30 November 2017.

The ZEP is open for valid ZSP holders only.

Terms and conditions of ZEP

Minister Mkhize said the conditions for the new permit entitle the holder to work, study or conduct business in the country.

The ZEP permits will be issued for a maximum period of four years, effective from 1 January 2018 and expiring on 31 December 2021.

According to the Minister, the conditions of the ZEP stand as follows:

    Entitles the holder to work/study and/or conduct business.
    Does not entitle the holder the right to apply for permanent residence, irrespective of the period of stay in the Republic of South Africa.
    Will not be renewable/extendable.
    Does not allow a holder to change conditions of his/her permit while in South Africa.
    ZSP permit holders, who wish to convert their status to any other mainstream visa, should apply timeously for such visa from within SA, provided they meet all the requirements for that visa.
    A ZSP applicant will be allowed to travel using the ZEP receipt and the expired ZSP permit until such time as the ZEP permit is issued, without being declared undesirable.

The Department of Home Affairs has advised prospective applicants to submit applications online from 15 September 2017 through the VFS website: www.vfsglobal.com/ZEP/SouthAfrica.com.

They will be charged an administration fee of R1 090. Thereafter, applicants will be allocated appointments for the required submission of fingerprints and supporting documents to VFS from 1 October 2017 at its offices across the country.

The applicant will be required to bring the following supporting documents:

    A valid Zimbabwean passport.
    Evidence of employment, in case of an application for work rights.
    Evidence of business, in case of application for business rights.
    Evidence of an admission letter from a recognised learning institution for study rights.

Managing labour and migration

Minister Mkhize said the dispensation will greatly assist in advancing the objectives of the National Development Plan Vision 2030, particularly in respect of the economy and attracting critical skills into the country. It will also assist in addressing the flows of labour within the SADC region.

"We believe that migrants play an important role in respect [of] economic development [and] enriching social and cultural life," she said.

The dispensation, the Minister said, will assist in enhancing national security and orderly management of migration.

"This process adds to our goal of developing a new national identity system, which will require that, through a secure population register, we know for certain who is in the country. This will help government in dealing with issues of irregular migration," Minister Mkhize said.

Hope for change

Minister Mkhize said hopefully by the time the ZE permits expire in 2021, there will be tangible economic development.

"We trust that the ZEP will go a long way in assisting Zimbabweans to rebuild their lives as they prepare to work in business and in educational institutions, for their final return to their sovereign state in the near future."

Zimbabwean Embassy representative, Robert Moranga, welcomed the new process and its terms.

"We thank the government of South Africa for this generous offer to thousands of Zimbabweans. This is an act of solidarity, an act of good neighbourliness."

Moranga called on fellow Zimbabweans, who hold ZSPs, to come forward and apply for the new ZEP as soon as applications open to avoid the last-minute rush.

"It's important to take heed of the call to come forward and submit applications so that they can live and work legally in South Africa," said Moranga.

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