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New South Africa Immigration Regulations

It comes as no surprise that South Africa is tightening its immigration laws. Just before the world cup, South Africa relaxed immigration requirements for Zimbabweans, by regularizing permits for those who were in South Africa without proper permits or those who had forged their permits. It was an amnesty offering to wipe away an irregularities in the immigration history of millions of Zimbabweans in living in South Africa. This was done by giving applicants three to four year Work Permits. A lot of these permits are now expiring and as expected, the Department of Home Affairs has tightened the immigration rules. In all fairness, immigrating to South Africa has been quite relaxed on the whole, but this is soon to change.

Below are details of the changes that are due. No longer can people over stay in South and pay their way out of it. I am sure these changes are also coming with stricter penalties for corrupt officials. This is going to be make it tough on millions of Zimbabwean unskilled workers currently residing in South Africa. There really is no respite for many as the Zimbabwean economy and job market are not looking good at all.

I can just imagine how cumbersome it is going to be to get a visa. Applying for a permit in South Africa was already cumbersome, but this is likely to cause so much confusion. The best is to prepare and make a plan as much as possible, because I am sure that the regulations are here to stay.

Visa Application process under the new Immigration Regulation

For those interested in Immigration to South Africa the below provides you with some pertinent facts regarding the visa application process under the new immigration rules.

The below also explains the situation regarding those who have committed to what was called a permit application (now to be called visa), but have to still to submit it to the Department of Home Affairs.

Is it a permit or visa?

A somewhat cosmetic change but now all permits will be referred to as visas.

I have signed up for a permit but it is not yet submitted

This will depend upon the type of permit you were planning on applying for and where you were applying for it from.

  • If you are in South Africa on a tourist visa and were planning on making an application for a temporary permit at a local South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA), either in person or via an immigration lawyer or practitioner, you will no longer be able to.
  • If you are abroad, it will depend upon the type of permit you are applying for. If your application was for:
    • A quota work permit.
    • An exceptional skills permit, both temporary and permanent.
      These permits are no longer available.
  • Further, if you were hoping to apply for a life partner permit you must now be able to show 2 years co habitation. If you unable to do so seek advice from us here.

I was going to apply for a quota / exceptional skills work permit – what now?

We and other reputable immigration companies have known for some months that these permits would no longer be available under the new immigration rules. Due to this we stopped offering this (in February) as an option, in the full knowledge they would not be processed in time. We therefore hope not many people are in this situation. If you unfortunately are, it may not be all doom and gloom.

A new category called the critical skills work visa is now available. The list of occupations that may qualify for the critical skills list can be found here. This list is a draft and open to public comment but reliable sources close to the DHA inform us this will be the working list until it is reviewed.

You may therefore qualify under this new category.

The good news about this category is applicants can immediately apply for permanent residency if they can prove 5 years work experience after they received their academic qualification.

Contact us here to ascertain your eligibility.

Can I still submit my application in South Africa?

It was common practise for applicants to enter South Africa on a visitors visa and then apply for temporary residency at a local Department of Home Affairs. This is no longer permitted and all ‘first time’ applications must be made from your home country. Again this has been common knowledge since late February so applicants should have been well prepared.

Where you are now in South Africa and on a visitors visa, there are some complex issues to manage. Not least that you can no longer submit your application in South Africa but also the range of fines and punishments if your visitors visa has expired.

Important Note – if you are here in South Africa on an expired visitors visa you should consider and seek opinion about leaving prior to May 26th when the new regulations come into force otherwise you may be declared an undesirable person for between 12 months and 5 years and prevented from entering South Africa.

The good news is dependants of work visa holders may change the conditions of their accompanying visa to study or work inside SA and need not return to their home countries.

I have read that applications must now be made in person

Correct and in line with international standards. Under the Visa Application process we will still however accompany clients where required as well as pick up permit decisions.

Where do we submit applications now?

The DHA is outsourcing all applications to a company called VFS, however the date for this is not yet announced. It may well be in June now the new immigration rules are in effect, but this is not yet confirmed. Until then it is still the DHA.

This we believe can be a positive step and you can read more about here.

What about renewing my existing permit?

This can be done in South Africa but it must be done 60 days before expiry of the current one.

Please bear in mind that although it is referred to commonly as a renewal, in actual fact it is the same as applying for a new permit. In this case if you are on a quota work permit or exceptional skills work permit, you will not be able to renew and must look at different options. Once again we would encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.


The main effect will be those persons:

  • in South Africa on visitors visas wanting to make a visa application;
  • those who were compiling applications for now defunct ‘permit’ options;
  • and those life partners who have not cohabited for 2 years.

The Visa Application process under the new Immigration Regulations is very different to the ‘old ways’. As with any process change, this may bring teething problems and unfortunately there will be some ‘immigration consultants’ who are not up to speed. It is therefore more important than ever to ensure you get the correct advice.

Related Posts
How the new South AFrican Immigration Laws affect you

Categories: General
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  1. June 9, 2014 at 11:23 am

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