South Africa Immigration Update – January 2021
Partner Contribution - IMCOSA
As per an extended Ministerial exemption, no-one whose visa has expired during or shortly before the lockdown will be penalized. Persons with visas that have expired after 15 February are permitted to stay in the country, leave the country or make an application for a new visa, until 31 January 2021 without being declared illegal, undesirable or having to be legalized first. Short-term visitors (or “tourist”) visas that have expired during this time will not be extended again. Such tourist visa extensions are only granted to persons who arrived in the country after the re-opening of borders in September. Due to high volumes of applications and limited capacity under Covid-10 restrictions, securing appointments for applications or collections of outcomes has become increasingly difficult. You are welcome to contact us should you require assistance.
Others affected by the travel restrictions and the health risks of travelling during the pandemic may also benefit from concessions. According to information received by Imcosa, permanent residents who have spent an extended time outside the country and were prevented from returning to South Africa during 2020 to avoid the lapsing of their permits (usually the case after an absence from the country of longer than 3 years), will not lose their status. Similarly, persons who have received their permanent residence, but not been able to take up residence in South Africa within the specified period, will not lose their status. Official confirmation of this concession is still being awaited.
Visa Applications Open, Permanent Residence and Citizenship (Largely) Not
The Department of Home Affairs, its service provider VFS Global and most South African Embassies and Consulates abroad are open for short- and long-term visa applications, waivers and appeals. In fact, local visa applications are being processed comparatively fast. Permanent residence results are being issued and can be collected.
However, due to the restrictions of Covid-19 regulations, offices can only work with a much-reduced staff contingent and thus at a lower capacity. Thus, applications for permanent residence and citizenship are not yet possible (with few exceptions which accept citizenship applications). Understandably, managing large numbers of people safe during this time is a challenge. Every Covid case on-premise leads to the closing of an office for 7-10 days, which further increases the pressure on the system. We, therefore, feel that the appeal for our patience is a reasonable one. We are hoping that further applications will open during the first term of 2021.
Visa Concessions for Seconded Workers
To promote economic growth and accommodate persons currently seconded to South Africa, holders of intra-company transfer visas may now apply to have their visas extended locally by another two years! This comes as a great relief to seconded experts and their families who can now avoid having to return to their home countries and awaiting an outcome there. The concession applies to those whose visas expired during a lockdown or will expire by the end of June 2021. For further information and assistance, you are welcome to contact our team.