Zimbabwean Special Permits: Additional Clarity and Guidance

On 18 August 2022, NEASA published an opinion piece regarding the decision of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to no longer extend the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEPs), which are set to expire on 31 December 2022.

The response from the public to the opinion piece was the clearest indication of the enormously devastating effect this decision has on countless Zimbabwean employees and their employers. NEASA was inundated with requests for advice, guidance and assistance.

Consequently, we are issuing this newsletter in order to provide further clarity on what the affected employers and employees are to do, and which measures are available for them to utilise. 

Firstly, the decision of the DHA to scrap the ZEPs ONLY affects current Zimbabwean Exemption Permit holders (ZEPs).

Zimbabweans who currently hold Asylum Seeker-, Refugee-, Critical Skills-, Spousal-, General Work- or Business visas/permits are not affected. If and when applicable, they must follow the standard procedure set out for the renewal of these permits, exactly as they have in the past.

Any Asylum Seeker/Refugee permit holder whose permit expired during the Covid-19 lockdown period, were granted a grace-validity period of their permits until 30 April 2022. Holders of these types of permits are advised to submit renewal applications as per the DHA directive.

If a person holds the ZEP and is currently employed:

  1. they will be considered illegal immigrants after 31 December 2022 if they do not apply for another mainstream visa as requested by the DHA, such as:
    1. Critical Skills Work Visa, the requirements of which include:
      1. you have to be employed in one of the occupations listed on the DHA Critical Skills List, as published in August 2022;
      2. you have to belong to the professional body regulating that specific industry/profession (such as ECSA, which is the Engineering Council of South Africa, if you are qualified in one of the engineering fields on the skills list);
      3. South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) evaluation of your foreign qualifications; and
      4. you must already have secured an employment contract in line with your critical skill occupation.
    2. General Work Visa, the requirements of which include:
      1. Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) recommendation motivating the employment of a foreign national;
        1. this DEL recommendation can be waived by the DHA (this is a separate application procedure); and
      2. you must already have secured an employment contract.
    1. Spousal Visa – with condition to work, the requirements of which include:
      1. if you, as a Zimbabwean citizen with a ZEP, are married to or in a life-partner relationship with a South African citizen/permanent resident, you may apply for a spousal visa with condition to work;
      2. main requirement being a valid marriage certificate, or in the case of a life-partner relationship, you would need a notarial contract confirming at least 2-year cohabitation as life partners; and
      3. you must already have secured an employment contract.

(Side note: ZEP holders who are married to or in a life-partner relationship with a South African citizen/permanent resident, may also apply for a relatives-visa, if they are not desirous to take up employment in South Africa)

  1. Business Visa, the requirements of which include:
    1. this visa is only available for people who can prove a R5 million foreign investment into a new and/or existing South African business;
    2. these business visas are subject to approval by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), prior to submission of your application to the DHA.

Additional information:

  • ZEP holders cannot apply for permanent residence permits;
  • subject to proof of a VFS (Visa Facilitation Services) receipt, a ZEP holder is still allowed to perform work, even after the expiry date of 31 December 2022, until they receive the outcome of their visa application; they are also entitled, subject to proof of their VFS-application receipt, to continue receiving other South African services, from banks, financial- and/or learning institutions.
  • all visa applications MUST be done via VFS, not at a Department of Home Affairs office/branch.
    • all applicants must complete the online VFS application process first, in order to obtain an appointment date at their nearest VFS office;
    • all applications must, after the online procedure, be handed in, in person, at the relevant VFS office/branch.

Although NEASA assists employers in need of assistance with their incapacity procedures for all ZEP holder employees, who cannot obtain any of the alternative mainstream visas, NEASA does not process applications for visas and/or permits.

Since compliance with the complexities of these applications are cumbersome, NEASA advises the employees and employers who require assistance with the relevant visas/permits to utilise the services of a specialist immigration practitioner, Henry Harper, by sending an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit www.hasslefree.co.za.

By Rona Bekker is the Senior Policy Advisor at the National Employers' Association of South Africa (NEASA).