What is the change? The South African Cabinet has given the go ahead for the Department of Home Affairs to open a reapplication process for Zimbabwean Special Permit holders.

What does the change mean? Once the reapplication period is opened, Zimbabwean Special Permit holders will be able to apply for renewed permits, which allow them to work and reside in South Africa. Current permits are due to expire Dec. 31.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Zimbabwean Special Permits.
  • Who is affected: Zimbabwean Special Permit holders who want to remain in South Africa.
  • Next steps: The Cabinet said in a statement that Hlengiwe Mkhize, the Home Affairs minister, will hold a separate briefing to explain the reapplication process. Mkhize is also expected to detail any conditions that might be applied to the extension of special permits.

Background: The special permit program dates to 2009, when the South African government granted “special dispensation” for Zimbabweans who were in the country illegally, many of them having fled violence and instability in Zimbabwe. The South African government subsequently replaced Special Dispensation for Zimbabweans with Zimbabwean Special Permits, opening the application process to Zimbabweans with valid passports, proof of employment or study, and a clear criminal record in 2014. Permits issued at that time are set to expire at the end of the year. The Cabinet said Aug. 1 that it approved a reapplication period, but officials have not yet put in place processes to begin accepting applications.

BAL Analysis: The change will ease anxieties for tens of thousands of Zimbabweans holding special permits and hoping to remain in South Africa. BAL will continue to follow developments in this matter, including any announcement of conditions that will be applied to applications and when the reapplication period will open.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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