The South African government has announced that it will not extend the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) scheme beyond Dec. 31, 2021.

Key Points:

  • Zimbabwe Exemption Permits are set to expire on Dec. 31, 2021.
  • Individuals who hold a ZEP have 12 months from their expiration date to secure a different visa.
  • ZEP holders who are unable to secure a different visa after the 12-month grace period must leave South Africa or they risk being detained and deported.

Background: Next year will mark the first year since 2009 that special permits are not available to Zimbabwean nationals. The ZEP program began when the South African government granted “special dispensation” for Zimbabweans who were in the country illegally, many of them having had fled violence and instability in Zimbabwe. The South African government replaced Special Dispensation for Zimbabweans with Zimbabwean Special Permits in 2014 and again in 2017 with the introduction of the ZEP.

BAL Analysis: ZEP holders must secure a different visa by 2023 to stay in South Africa legally. BAL will continue to monitor developments regarding the visa extensions and will provide more information as it becomes available.

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

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