South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that he is extending the nationwide lockdown on activities until the end of April to prevent further spread of COVID-19. The lockdown was initially scheduled to end April 16.

The stay-at-home order will apply until April 30. All individuals, except enumerated critical workers, must remain at home except for essentials, such as to buy food, medicine or supplies, to seek medical care or to collect a social grant. Inbound foreign nationals from high-risk countries remain barred from entry. High risk countries include China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the U.K., and the U.S.

Additionally, the government has announced several temporary measures for foreign nationals who have already legally entered South Africa. These measures apply to foreign nationals whose visas expired Feb. 15 onward except for visa extensions filed before that date that remain pending. The following visa measures will remain in place until at least July 31.

Visa measures:

  • Expiring visas. Foreign nationals with temporary residence visas that expire Feb. 15 or later who did not renew their visas before the lockdown will not be declared undocumented or put on the prohibited persons list. Anyone whose visas expired before or during the lockdown will not be detained for holding an expired visa. Those who return to their home country after the lockdown instead of renewing their visa will not be deemed undesirable upon departure.
  • Visa applications. The Department of Home Affairs is not accepting or processing visa or permanent residence applications during the lockdown. Those with visas expiring after Feb. 15 may re-apply after the lockdown and will not need to obtain a good cause authorization to stay in the country. Those with visas expiring after Feb. 15 who had scheduled appointments during the lockdown should reschedule to a date after the lockdown has been lifted.
  • Work, study and business. People whose visas expire during the lockdown and those who have made applications for renewals or re-applied for their respective visas before the lockdown but remain pending, will be allowed to work, study or conduct business after the lockdown while waiting decisions on their applications.
  • Nationals of high-risk countries. Visas issued for nationals of high-risk countries who were outside South Africa on March 15 remain revoked.
  • Departure ban. During the lockdown, foreign nationals currently in South Africa are barred from departing, unless expatriation was initiated by another state.
  • Lesotho Exemption Permit. Lesotho Special Permits which expired on Dec. 31, 2019 remain valid until June 15, 2020. Holders of the Lesotho Special Permit have until June 15 to submit their applications for the Lesotho Exemption Permit, and no new applications will be accepted.
  • Asylum Seeker Permits. Asylum seekers whose visas expire March 16 to the end of the lockdown period will not be penalized or arrested as long as they legalize their visa within 30 calendar days after the date the lockdown is lifted.

Analysis & Comments: South African businesses and their employees should identify employees affected by the temporary visa measures to plan next steps in the coming months. Please check Deloitte’s COVID-19 Digital Map, available here, for information on travel restrictions and immigration changes in other countries.

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