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Relief for Zimbabweans living in South Africa as immigration laws are relaxed

Most Zimbabweans living in South Africa have heaved a sigh of relief following the latest pronouncement by the Home affairs department. People whose visas to work, study or conduct business in SA expired during the Covid-19 lockdown will not be penalised, home affairs said on Tuesday.This also applies to people who submitted their applications before the lockdown, with the outcome pending.

This is part of temporary visa measures for foreign nationals legally in SA which will remain valid until July 31 unless extended officially by the department.During the lockdown, except for cases relating to expatriation initiated by their home countries, all foreign nationals who are currently in SA may not depart the country.

In relation to expiry of visas, holders of temporary residence visas which expired from mid-February, who did not renew their visas before the lockdown, will not be declared illegal or prohibited persons.Any person whose visa expired before or during the lockdown will not be arrested nor detained for holding an expired visa.

Those who opt to return to their countries of origin or residence after the lockdown, instead of renewing their visas, will not be declared undesirable upon departure.

The department has also made it crystal clear that it will not be receiving or adjudicating applications for visas and permanent residence permits.Foreign nationals whose visas expired after February 15 may reapply for their respective visas or relevant visa exemptions while in SA immediately after the lockdown has been lifted. They will not be required to apply for authorisation to remain in the country.

Those with expired visas from the same date who had scheduled appointments on dates which fall within the lockdown period should reschedule their appointments to an available date after the lockdown has been lifted, the department advised.

Any asylum seeker whose visa expired from March 16 to the end of the lockdown will not be penalised or arrested provided they legalise their visa within 30 calendar days of the lockdown being lifted

South Africa has been commended for imposing strict regulations to ensure the lockdown is adhered to and other countries have been called upon to take a lead from the southern African country. Relaxation of immigration laws is essentially meant to protect those foreign nationals who could not regularise their papers due to the strict lockdown.

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