20 April 2020 by Employment Alert

COVID-19 National Lockdown: Through the lens of immigration

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic in late 2019, over 1,934,583 people have been diagnosed with the illness and 120,863 people have died at the time of penning this article.

Since the national lock down, and its subsequent extension, temporary measures have been established in an effort to accommodate foreign travellers in the Republic of South Africa from the commencement of the National Lockdown.

Temporary measures have been put in place to accommodate foreign nationals whose visas expired from 15 February 2020 onwards unless one has proof that they have already submitted an application for a visa extension prior to 15 February 2020 and the outcome is pending. These temporary measures will be valid until 31 July 2020. Foreign nationals whose visas expired from mid-February 2020 but failed to apply for visa renewals will not be declared illegal or prohibited persons. Foreign nationals who opt to leave the country and return to countries of origin or residence without renewing their expired visas after the lock down will not be declared illegal upon departure.

Furthermore, if the visa expired after 15 February 2020, the foreign nationals will be permitted to reapply for new visas without the need to legalise their status in South Africa first.

Study, work and business visas

Foreign nationals whose visas expired during the lockdown and those whose applications are still pending adjudication will be allowed to continue working, study or conduct business after the lockdown on the same terms and condition which were endorsed on their initial visa which had expired. It is unlikely that the DHA would allow any change of status or conditions to expired visas under the provisions of the temporary measures.

Visas for high risk countries

Visas issued to foreign nationals of high-risk countries who were outside the Republic on 15 March 2020 were revoked as per the Directions issued by the Department in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002. These visas remain revoked.

Departure of foreign nationals

The departure of foreign nationals currently in South Africa is prohibited during the lockdown unless another state initiates their expatriation. However, post the upliftment of the lock down restrictions, should a foreign national decided to leave South Africa, he/she will not be declared an undesirable person, if the foreign national’s visa expired during the lock down period.

Lesotho Exemption Permit

The Lesotho Special Permit holders have until 15 June 2020 to submit renewal applications. The Lesotho Special Permit is valid until 15 June 2020 and new applications will be accepted.

Asylum Seeker Permits

Asylum seekers whose visas expired from 16 March 2020 to the end of the lockdown period will not be penalised or arrested. This is applicable only where they have legalised their visas with 30 days of the lockdown being lifted.

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