4 July 2022 by Employment Law Alert

Extended relief for foreign nationals with pending visa and waiver applications

In a circular dated 1 April 2022, the Minister of Home Affairs approved the introduction of certain temporary measures to address the severe backlog in the processing of visa and waiver applications that has been experienced since the beginning of COVID-19.

This circular provided a blanket extension to foreign nationals who were still waiting for the outcome of their visa and waiver applications, who were allowed to legally remain in South Africa until 30 June 2022, without being declared undesirable when leaving South Africa.

Ahead of the expiry of the above period, and as the Department of Home Affairs (Department) is still trying to clear the backlog in the processing of visa and waiver applications, a further temporary blanket extension has been granted until 30 September 2022, in a circular dated 27 June 2022, with immediate effect.

The circular only applies to foreign nationals who have been legally admitted into South Africa and who are currently waiting for the outcome of their visa and/or waiver applications as follows:

  • Applicants who have pending waiver applications are granted a blanket extension until 30 September 2022 for the processing of their applications, to collect the outcome of their applications and to apply for their appropriate visas. However, if applicants elect to abandon their waiver applications and leave South Africa, they will be allowed to do so on or before 30 September 2022 without the risk of being declared undesirable.
  • Similar to the above, applicants whose visa applications are still pending are granted a blanket extension of their current visa status until 30 September 2022. If these applicants elect to abandon their pending applications, they are allowed to leave South Africa by this date without being declared undesirable. While waiting for their visa applications to be processed, these applicants are prohibited from engaging in any activity, other than those activities that are specifically provided for as part of their current visa conditions.

In addition to the above, the circular allows applicants with pending long-term visa applications to travel as follows:

  • Applicants who originate from countries that are exempt from port of entry visa requirements may travel by presenting their receipt from the Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) when they arrive at the port of entry for admission back into South Africa, and to collect their visa outcomes.
  • Applicants who originate from countries that are visa restricted will need to obtain a port of entry visa and present their receipt from the VFS before they are allowed to re-enter South Africa.

Foreign nationals who are currently still waiting for the outcome of their pending visa and waiver applications will undoubtedly welcome this extension as it provides them with further assurances that they will not be declared undesirable while their applications are being processed (at least until 30 September 2022). However, whether the Department will provide for a further blanket extension after 30 September 2022 remains to be seen.

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