11 April 2022 by Employment Law Alert

Temporary relief for applicants with pending visa and waiver applications

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Home Affairs has experienced a severe backlog in the processing of visa and waiver applications. This has left thousands of foreign nationals with uncertainty regarding their future in South Africa and has forced many of them to leave the country to avoid being declared undesirable. In order to address the excessive backlog, the Minister of Home Affairs approved the introduction of certain temporary measures. These measures were implemented by the Acting Director-General in a circular dated 1 April 2022, with immediate effect.

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

  • Applicants who have pending waiver applications are granted a blanket extension until 30 June 2022 for their applications to be processed, and in order to collect the outcome of their applications and apply for their appropriate visas. On the other hand, if applicants elect to abandon their waiver applications and leave South Africa, they will be allowed to do so on or before 30 June 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 June 2022. If these applicants elect to abandon their pending applications, they are allowed to leave South Africa by this date without being declared undesirable. During this time, however, applicants are prohibited from engaging in any activity, other than the activities specifically provided for in their current visa conditions.

In addition to the above, the circular allows applicants with pending long-term visa applications to travel during the upcoming April festive season 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 return to 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 in order to re-enter South Africa.

While the above measures are only applicable until 30 June 2022, they will surely be welcomed by many foreign nationals who have pending visa and waiver applications. It does, however, remain to be seen whether these measures will be extended for a further period. In the interim, foreign nationals who choose to travel over this period must ensure that they do so with their respective visa and waiver application receipts in order to avoid being refused entry back into South Africa.

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