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ZEP Permits: Clarity amongst confusion.

Apr 3, 2023





Dear employer


On Wednesday, 29 March 2023, the Director General of Home Affairs issued a directive regarding additional extensions, and a grace period until 31 December 2023, for specifically long-term visa holders (work-, business-, study-, relative- and accompanying spouse visas).



This grace period and extension is not applicable to Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders. The validity of the ZEPs, on 2 September 2022, was extended until 30 June 2023, and this remains the status quo until the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) states otherwise.



All affected ZEP holders are still urged to lodge their applications for alternative visas and/or the appropriate waivers as soon as reasonably practicable, as most of these applications, especially waiver applications, may easily take up to six months. Should the DHA issue any further directives on ZEPs, we will communicate same.


If a person holds a ZEP Permit and is currently employed: 


  • they will be considered illegal immigrants after 30 June 2023 if they do not apply for either a waiver or another mainstream visa which they may qualify for, as requested by the DHA, such as: 


1. Critical Skills Work Visa, the requirements of which include that:


  1. you have to be employed in one of the occupations listed on the DHA Critical Skills List, as published in August 2022;
  2. you have to belong to the professional body regulating that specific industry/profession (such as the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) if you are qualified in one of the engineering fields on the skills list);
  3. you have to obtain a South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) evaluation of your foreign qualifications; and
  4. you must already have secured an employment contract in line with your critical skill occupation.


2. General Work Visa, the requirements of which include: 


  1. a Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) recommendation motivating the employment of a foreign national;

1. this DEL recommendation can be waived by the DHA (this is a separate application procedure); and

        2. you must already have secured an employment contract.


3. Spousal Visa – with condition to work, the requirements of which include: 


  1. if you, as a Zimbabwean citizen with a ZEP, are married to or in a life-partner relationship with a South African citizen/permanent resident, you may apply for a spousal visa with the condition to work;
  2. the main requirement being a valid marriage certificate, or in the case of a life-partner relationship, you would need a notarial contract confirming at least 2-year cohabitation as life partners; and
  3. you must already have secured an employment contract.


(Side note: ZEP holders who are married to or in a life-partner relationship with a South African citizen/permanent resident, may also apply for a relatives-visa, if they are not desirous to take up employment in South Africa)


4. Business Visa: 


  1. this visa is only available for people who can prove a R5 million foreign investment into a new and/or existing South African business; and
  2. these business visas are subject to approval by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC), prior to submission of your application to the DHA.


Additional information:


  • ZEP holders cannot apply for permanent residence permits.
  • Subject to proof of a VFS (Visa Facilitation Services) receipt, a ZEP holder is still allowed to perform work, even after the expiry date of 30 June 2023, until they receive the outcome of their visa application; they are also entitled, subject to proof of their VFS-application receipt, to continue receiving other South African services, from banks, financial- and/or learning institutions.
  • All visa applications MUST be done via VFS, not at a DHA office/branch:
  • all applicants must complete the online VFS application process first, in order to obtain an appointment date at their nearest VFS office; and
  • all applications must, after the online procedure, be handed in, in person, at the relevant VFS office/branch.


Although NEASA assists employers in need of assistance with their incapacity procedures for all ZEP holder employees, who cannot obtain any of the alternative mainstream visas, NEASA does not process applications for visas and/or permits.


Since compliance with the complexities of these applications are cumbersome, NEASA advises the employees and employers who require assistance with the relevant visas/permits to utilise the services of a specialist Immigration Practitioner, Henry Harper, by sending an e-mail to, or visit


For more information:

NEASA Media Department 


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