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South Africa | Automatic Extension of Exemption Permits for Nationals of Zimbabwe and Lesotho Announced
Tuesday, January 9, 2024

South Africa’s Ministry of Home Affairs announced that nationals of Zimbabwe and Lesotho have been granted extensions on their exemptions for an additional two-year period.

‌Key Points:

  • Zimbabwean nationals who were granted Zimbabwe Exemption Permits and nationals of Lesotho who were issued Lesotho Exemption Permits have been granted automatic extensions of their exemptions for an additional two years.
  • Exemption holders who have permits that expired on Dec. 31, 2023, will now be able to apply for an exemption permit with a new validity period ending Nov. 29, 2025. Individuals are granted a temporary extension until Nov. 2024, and then must apply if they want to get the extended permit to Nov. 2025.
  • An exemption permit holder is entitled to conduct business, work and seek employment as well as freely move between South Africa and any other country.
  • Nationals of Zimbabwe and Lesotho cannot apply for permanent residency regardless of the period of stay in South Africa and cannot change their immigration status during the validity of the permit. Additional details on the terms and conditions can be found here.

Background: The ZEP program began when the South African government granted “special dispensation” for Zimbabweans who were in the country illegally, many of whom had fled violence and instability. The South African government replaced special dispensation for Zimbabweans with Zimbabwean special permits in 2014 and again in 2017 with the introduction of ZEPs. A similar exemption was granted to nationals of Lesotho to provide them relief and to ease the burden on the asylum system. The exemption affects approximately 54,653 nationals of Lesotho and 178,000 Zimbabwean nationals.

BAL Analysis: Authorities have automatically extended permits until Nov. 29, 2025. However, nationals of Zimbabwe and Lesotho must still apply for the new permits following the newly released process.

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