South African Visa Options for ZEP Holders

We have received a huge number of enquiries from Zimbabwean Nationals with Zimbabwean Exemption Permits. The Department of Home Affairs announced that the ZEP would not be extended again and that there would be a 12-month grace period for applicants to apply for other permits appropriate to their particular status or situation.

  1. General work visa:

The first step to obtaining a General Work Visa is obtaining a certificate from the Department of Labour confirming;

  1. despite diligent search, the prospective employer has been unable to find a suitable citizen or permanent resident with qualifications or skills and experience equivalent to those of the applicant;
  2. the applicant has qualifications or proven skills and experience in line with the job offer;
  3. the salary and benefits of the applicant are not inferior to the average salary and benefits of citizens or employees occupying similar positions in the Republic;
  4. a contract of employment stipulating the conditions of employment and signed by both the employer and the applicant in line with the labour standards in the Republic and is made conditional upon the general work visa being approved;

Unless the applicant has a very rare skill, supported by a formal qualification and many years of experience, it is highly unlikely that they will be able to get past the first requirement. Only once the applicant has the labour certificate, can they submit their application for a general work visa at VFS.

  1. Critical skills visa:

The Department of Home Affairs eventually gazetted the much-anticipated revised critical skills list on 2nd February 2022. Only 101 roles made the final list, with the majority requiring advanced diplomas or degrees to qualify. Please see the link below

Gazetted_Critical_Skills_List_2022-compressed.pdf (

       To qualify for a critical skills visa the applicant needs:

  1. Relevant minimum qualifications for the roles as defined on the gazette list
  2. Be able to meet the minimum requirements of the particular professional body associated with each role
  3. Have a permanent job offer in that particular role

For applicants that qualify, this is a great option, as they would be able to apply for permanent residency, as soon as their critical skills visa is issued.

  1. Life partner/spousal visa:

 This may be an option for applicants who are in an exclusive relationship with a South Africa and are able to prove that they have been in a relationship for at least two years. They will need to be able to prove that they have been in an exclusive relationship, have been cohabitating, and share mutual financial responsibilities. That may sound simple enough but providing solid evidence to satisfy the DHA isn’t always so easy. We usually recommend documentation such as joint leases, confirmation of access to each other’s bank account and joint insurance/medical policies.

Applicants that have a registered business or a permanent job, can apply for a work endorsement to be added to their visa. This endorsement limits them to only working for the company specified on their visa. Should they change employers, they will need to apply for a change of condition.

Successful applicants can then go on to apply for permanent residency if they can demonstrate that they have been together for 5 years.

  1. Business visa:

While many Zimbabweans have registered business in South Africa, the majority will not qualify for a business visa, as the required minimum for most industries is R5 million.

The capital requirements above may be reduced or waived in respect of the following types of industries/businesses:

  1. Information and Communication Technology
  2. Clothing and textile manufacturing
  3. Chemicals and bio-technology
  4. Agro-processing
  5. Metals and minerals refinement
  6. Automotive manufacturing
  7. Tourism
  8. Crafts

Applicants will also be required to submit their business plan to the Department of Trade and Industry so that they can obtain the required letter of recommendation from the regarding-

  1. The feasibility of the business; and
  2. The contribution to the national interest of the Republic
  1. Study visa:

This is unfortunately the only possible option, for many of the applicants that have contacted us. To qualify for a study visa, applicants need to be accepted to study at a SAQA registered training institution. Applicants are permitted to work on a part-time basis (max 20 hours per week) on a study visa, so they can gain some practical experience in their chosen field. It is important to note, that study visas are only issued for the duration of the course and there is no automatic option to remain in South Africa at the end of their studies. This can be a useful option for applicants in a relationship with a South African that need time to build up sufficient evidence of their relationship.

Our recommendation to many applicants that wish to remain in South Africa indefinitely, is to study towards as skill on the critical skills list, mentioned above, as they would have a clear path to being able to qualify for permanent residency. They would need to be able to meet all the requirements of the critical skills visa by the time they qualify, so it is vital that they do proper research.

Unfortunately, in terms of the current South African Immigration legislation, many Zimbabweans, even those that have been in South Africa for many years, do not qualify for any of the above-mentioned visas. There are many NGOs doing great work trying to find alternative solutions. The Scalabrini Centre is one such organization and is gathering Zimbabwe Exemption Permit information to assist in our advocacy work seeking documentation solutions. I would suggest that all the Zep holders register with them

 ZEP Holder Information for Scalabrini Centre Advocacy (