The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has extended the stay duration for people holding a long-term visa and waiver applicants till the end of this year.

This blanket concession is for only those applicants, who submitted their application via Visa Facilitation Centres (VFS) before or on March 31.

"A Directive to the Home Affairs Head Office, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation's Consular Services and Visa Facilitation Centres has been issued to communicate this decision," DHA said, SA News reported.

This decision means that people seeking long-term visas or waiver applicants can legally stay in the country till Dec. 31, this year.

The department explained, "Those that are traveling on passports issued by countries that are not visa exempted, are required to apply for a visitor's visa to return to South Africa until their applications have been finalized."

This blanket concession won't be useful for people with short-term visas, which have a validity of 90 days or less.

"All visitors on short-term visas whose validity was issued for less than 90 days are excluded from the concession and are required to depart before or on the date of expiry of the validity period of their visas," DHA added.

However, the department didn't confirm if this policy is applied to Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders or not, as thousands of Zimbabweans are waiting for the results of their applications after the special program was terminated. More than 178,000 ZEP holders were expected to leave South Africa by June this year.

It was announced by the government last year that they will not renew special Zimbabwe Exemption Permits, which allowed them to work in South Africa freely.

South Africa has more migrants in the country compared to any other country on the continent.

President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa issued a statement last month, saying that 178,412 nationals, including their families and dependents, are expected to return.

"Through our Embassy in South Africa, Government has availed a portal for them to register so their whereabouts and needs are known in anticipation of the repatriation exercise," Mnangagwa said, Zawya reported. "Some have been away from home for quite a while and, until now, had set base in South Africa."

Mnangagwa noted that ZEP allowed Zimbabweans to legally stay in South Africa to pursue their education, to work, or set up their businesses.

"With a strong educational foundation and largely highly skilled in different trades and disciplines, our nationals have been active across a wide spectrum of the South African economy," he continued. "They will not be hard-pressed for options."

The President further said that Zimbabwe is ready to welcome its citizens back home, noting that they will be supported by the government to "resume a productive life as full citizens back in the land of their birth."

As per the Department of Home Affairs, people who want to inquire further about Zimbabwe/Lesotho Special Permits should connect with the Assistant Director of Yogie Travern.

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