Foreigners hoping to stay a bit longer in South Africa have certainly gotten their wish, as Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi has gazetted new directions extending the validity of visas or permits to 31 October 2020.
This decision gives foreign visitors a month to sort out their documentation and is just part of a myriad of measures that have had to be implemented in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has undoubtedly left the global economy in a state of disarray.
Had the prior directives remained in place, visitors would have risked being declared "undesirable", and their stay in the country would have been illegal – and come with consequences, including a penalty.
"The Directions extend the initial validity period from 31 July 2020 to 31 October 2020. This means that lawfully issued visas which expired from 15 February and during the period of the lockdown are deemed to be valid until the end of October 2020", said Home Affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza.
The department said however, the eligible visa holders who wish to be repatriated to their respective countries, could leave even before the deadline without being declared undesirable citizens.
"…Directions are hereby amended by the substitution for the date 31 July 2020 referred to in these paragraphs, of the date 31 October 2020, as the date until which the validity of visas and permits is extended and the date until which a person may leave the Republic without being declared as undesirable, respectively", the new regulations read.
"A holder of a visa or permit must adhere to the terms and conditions of his or her visa and any activity not endorsed onto such visa or permit is prohibited"
Passport renewal for South Africans abroad
In a not completely unrelated matter, the department has now allowed for the renewal of passport applications for citizens living overseas as of 27 July 2020.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has since written to Motsoaledi, asking that the passports of those working and living abroad, in need of urgent renewal, are stamped to remain valid for a period as long as a year.
"The issue of the inefficiency and lack of timeliness in processing passports for those living, working and travelling abroad is not new, it is a decade old problem that both the DHA and their colleagues at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation have shown minimal interest in rectifying", said DA MP Adriaan Roos.