Answer to a question from a reader

Why is it taking so long to transfer my Zimbabwean Exemption Permit to a new passport?

The short answer

Home Affairs has been particularly inefficient since the Covid restrictions were implemented.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I applied to have my Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) from a lost passport to a new passport two months agp. On the tracking platform, it still just says that Home Affairs has received my application. Since the ZEP will not be renewed at the end of the year, I will need the permit to legally export my belongings to Zimbabwe as a returning resident. Returning as a border jumper would be a nightmare. Has Home Affairs said anything about these transfers?

The long answer

I could find no information at all from Home Affairs' website and announcements regarding the transfer of ZEP permits from a lost passport to a new passport. The only item on the Home Affairs website that might be of relevance is this:

Replacement of lost/stolen document for travel purposes will take 3 weeks and cost R290.00. 

This is the Hotline for Home affairs: 0800 60 11 90.

But as is well known, Home Affairs has been even more inefficient since the Covid-19 restrictions, and they are said to have a massive backlog in various applications. So it seems unlikely that they will do this transfer before 31 December as they have not done so in the past two months since you applied.

However, on 25 November 2021 Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele announced that Cabinet had decided on a 12-month grace period at the expiry of the current ZEP. He said that ZEP holders should apply for “other permits appropriate to their particular status or situation” in the grace period.

ZEP holders may qualify for the following types of visas:

  • Spousal / Life Partner Visa with Work Authorisation (if married or in a permanent relationship with a South African Citizen / Permanent Resident, subject to conditions);

  • Relative’s Visa (if related to a South African Citizen / Permanent Resident who is either a spouse, parent or child);

  • Critical Skills Work Visa (if holder of critical skills as set out in the Gazetted Critical Skills List issued by DHA);

  • General Work Visa (if offered South African employment and approved by Department of Labour, subject to assessment);

  • Study Visa (if enrolled/accepted to take up studies at a registered educational institute in South Africa);

  • Business Visa (where you have your own business and meet the investment and labour requirements);

  • Retired Person Visa (where the applicant has income exceeding R37,500 per month from a pension, irrevocable annuity or other income source).

“At the expiry of this 12-month period, those who are not successful will have to leave South Africa or be deported,” Gungubele added.

It may be best to approach one of the following organisations that have a lot of experience in dealing with Home Affairs for help and assistance regarding the transfer of the ZEP to your new passport:

  • Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town: (Most Scalabrini services are now running remotely.)


To contact the refugees and migrants Advocacy Programme, send a "please-call-me" SMS to  0782603536 and include your name. The message will be logged and one of the Advocacy Team members will get back to you.

  • Lawyers for Human Rights (they too have a refugee and migrants rights section)


Wishing you the best,

Answered on Dec. 3, 2021, 4:46 p.m.

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