Answer to a question from a reader

Will an immigrant with expired documents be arrested if they go to Home Affairs?

The short answer

They might. It would be best to contact an organisation that specialises in immigration matters.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

One of the Zimbabwean gentlemen who works in my complex has an asylum permit that expired in 2019, and his ZEP expired at the end of last year. He is worried that if he goes to Home Affairs he will be arrested. How can we help him?

The long answer

The government has said that Zimbabweans with a ZEP permit have been granted a grace period until the end of the year to apply for alternate visas like critical skills, or be deported.

There are about 180,000 Zimbabweans who are in the limbo created by the decision to discontinue the ZEP permit which was introduced ten years ago to provide an amnesty for the many Zimbabweans living in South Africa without documentation. Most of these Zimbabweans would not qualify for alternate visas like the critical skills visa, so the outlook for them and their families is decidedly gloomy, currently.

If the person in your complex did not have a ZEP permit but had an asylum seeker permit (a Section 22 permit), it would have been valid for six months and would need to have been renewed pending a second interview with Home Affairs officials at the same Refugee Reception Office where he was issued the Section 22 permit. This second interview would determine if he would be given refugee status or not.

During the lockdown period of Covid, many people’s asylum seekers’ permits expired as Home Affairs was not open for renewals. 

I think Home Affairs might well deport him if he went there, and I suggest that he should first approach one of the following organisations for help and advice before going to Home Affairs:

  • The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CORMSA)

5th Floor, 87 De Korte St, Heerengracht Building Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa

Office tel: 011 403 7560/0032/0033


  • Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town


Tel: 021 45 6433

  • Lawyers for Human Rights (they have different regional offices, depending on where you live, which you can look up online).


Wishing you the best,

Answered on May 10, 2022, 9:51 a.m.

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