Covid-19: What you need to know as a refugee or migrant in South Africa

On June 18, 2020 / by Sherone Lewis / Leave a comment

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Covid-19 has left some uncertainty for refugee and migrants in South Africa. Here’s everything you need to know a visas and benefits you may qualify for.


Asylum/refugee visasHome Affairs has said that any asylum seeker whose visa expired from 16 March 2020 to the end of the lockdown period will not be penalised or arrested provided that they legalise their visa within 30 calendar days of the lockdown being lifted.

Immigration visas (work, business, study, etc.): Home Affairs confirmed that those whose visas which expired from 15 February 2020 will not be declared illegal or prohibited persons, nor will they be arrested or detained for holding an expired visa. If you wish to apply for an extension, you may reapply for your respective visa or relevant visa exemptions while in the South Africa immediately after the lockdown has been lifted. These temporary measures will remain valid until 31 July 2020 unless extended officially by the Department of Home Affairs.

In terms of civic services at the Department, Home Affairs has confirmed that services such as birth registration (not late registration of birth), temporary identity certificates, collection of smart IDs, replacement of birth/death certificates, passports for those in delivery of essential goods and those who are travelling outside the country for medical services are being provided.

Financial Relief (Governmental)

Some governmental relief packages are open to applications from non-South African citizens. These packages are not limited in terms of nationality or citizenship, however you will still have to satisfy the other requirements.

SASSA (grants)

SASSA services will continue and SASSA has confirmed that high-volume areas will receive additional capacity. SASSA Grants are accessible by South African citizens, those with refugee status, or those with permanent residency in South Africa. In order to apply, a 13-digit ID number is required. For those on refugee status, this 13-digit ID number is generated only when a Refugee ID is applied to (which is different to refugee status, and can only be applied to if refugee status is granted). However, SASSA has made provision, under lockdown, for those refugees who, although they have refugee status, do not have a 13-digit ID as they have not applied for a refugee ID. This is a temporary measure only.

Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)

Because of the covid-19 lockdown, the Department of Labour set up the ‘COVID-19 Temporary Employee / Employer Scheme’. This helps employers pay a part of their employee’s salary if they closed completely or partially during the lockdown. The Department has recently made amendments to the Scheme, which now allows for workers to benefit from the Scheme even if the employer failed to register the business with UIF, failed to register an employee as a UIF contributor, or failed to pay UIF contributions on behalf of the employee.

If you’re looking for assistance for any immigration problem, make sure you get in touch with one of our Consultants today!

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