While expats are allowed to return to South Africa, many are reluctant to do so due to the stringent requirements that need to be met to get permission from the Department of Home Affairs, says Leetasha Govender, immigration specialist at Xpatweb.

South African expats working in African countries can return under strict conditions. Image credit: The Roomlink

South African expats working in African countries can return under strict conditions. Image credit: The Roomlink

“Expats are ready to return home, but the hoops they need to jump through are too cumbersome for some to book the flight,” says Govender. One of the categories of expats that is now considered for return is called ‘exceptional need to return,’ and it applies to long-term visa holders who are returning to conduct work that is in line with the economic growth and/or development of South Africa.

“If a long-term visa holder wants to return to South Africa, they will be considered depending on their positions and the reputation of their employer. The likelihood of a South African employee within the company being able to temporarily fill the role until border-lockdown has been lifted is also one of the DHA’s considerations,” says Govender.

In addition to the above, DHA will further only consider applications within industries that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) considers to be in the national interest of the country. These industries include green industries, advanced manufacturing, resource-based services such as mining, BPO, oil and gas, ship building and repairs, manufacturing or such other industries that may be deemed important or of national interest.

Govender says that ‘family reunion’ and ‘study’ are among the other categories of travel which are considered by the DHA for retuning expats. “Sufficient proof must be submitted to support an application for family reunion or study. The expat must have resided in South Africa for more than six months and have a valid temporary residence visa to apply under this category,” says Govender.

 Certain categories of expatriates remain excluded from entering the Republic. These include expatriates who are travelling from visa-exempt countries for short-term visits or business trips, as well as those from high-risk countries.

“Should you need to enter South Africa due to exceptional circumstances, and are unsure whether you may be eligible for consideration, contact us at travel@xpatweb.com or leetasha@xpatweb.com for an assessment,” says Govender.