South Africa: South Africa grants 3-month visa extensions to certain university students

What is the change? Foreign university students have been granted a “blanket administrative extension” that will allow students whose visas are set to expire on or before Dec. 31 to remain in South Africa until March 31, 2017.

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What does the change mean? The change will allow affected students to remain in South Africa three months into the new year to complete their studies, as many of South Africa’s universities grapple with student protests that have disrupted class schedules. Affected students do not need to take any action. However, absent any additional extension, they must leave South Africa on or before March 31.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Study visas that expire on or before Dec. 31.
  • Who is affected: Foreign students at tertiary education institutions (e.g., universities, colleges or post-secondary technical schools) holding one of the visas described above and who can demonstrate that the completion of their studies has been affected by the protests.
  • Impact on processing times: The extension will save students whose visas were set to expire on or before Dec. 31 the time it would take to apply for and obtain a visa extension to complete their studies in the new year.

Background: South Africa’s universities have been struck by demonstrations by students protesting the cost of higher education. The demonstrations have disrupted class schedules and, in some cases, final exams have been postponed until after the new year. This would have meant that some foreign students whose visas were set to expire on or before Dec. 31 would have had trouble completing their studies. The Department of Home Affairs responded this week by issuing Immigration Directive No. 25 of 2016 to provide the extension.

BAL Analysis: The extension is designed to make it easier for foreign students to complete their studies without falling out of status. South Africa has also made it clear that those who stay to complete their studies will not be declared “undesirable” upon departure, which would affect their future ability to come to South Africa, provided they leave on or before March 31.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and J Fetting Inc. in South Africa. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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