Answer to a question from a reader

Is it possible for Zimbabwean asylum seekers to apply for South African IDs during lockdown?

The short answer

No, only South Africans can apply for SA identity documents. Here is how to renew your asylum permit online.

The long answer

No, I’m afraid it is not possible for an asylum seeker to apply for a South African ID, during lockdown or at any other time. Only a South African citizen can apply for a South African ID.

An asylum seeker is basically waiting for Home Affairs to grant him or her refugee status. This decision by Home Affairs can take years, and during that time the asylum seeker has to keep renewing the Section 22 permit. A refugee is issued a Section 24 permit.

A person who has been granted refugee status can apply for permanent residence after five years. A refugee who has been granted permanent residence can apply for South African citizenship once he or she has lived in South Africa for ten years as a permanent resident before applying for citizenship. 

All asylum seekers and refugees have until 30 June 2021 to renew permits that expired during lockdown since 15 March 2020. 

Home Affairs has now set up an online process to renew asylum seeker or refugee permits, to avoid physical contact due to Covid-19. The request to renew visas must be sent by email to the refugee reception office (RRO) where it was last renewed. The RRO will reply, sending a template and a list of documents that need to be submitted. These are:

  • The signed template that has a permit number, full names and surname, and full contact details (an email address, mobile phone numbers and physical address)

  • Proof of physical address in a form of a utility bill or an affidavit confirming address.

  • A copy of the current visa. If the visa is lost, you must submit an affidavit confirming that the permit is lost and give the previous permit reference number.

These are the relevant email addresses for the different refugee reception offices:

Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Office

 Cape Town Refugee Reception Office

 Musina Refugee Reception Office

 Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) Refugee Reception Office

 Durban Refugee Reception Office

 Home Affairs has also said that a person needing to verify the validity of a visa that was issued online may send an email to the following email addresses:

If you need help with the application to renew your asylum seeker permit online, you can approach the advocacy team of the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town:

You can send a WhatsApp message to 078 260 3536, or you can call, SMS or send a please-call-me to 083 433 5062. This will be logged and one of the advocacy team members will get back to you.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on June 4, 2021, 2:52 p.m.

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Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.