Gigaba’s announcement came after consultations he had with the International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA), which was liaising with universities to identity students affected by the regulations.
The waiver came as a solution to assist students, who would have been unable to write their examinations, or have been “declared undesirable when leaving the country on expired visas” said Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete.
The waiver, said Tshwete, means that these students would be allowed to stay in the country until December 31.
He added that, “Any student who intends to return to South Africa in 2016 for study purposes will have to follow the usual process of either applying for a renewal of their visa or apply for a study visa in their country of origin, whichever is applicable.”
Tswete said once the IEASA has provided the department with a list of bonafide students who were applicable for the waiver, they would proceed with granting these students the waiver.
Gigaba revealed plans to attract international students in October during a speech at an International Student Dialogue on International Migration.
The Minister explained that South Africa hopes that “skilled immigrants” will help grow the country's economy, and that the forthcoming plans would “make it easy and straightforward for those students who are interested in staying in South Africa after graduating to do so.”
The minister's statements indicate that the plans will be directed specifically at international students because they offer the advantage of having in-country training and certification.
Gigaba expressed confidence that degrees from South African institutions would help international students “transition seamlessly into their chosen fields.” To this end, the country aims to make the visa application process as smooth and efficient as possible while simultaneously working to make South African universities top destinations for students from around the globe.
During the dialogue, Gigaba also discussed ideas of South Africa's 'national question’, social cohesion, and nation-building. He also challenged the delegates to approach him with questions and concerns regarding student life in South Africa. The minister assured students that the Home Office wants to hear students' concerns, criticisms, and aspirations because of the opportunity it affords the Ministry to make changes and developments that help the country to grow.
“We are a young country on a young continent,” Gigaba told the delegates.