How South Africa’s new visa could work

South Africa is considering the adoption of a remote-working visa as part of a push to attract more skilled workers, and their money, to the country.

Remote-working visa are travel permits that legalise the status of travelling professionals. Like tourist visas, they are easy to obtain and do not require long paperwork and a work contract. However, they allow for longer stays.

The Western Cape provincial government has previously mooted the visa, with president Cyril Ramaphosa confirming it is under consideration in his state of the nation address on Thursday evening (10 February).

The move has been welcomed by the City of Cape Town which stands to see significant benefits from the visa.

“Working tourists tend to spend up to R50,000 during their stay, which has the potential to add up to a significant boon for the economy,” said the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member for economic growth, James Vos.

“This revenue reaches multiple industries, including educational institutions, transport, accommodation, retail, and restaurants.”

Vos said the new visa can be easily introduced through an amendment to Section 11 of the Immigration Act, which relates to an extension of visas beyond 90 days for specific activities. This is because remote workers tend to stay beyond three months in a location, he said.

The application can be authorised by a ministerial directive while applying regulations already in place and governing visitors’ visa applications, he said.

At present, these visa applicants must show:

  • Control of sufficient financial resources (by means of a bank statement);
  • Proof of accommodation and medical insurance for the duration of their stay;
  • A medical certificate, radiological report, and police clearances.

The remote working visa will additionally:

  • Require an applicant to provide evidence of employment abroad, as well as a sufficient income from such employment or own business registered abroad;
  • Allow the applicant’s dependants to accompany them.

“South Africa has long been a global tourist hotspot. By showing that we also have the means for people to work while they’re here, we entice them to stay longer,” said Vos.

“I will also begin engagements with industry bodies such as CTT and the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) to get the ball rolling on creating specific product and pricing categories that cater to this specific market so that Cape Town remains top of mind for these travellers.”

Attracting skilled workers 

Ramaphosa said that attracting skilled workers was a key focus of his government’s plans to rebuild the economy.

“The world over, the ability to attract skilled immigrants is the hallmark of a modern, thriving economy. We are therefore streamlining and modernising the visa application process to make it easier to travel to South Africa for tourism, business and work,” he said in his state of the nation address.

“A comprehensive review of the work visa system is currently underway, led by a former director-general of Home Affairs, Mavuso Msimang. This review is exploring the possibility of new visa categories that could enable economic growth, such as a start-up visa and a remote working visa.”

Ramaphosa noted that the government has also published a revised critical skills list for the first time since 2014, following detailed technical work and extensive consultations with business and labour.

Read: Just 3% of skilled workers want a full office return – and will quit if forced to

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How South Africa’s new visa could work