Big win for work visas in South Africa

 ·28 Feb 2024

South Africa aims to attract foreign investors by accelerating the issuance of work permits for foreign executives and technicians employed by the largest companies in the country.

As part of the Trusted Employer Scheme pilot introduced in October, work permit processing times will be reduced to 20 days instead of 22 weeks, according to the Department of Home Affairs.

The Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry – representing companies operating in South Africa, including Volkswagen and Bayer – has previously stated that the difficulty of securing work permits is limiting investment and endangering 100,000 jobs in the country.

“This scheme will allow South Africa to more easily attract skills and manage immigration, particularly in processing applications for senior executives, technical personnel, corporate employees and investors,” said Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa’s Home Affairs minister. 

Companies under the program will have their applications given a higher priority and will be subject to fewer requirements and demands for supporting documentation. 

South Africa’s Presidency recommended the establishment of the program in a report last year, citing a skills crisis as the second-biggest threat to economic growth after recurring power outages.

In a parliamentary Q&A session held in December, Motsoaledi revealed that the backlog of temporary residency visas remains at over 74,309.

This number has not changed since the department’s last report in October 2023.

Additionally, the minister noted that there is a backlog of 43,944 permanent residency permits that need to be addressed.

Immigration lawyer Gary Eisenberg said in December that the backlog crisis is probably much worse and that the numbers provided by the department are somewhat misleading, as they likely do not include applications that have been appealed or are under review.

South Africa has long been facing a significant skills shortage, and businesses have been struggling to attract much-needed skills to the country, with the failures at Home Affairs continuing to hinder their efforts.

Companies have reported that visa applications can take up to 48 weeks to be accepted, threatening expansion plans, investment, and job creation in a country with a 33% unemployment rate.

A point of how bad the backlog is, a report prepared for the presidency noted that between 2014 and 2021, only 25,298 skilled work permit visas were approved.

In response to these dire statistics, the Trusted Employer Scheme was recommended and implemented.

Reporting with Bloomberg

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