Big push to overhaul visas in South Africa

 ·14 Apr 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa has once again reaffirmed the government’s commitment to introducing a ‘remote work visa’ for digital nomads wishing to work in South Africa.

Speaking at the fifth and final Investment Conference on Thursday (13 April), the president said the remote work visa would attract entrepreneurs, promote spending in the country and cater for start-up initiatives.

Talk about the remote work visa dates back to the early parts of 2021; however, it is yet to come to fruition – making it a sore point for tourism and South Africa’s status as a future-forward business place.

Speaking at the conference to plead for trillions of investment from domestic and foreign investors, Ramaphosa sold South Africa as a business hotspot. He also announced an overhaul of the work visa system to boost investment in the country.

“This includes decentralising the adjudication of visa applications to foreign missions and streamlining application requirements to reduce the timeframes for obtaining a work visa,” said Ramaphosa.

“We will introduce a Trusted Employer Scheme for qualifying companies and establish a points-based system to provide more flexible pathways for skilled applicants, in line with global best practice.”

The president added that as the government is reforming the visa regime, it is investing in skills development to ensure that domestically there is no longer a massive skills deficiency.

The Department of Home Affairs has said that the regulatory framework to introduce new visa categories does not exist. Despite this, the minister of the Department of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, said there is a comprehensive review of the work visa system underway.

The department has announced plans to release a White Paper on managing citizenship, international migration, and refugee protection. The paper will cover various immigration issues, including introducing new visa types.

The City of Cape Town has been pushing for a remote worker visa since the end of lockdowns and has conducted research showing that it will attract more international visitors.

Through an amendment of section 11 of the Immigration Act, the city has proposed that the remote work visa extend the stay period beyond the traditional 90 days.

According to the city, the Act could include the following requirements:

  • An applicant must provide evidence of employment abroad, as well as a sufficient income from such employment or own business registered abroad;
  • Prohibit the applicant’s work activities in South Africa;
  • Allow the applicant’s dependents to accompany them on the application.

The overall visa system in South Africa is, however, in shambles, with people who are willing to work in the country having to wait months on end to get the necessary documentation.

On 3 April, the CEO of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), Busi Mavuso, said that roughly 56,000 international workers are facing visa cancellation due to the failings at the DHA. The department noted that since the end of last year, the backlog of unprocessed visas has extended to roughly 62,700.

This has made it an impossible situation for business and a serious impediment to the country’s economy, said Mavuso.

“We need to give international companies the sense that they are welcome in South Africa and the confidence to plan on investments here without the fear that they will simply be unable to send their people because we cannot manage our own bureaucracy.”

She added that the visa chaos is a massive turnoff for foreign businesses and workers themselves.

Read: SARS is coming after retirement funds for those looking to leave South Africa

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