3 big changes for visas in South Africa

 ·28 Aug 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Operation Vulindlela says that three big changes for South Africa’s visa regime are almost ready to be presented to the public for comment.

These measures should go a long way to assisting businesses to draw critical skills to the country, while also making it easier for these skills to actually get here.

This is part of a comprehensive review of the visa regime and immigration changes, it said, which the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will gazette in August for public comment.

The three key changes include:

  • Creating new visa categories for remote workers and start-ups;
  • Establishing a points-based system for work visa application routes;
  • Introducing a trusted employer scheme.

These three changes would work alongside reforms that have already been implemented, the group said, which includes expanding visa waivers to more countries and publishing a revised critical skills list for priority positions.

“Operation Vulindlela reforms to the visa regime achieved a critical milestone with the completion of the work visa review and publication of a detailed implementation plan by the DHA,” it said.

Among the coming changes, the group said that other key policy and process updates that will be introduced include streamlining document requirements for work visa applications to ease the burden on applicants.

These changes which are currently awaiting approval by the Office of the State Law Advisor before they can be published for public comment.

In addition to the coming changes – and those already in place – Operation Vulindlela said that the DHA is also expanding its visa waiver programme to additional countries.

South Africa currently waives visas for visitors from about 132 countries and is in negotiations to extend this to a further ten countries.

“Where countries do not have a visa waiver, they have been included in the eVisa system rollout,” it said.

South Africa’s eVisa platform currently covers 34 countries, up from an initial 14 countries. This means that visitors from 164 countries – potentially up to 174 – have or will have eased access into South Africa, accounting for countries with access to the eVisa platform and those where visitor visas have been waived.

Over the next quarter, the group said that it will support the implementation of the recommendations made in the work visa report.

“Operation Vulindlela will continue to work with the DHA to ensure that these reforms are implemented swiftly and to a high standard,” it said.

South Africa’s current visa regime has been described by immigration companies as being a nightmare to work with, while the processes have been called chaotic.

While a backlog peaking at over 62,000 at the the start of the year – and only expected to be cleared by mid-2024 – workers have not been able to enter the country, and businesses have been unable to draw in the necessary skills.

The promised reforms of expanded visas, easier processes, and new systems have been welcomed – however, doubts remain about the efficacy and ability of the DHA to implement them.

Read: South Africa’s visa chaos deepens

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