Game changer for work visas in South Africa launching this week 

 ·12 Feb 2024

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will launch the Trusted Employer Scheme (TES) this week, which should help address the nation’s growing skills crisis.

The government has been reviewing its visa application system for years, with businesses highlighting the complex application process and long delays for foreign workers getting visas. Foreign workers are often mentioned as a short- and medium-term solution to the current skills crisis that South Africa is facing.

The delay in getting these visas also creates a significant cost to South Africa, as foreign capital flows to countries where the visa system works.

In response, the DHA announced the TES at the end of 2023, making it easier for qualifying companies to get the necessary visas for foreign workers.

To qualify, companies needed to meet set criteria, such as capital investment, facilitating graduate development programs, employing a minimum of 60% South Africans, maintaining good standing with relevant government departments and more.

The DHA received 180 applications, of which 65 were approved, while another 35, who were rejected for not meeting the minimum criteria, will have the opportunity to use an appeal process for reconsideration. Several other companies submitted late applications, which the DHA did not consider.

The Memorandum of Understanding was shared with Trusted Employers last week, with implementation set to start this week as soon as all the formalities are finalised.

Speaking to Marisa Jacobs, Managing Director of Xpatweb, Phindiwe Mbhele, Director of Corporate Accounts of the DHA, said that the scheme is designed to allow South African Employers to fast-track almost all visa categories.

This includes a Critical Skills Work Visa, the Intra Company Transfer Work Visa, and the General Work Visa, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

For instance, employers would previously have to SAQA Verification and Professional Body registration for a Critical Skills Work Visa applicant, which could take four months to complete, resulting in significant deals in securing work visas.

The new system will allow employers to mobilise talent in a fraction of the time, but Mbhele stated that employers must ensure that all qualifications, experience, and professional requirements are met. Companies thus have more to lose from not vetting talent correctly.

In addition, the immigration system has been incredibly challenging to families over the last two years, with accompanying spouse and child visas taking longer to process.

The benefits of the TES will also extend to accompanying family members, alleviating any significant source of stress for expats and their families.

Compliance is key

Although the documents required a significant reduction, there is an expectation of Trust from the DHA.

Each Trusted Employer is expected to comply with the requirements, noting that the undertaking is in place to ensure faster processing of applications.

The new system does not absolve the requirements but rather places the onus on the employers.

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