South Africa is embarking on a series of visa reforms to attract foreigners with critical skills in a bid to accelerate the country's economic growth, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced.
"To succeed in an ever-changing global economy, our country needs far more people with the right skills," Ramaphosa said in a statement.
"This is so that our economy can be competitive, grow and create employment," he added.
President Ramaphosa noted that the country will enjoy the fruits its current investments particularly in expanding access to higher education in the long run, but short-term, "many of the high-level skills must be sourced internationally," he explained.
"It will take some time before we will be able to produce enough skilled people to enable our country to grow rapidly," according to Ramaphosa.
He quoted a review report which found that South Africa’s available labour supply “does not match demand from companies."
Some of the most sought-after employees include managers, engineers, technicians, Information Technology experts, science and maths educators among others.
Remote working visa
The Department of Home Affairs has published for public comment draft amendments dealing with two visa categories: remote working visa and the critical skills visa.
Ramaphosa says that the introduction of a remote working visa "responds to the rapidly evolving world of work," where increasing numbers of skilled workers are attracted by the lifestyle benefits of working from a remote location.
"It also caters to so-called digital nomads, who are able to work virtually from any location in the world," the president noted.
''A remote worker who wants to work in South Africa while being employed by a foreign company will be able to receive such a visa,'' Ramaphosa stated.
The draft amendments of the rules propose the introduction of a points system for critical skills visas that will take into account factors such as age, qualifications, language proficiency and work experience among others.
"The publication of the new draft regulations are part of our ongoing drive to reform the country’s visa system, making it easier to attract the skills our economy needs and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship," Ramaphosa says.
"An efficient, agile, responsive visa regime is key to attracting business investment and boosting economic growth."
Ramaphosa believes employees with critical skills contribute to improved productivity, enhanced innovation, and improving the competitiveness in the work environment.
Easier visa process
In October 2023, the Department of Home Affairs released guidelines for corporate employers under a ‘Trusted Employer Scheme’, to make the visa process easier for large investors and streamline application requirements.
Under the scheme, a company looking to employ skilled foreign workers would be vetted and approved in advance to reduce the administrative burden for visa applications, the president's statement pointed out.
An international strategic advisory firm ranked South Africa second as the most favoured offshore customer experience delivery destination globally in 2023.
"In line with our ongoing efforts to attract higher levels of investment and promote job creation, the new work visa regulations are a milestone," Ramaphosa notes in the statement.
"They send a clear signal that we are committed to attracting skills that meet the demands of a modern, inclusive and growing economy," the statement concludes.
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