Dear Clients, Partners and Friends,

After a hesitant start, 2022 has taken up considerable pace, both in terms of legislative, policy and procedural changes, and regarding interest in South Africa by companies and individuals from around the globe. Anti-(illegal) immigration rhetoric and strong words and actions both from opposition parties and the Minister of Home Affairs have led to arrests of corrupt officials, fraudsters and persons without a legal status. Subsequently, employers of non-South African staff are increasingly feeling the pressure to get their houses in order, and many are contacting IMCOSA to have their staff’s status verified and corrected to avoid fines or worse. On the other hand, the President’s recent State of the Nation Address was widely seen as pro-business and supportive of the attraction of foreign skills, and the new Critical Skills list has opened up new avenues for qualified and experienced candidates to be recruited by local businesses.

In this newsletter, you will read the latest on:

  • The new critical skills list
  • Automatic extensions and special concessions due to travel restrictions
  • Options for ZEP holders after the discontinuation of the Zimbabwe exemption permit
  • How can employers of non-South African staff ensure they are visa compliant?
  • Remote work / digital nomad visas and other planned changes
  • Availability and quality of Home Affairs services

 

For details, please scroll down. Regarding any concerns, questions or queries kindly send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Yours sincerely,

Julia Willand


New Critical Skills list – largely positive, but the devil is in the detail

After eight years, the Minister of Home Affairs has finally signed a new critical skills list. Whilst some rather niche categories have been removed, broader ones were added that will open up opportunities for skilled persons in a variety of fields. Some examples are:

Key skills retained

Corporate General Manager
Contact Centre positions (foreign language speakers as consultants, managers etc.)

 Key skills added

Teachers in STEM subjects (grade 8 and higher)
Various management roles, including:

  • Director
  • Programme or Project Manager
  • R&D Manager
  • Business Development Manager

Various finance roles (e.g. Investment Analyst, Internal Auditor, Forensic Accountant)

Economist

Tax Professional

Key Skills Removed

Physician, veterinarian, various medical practitioners

Nurse (replaced by Nurse Educator)

Pharmacist

PhD holder (unless they are senior university lecturers or higher)

Trades such as boilermaker, pipe fitter and double coded welder

Whilst more key skills have been retained or added than removed, the choice of removing doctors and nurses from the list during a time of severe staff shortages in the essential health care sector is hard to comprehend.

The devilish detail?

  • The 12-month work seeker option under the Critical Skills Visa has been removed. All applicants must now be in possession of a verifiable job offer in their field.
  • Local graduates in critical skills fields no longer qualify for permanent residence without having to gather 5 years of relevant work experience.
  • Formal qualifications are required in most categories, and experience is no longer accepted in lieu thereof. Highly specialised, but self-taught, IT experts, or Senior Managers with decades of experience but no formal degree, no longer qualify.
  • The high NQF level 8 being required in most categories means that a Bachelor’s degree is no longer sufficient and an Honour’s or Master’s degree is needed. Even if you are fully qualified in your field (under globally competitive standards of education) in another country, you may no longer qualify for the critical skills visa.
  • Not all categories list the business body that will be acceptable. Historically, this situation has led to gaps in the system that have made some categories factually defunct.

All of the above will have to be tested in practice before a final verdict can be made.


Automatic visa extensions and special concessions due to travel restrictions

Just before the end of last year, the Minister of Home Affairs responded to the travel bans imposed by a number of countries on travellers coming from South Africa, and on certain airlines stopping their flights to and/or from the country. The following was put in place:

  1. Persons awaiting the outcome of a waiver application may remain in South Africa until 31 March 2022 and, once received, make their visa application from here, or leave the country by 31 March 2022 without being declared undesirable.
  2. Persons awaiting the outcome of a visa application receive a blanket extension of their previous visa until 31 March 2022. They may continue with their previous activities as per their expired visas, or leave the country without being declared undesirable. When returning to South Africa, normal visa entry requirements apply.
  3. Visitors who arrived from 1 October 2021 and whose visitor’s visas have expired or are about to expire, and who are affected by the travel bans, receive a blanket extension until 31 March 2022 up until which time they may leave without being declared undesirable.
  4. NEW PERMANENT RESIDENTS who have received their permanent residence permits whilst outside the country, and who have been unable to enter South Africa to validate their permits within the given period, receive another extension of such period until 31 July 2022

Options for ZEP holders after the discontinuation of the Zimbabwe exemption permit

After 13 years of various exemptions for Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa, the South African Cabinet discontinued this special dispensation. All Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP, as they were most recently called), subsequently expired on 31 December 2021. Holders of ZEP permits were given a 12-month grace period in which they may apply for any of the ordinary visas from within South Africa. If they do not qualify or otherwise fail to secure a visa, they have to leave the country by 31 December 2022. ZEP holders can continue to exit and re-enter South Africa, work or follow other activities during 2022.

The following common scenarios can open up mainstream visa options to ZEP holders:

  • Married to / life partner of a South African citizen or permanent resident.
  • Younger than 25 and job offer.
  • Critical skills that fall under the new list.  
  • Work history with local employer and compelling and verifiable reasons why they cannot be replaced with a South African (the bar for this is high).
  • Own business with substantial investment and several South African employees.
  • Students.
  • Immediate family (parent or child over the age of 18) who is a South African citizen or permanent resident.

An individual, case-by-case assessment is required to confirm whether or not a ZEP holder qualifies for a mainstream visa, and which route is most suitable for them.


How can employers of non-South African staff ensure they are visa compliant?

If ever there was a time to cover your bases in terms of your non-South African employees’ visa statuses, it is now. The Departments of Home Affairs and Labour have started inspecting businesses for their immigration compliance, arresting un- or insufficiently documented persons found working on business premises, and issuing heavy fines to employers. These efforts at protecting the labour market from illegal practices are said to be intensified in the coming months.

To support you in this, we perform full visa and permit compliance audits, verify your employees’ visas’ and permits’ authenticity and validity, advise you on available visa options, and help your qualifying employees secure the relevant status.


Remote work / digital nomad visas and other planned changes

Since Covid and advanced technology have increased the acceptance of remote work and made many of us less dependent on location, the demand for a longer-term visa allowing work for an overseas employer or own business has surged. One of the most exciting announcements this year was therefore the President’s remark during his SONA speech regarding a possible introduction of a remote working or digital nomad visa. We may well see this become a reality in the course of 2022.

The Refugee and Citizenship Act are being completely reviewed. Amongst other things the right to citizenship for persons born in South Africa and attaining the age of 18 seems to be under scrutiny.

Proposed changes to the labour laws are being finalised, in terms of which certain jobs are reserved for South Africans, and all business in South Africa will be required to have a minimum of 60% South Africans or permanent residents in their workforce. Whilst this may sound reasonable, it is not feasible in all industries and will likely be challenged.


Home Affairs Services Update

What can you apply for?

  • Permanent residence applications opened on 2 January 2022 after a 21-month hiatus.
  • Citizenship services are still partially closed: applications for retention or renunciation of citizenship, determination of citizenship and registration of birth are now possible. Applications for naturalization are still closed.

How long does it take?

  • Information has been received that overseas applications will be adjudicated in Pretoria. This can lead to greater consistency, but also to unpredictable delays. Watch this space.
  • Local visa applications have continued to be slow (up to 9 months instead of the regular 4-6 weeks), but are gaining momentum.
  • Permanent residence remains absolutely stuck, and so far there is no indication from the authorities that they are looking to prioritize this topic in any way.