IMCOSA was represented at the forum around Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor by Mrs Julia Willand and Ms Anna Steiger.

HOME Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor said on Thursday the department was "rethinking" the immigration policy and plans to have a stronger focus on attracting skills, creating jobs and encouraging investment.

She also said that the department was considering further streamlining its scarce skills strategies by proposing work permits for foreign graduates from South African universities.

Ms Pandor was speaking at a debate organised by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies in Cape Town between leading policy makers and business people on whether South Africa should open or close its doors to skilled immigrants at a time when the country was experiencing economic uncertainty.

Ms Pandor said that skills and business migration are areas of global competition and South Africa must ensure its policies allow it to take advantage of all international opportunities.

South Africa's immigration policies have in the past been criticised by business leaders who say that the strict visa requirements were continuing to frustrate trade in Africa and perpetuate perceptions that South Africa was not open for business.

Ms Pandor said on Thursday that many South Africans view migration as a threat to their job or business opportunities.

"We need to do more to change these attitudes. We are rethinking immigration policy. We intend to have a stronger focus on attracting skills, creating jobs, and encouraging investment.

"Our existing visa regime already addresses these needs, but we need to refine our policy and implementation to ensure we achieve the desired objectives," Ms Pandor said.

"We are considering further streamlining of our scarce skills strategies by proposing work permits for foreign graduates from South African universities.

"We already provide for visas for researchers, but need to make these multiple-entry permits as researchers work on projects over several years and should not be encumbered by the need to apply each time they visit South Africa," Ms Pandor said.

"While we are keen to ensure we are globally competitive, we are also aware migration has become a security risk for countries that have progressive national migration policies. One area in which we are at significant risk is in our management of asylum and refugee applications.

"We are committed to meeting our international law obligations while strengthening our management of this aspect of migration," the minister said.

She said government had begun to deliberate on the creation of a Southern African Development Community work seekers' visa as part of improving the management of asylum seekers.

"At present due to the absence of such a facility, citizens in the region use our refugee law as a means of legalising their stay in South Africa."

Ms Pandor also said that an emerging area of challenge "is the manner in which some foreign employees of international corporates attempt to convert temporary contracts and permits to permanent residence in South Africa".

"This means companies do not support South African manager training and thus fail to support our skills development priorities."

IMCOSA - Immigration Consulting South Africa - Visa Services, Immigration Agents