Newsletter November 2023

Dear Clients, Partners and Friends,

Despite global events weighing heavily on us, it is the beautiful story of our Rugby national team (die Bokke), their courageous and stunning performance and their record-breakingly tight World Cup win in Paris, that lifts our spirits as we send you today`s summary of recent developments regarding South Africa`s visa, immigration and citizenship regime.

Events in the industry must be read in the light of looming elections and the rise of anti-immigrant groups and xenophobia in a country battled by unemployment and poverty, too often conveniently blamed on migrants. The Minister of Home Affairs` efforts to fight corruption in his department have led to arrests, suspensions and rotation of officials, but also to the loss of critical staff and organisational memory and expertise. New appointments are slow, training is tedious and time-consuming. All this impacts on the Department`s performance. Pressure from the business world and media reports highlighted how visa challenges are hampering the economy and costing South Africa jobs. In response, the Minister has flagged the undisputable understaffing in his Department and requested budget increases to resolve it. May he genuinely prioritise the crisis and consistently work to end it.

Today’s update includes:

  • Amended Critical Skills List: Good news for engineers, veterinarians, teachers and university lecturers
  • Trusted Employer Scheme (TES): Exciting tool for large corporate employers with global talent needs!
  • Digital Nomad Visa and Start-Up Visa: Opportunities getting lost in the red tape
  • ZEP Zimbabwe Exemption Permits: Zimbabweans left in limbo but can still apply
  • Citizenship now or never
  • Backlogs and processing times: Status, reasons and a few positive highlights

For details, please scroll down.

Let me conclude with (early) year-end greetings. Our sincere gratitude goes to all our longstanding and new clients, to our loyal and reliable partners, to the many stakeholders and friends who read this, and to our amazing team. Thank you for your continued trust and collaboration, and may you have a smooth and successful remainder of 2023.

Yours sincerely,

Julia Willand

Amended Critical Skills List: Good news for engineers, veterinarians, teachers and university lecturers

Another update to the critical skills list was made in October. Veterinarians have been included in the list, and university lecturers are now exempted from registering with a professional body (which can be a time and cost intensive process). The changes also benefit engineers and teachers who are critically needed in South Africa and have yet often been denied visas due to administrative hurdles. They now have much better chances to secure work visas.
Note: Employers should be fully registered and in good standing with the Department of Labour before having their candidates apply!
For further details, please get in touch with our in-house experts.

Trusted Employer Scheme (TES): Exciting tool for large corporate employers with global talent needs!

In October, a unique opportunity for corporate employers opened up through the Trusted Employer Scheme (TES).
What’s in it for employers? The TES will allow those who have been vetted and approved to employ skilled foreign labour with reduced requirements and faster turn-around times.

Key criteria for admission to the TES are:

  1. Investment (made since 2018 or pledged at a South African Investment Conference) of at least R 100 million
  2. Minimum of 100 staff, of which at least 60% must be South African citizens or permanent residents
  3. Sector: company`s activity must fall within a priority sector as determined by government
  4. Skills Transfer: proven systems and programmes for skills transfer to local staff
  5. Employment equity compliance or equity equivalence agreement with the DTIC

Act fast! The closing date for applications is November 19th, 2023. For inquiries regarding the requirements and process, reach out to our team.

Digital Nomad / Remote Worker Visa and Start-Up Visa: Opportunities getting lost in the red tape

The long-anticipated “Digital Nomad Visa” or “Remote Worker Visa” is still on the cards, but not being implemented at the speed it deserves. According to officials, implications for tax and labour laws are being assessed before the visa can be brought to life. With another South African summer passing without digital nomads, we will waste tremendous opportunities and income for the local tourism and hospitality industries. The exact nature of and requirements for the visa are yet to be confirmed.

The new “Start-Up Visa” has equally not been finalised. It is likely that this will be aimed at fairly young (registered to less than 5 years) high growth high-tech companies, who have not yet distributed any profits, whose Research & Development expenditure makes up at least 15% of their turnover, and who have a patent secured or in process.

Please keep visiting our News section on the Imcosa website for updates in this regard.

ZEP Zimbabwe Exemption Permits: Zimbabweans left in limbo but can still apply

Zimbabwean citizens living in South Africa with a Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) are still without certainty regarding their future in the country. The major court case brought by the Helen Suzman Foundation was decided against The Minister of Home Affairs. The Pretoria High Court declared the cancellation of the ZEP regime unlawful. The Minister will have to follow due process, consult affected parties and consider the impact of the discontinuation on them before taking any such decision. Until this has been done within 12 months, ZEP permits are deemed valid. The Minister unsuccessfully tried to appeal this decision. He may still fight on, but in the meantime, ZEP holders can continue to make waiver and visa applications within the country.

ZEP holders who are in secure employment, who study or who otherwise qualify for another visa should start the process now, if they have not already done so. For guidance on your chances please get in touch with our team.

Citizenship now or never

Who can apply for citizenship?

  1. Children of South African citizens born abroad (they have a right to citizenship by birth, but this right has to be formally confirmed).
  2. Permanent residents living in the country for at least five years continue to qualify for naturalisation.
  3. Children born in South Africa to at least one permanent resident can become citizens by birth when they turn 18, provided they have lived here their whole lives.
  4. Persons born and resident in the country until the age of 18 who meet the following:
    1. Children of Temporary visa, asylum seeker visa or refugee status holders.
    2. Persons born after 6 October 1995.
    3. Persons who have no other citizenship, residency or connection in any other country.

Processing in most of the above categories has been extremely efficiently lately with turnaround times of as little as 6-12 months (as opposed to five year in the not-so-distant past).

Use the lucky gap!

Backlogs and processing times: Status, reasons and a few positive highlights

The backlogs that have been building up in almost all areas of immigration over the last years are suffocating. Whatever efforts have been made by way of staff capacities, training and procedural adaptations, have had minimal effects so far. Recent announcement of simplified procedures and greater staff capacitation bear some hope, but will not bring short-term relief.

The below processing times represent very rough averages only and should not be relied upon or taken as legal advice. Please speak to your consultant for case-specific estimates.

  • Permanent Residence: 3-5 years and longer (some exceptions mostly in critical skills, financial independence and business categories: 8 – 12 months)
  • Temporary visa applications: tourist visa extensions 4-6 weeks; study, business and critical skills visas 3 months; everything else 12 months and more
  • Visa applications abroad: 2-16 weeks, depending on category and location
  • Appeals: temporary residence 12 months and more; permanent residence at least 18 months
  • Citizenship: certain processes 4-6 months, others significantly longer

Top challenges:

  • visas for family members accompanying work, business or study visa holders
  • visas for spouses of South African citizens or permanent residents

By his own admission, these categories are of no relevance to the Minister who believes they do not impact the South African economy. We beg to differ.

Even more disturbingly, the Minister seems to deliberately withhold 35 000 work visas from spouses of South Africans. Citing high unemployment numbers and blatantly disregarding the laws guiding his Department and particularly the constitution which protects their right to live and work in South Africa, the Minister diverts responsibility for these applications to the Department of Employment and Labour.

The rejection rate for critical skills visas, according to officials, has fluctuated between 45% and 65% from 2016 to 2021, rose to almost 90% in 2022 and currently stands at 83%. Reasons for rejection are numerous and often unfounded, but it is clear that the slightest irregularity will lead to an unsuccessful application. Make your application as watertight as possible to avoid disappointment.

Whilst applications managed by IMCOSA still enjoy a high success rate, we experience unfounded rejections from time to time. By quickly adjusting our advice to changing trends and advising cautiously and conservatively, we manage to keep these cases to a minimum.

Please reach out to us with any questions you may have on active or planned applications.

Prost! IMCOSA back at the DSK school bazaar

After a three-year Corona break, the German International School Cape Town finally hosted a full-scale school bazaar again. The bazaar was yet again a resounding success and brought the school community and hundreds of visitors together for fun, sports, delicious food, live music and cheerful German-South African Gemütlichkeit. We are delighted to have been able to support this wonderful tradition once again with the IMCOSA Vinoteka. Thank you to everyone who came around and contributed to its success – see you next year!

As per usual, you are welcome to contact our team with any questions you may have.

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