Visa amendments will open South Africa to new skills, says Ramaphosa

12 February 2024 - 12:51
By Sisanda Mbolekwa
President Cyril Ramaphosa says it is imperative for South Africa to attract people with the right skills to succeed in an ever-changing global economy. File photo.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER President Cyril Ramaphosa says it is imperative for South Africa to attract people with the right skills to succeed in an ever-changing global economy. File photo.

President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed draft amendments to the visa process, saying it will boost the government's efforts to attract workers with critical skills to the country.

Despite having made strides in producing the skills, Ramaphosa believes it will take time before South Africa can produce enough skilled people to enable the country to grow rapidly.

“We have invested much in producing these skills, from significantly expanding access to higher education to introducing digital programmes in TVET colleges and a shift to a new pay-for-performance approach to skills development.”

In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa said it was imperative to get more people with the right skills to succeed in an ever-changing global economy.

“A review report published last year found South Africa’s available labour supply 'does not match demand from companies which are essentially looking to employ management-level personnel, professionals, engineers, technicians, science and maths educators, as well as IT experts'. This is so our economy can be competitive, grow and create employment.”

For now, Ramaphosa said many of the high-level skills must be sourced internationally.

“Last week the department of home affairs published for public comment draft amendments to immigration regulations that will significantly boost our efforts to attract workers with critical skills to South Africa.

“The draft amendments deal with two visa categories: a remote working visa and the critical skills visa. The introduction of a remote working visa responds to the rapidly evolving world of work, where increasing numbers of skilled workers, notably in the tech industry, are attracted by the lifestyle benefits of working from a remote location.”

The president said the amendments also cater to digital nomads who can work virtually from any location in the world.

“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. The draft regulations propose the introduction of a points system for critical skills visas that will take into account factors such as age, qualifications, language skills, work experience and having an offer of employment, among others.”

According to Ramaphosa, the publication of the draft regulations is part of the government's drive to reform the visa system, making it easier to attract the skills the economy needs and promote innovation and entrepreneurship.

“An efficient, agile, responsive visa regime is key to attracting business investment and boosting economic growth. International experience shows employees with critical skills contribute to improved productivity, enhanced innovation and improved competitiveness in the firms they work for.”

In October last year, the department of home affairs released guidelines for corporate employers under a “trusted employer scheme” which will make the visa process easier for large investors and streamline application requirements.

“Under this scheme, a company looking to employ skilled foreign workers would be vetted and approved in advance to reduce the administrative burden for visa applications. With South Africa becoming an increasingly attractive destination for industries like business process outsourcing and customer experience, attracting more skilled workers will be important.”

South Africa was ranked second as the most favoured offshore customer experience delivery destination globally by a leading international strategic advisory firm.

“Since 2016, government has invested more than R3bn towards supporting the growth and expansion of business process outsourcing and is targeting the creation of approximately 500,000 jobs in the sector by 2030.”

The president believes the new work visa regulations are a milestone.

“They are part of high-impact structural reforms we are undertaking to improve the business operating environment. They send a clear signal to business that we are committed to attracting skills that meet the demands of a modern, inclusive and growing economy.”