The Department of Home Affairs plays a crucial role in managing immigration in South Africa. In this article, we will provide an in-depth overview of the department’s plans for the next two years, based on the Operation Vulindlela report and other sources. We will discuss the proposed changes, expected timeframes, and their potential impact on the immigration system.
Abolishing Certain Document Requirements and New Regulation
In April 2023, the Department of Home Affairs implemented changes to make the application process easier for immigrants. They abolished the requirement for a radiological report and simplified the process for obtaining police clearance certificates and passports. These changes aim to reduce administrative burdens on applicants.
The DHA also intends to introduce other new immigration regulations to further streamline the system. Although the exact release date is uncertain, the department has expressed its commitment to this goal.
Removal of Professional Body Requirements
It’s crucial to emphasise that there are significant plans underway to remove the requirement of professional bodies. Currently, within Critical Skills, the professional body requirement is ineffective due to each body having its own set of criteria. It becomes challenging to keep track of these requirements, especially since most demand full registration and prior work experience in South Africa, creating obstacles for first-time foreign applicants and others.
The DHA acknowledge the shortcomings and clearly state this in their report, leading to the recommendation for its abolition. Interestingly, this change was supposed to take effect in April but has not been implemented yet. It appears that the DHA may have reservations, possibly due to concerns about unrestricted entry for foreign internationals and protecting local employment opportunities.
The prospect of eliminating professional body requirements is indeed promising, as it would greatly simplify the application process for our candidates. It is likely that this change will be implemented alongside the introduction of new regulations.
Digital Nomad and Start-Up Visas
Alongside the new regulations, the Department of Home Affairs is working on introducing a Digital Nomad Visa or Remote Worker Visa. This visa category aims to attract individuals who can work remotely from South Africa.
Additionally, there are plans to implement a Start-Up Visa, or Founders Visa, or Tech Visa; the name of which is not yet certain. It will likely be modelled after similar programs in the UK and France. We have also submitted possible ideas for this visa to the DHA.
Trusted Employer Scheme
The Department of Home Affairs is discussing the introduction of a Trusted Employer Scheme. This scheme aims to establish a framework for identifying employers who have demonstrated compliance with immigration regulations. The scheme’s details are yet to be finalised, but it is expected to enhance efficiency and trust in the immigration process.
The DHA received comments and criticism until the 19th of May, and we did submit our own changes and comments on the proposed requirements, including possible changes to the number of employees required, and more context regarding minimum investment amount.
Human Resource and Infrastructure Upgrades
Acknowledging the need for additional resources, the Department of Home Affairs plans to increase human resources dedicated to immigration services. Historically, the department has been understaffed, particularly in the immigration division. Additionally, there is a focus on upgrading the IT infrastructure to improve service delivery and efficiency.
Point-Based Work Visa Category
The report also suggests the implementation of a Point-Based Work Visa category, potentially merging Critical Skills Work Visa with General Work Visas while keeping the ICT category separate. This entails the creation of a point system, although specific details are currently unclear.
However, the report does outline five key attributes that would be assigned points, with a minimum requirement of 100 points to qualify. Notably, being on the Critical Skills List automatically awards 100 points, which is likely to continue. Additionally, there is an alternative option of a labour market test, whereby the Department of Labour’s approval grants 50 points. Moreover, the existing requirement for Critical Skills at NQF level 8 would remain, although I share the view that this threshold is too high and should be lowered to NQF level 7.
It is important to note a new aspect of the potential scorecard, which includes being part of a Trusted Employer Scheme and meeting a minimum salary threshold. This concept, common in the European Union and the UK, allows individuals who earn above a certain threshold to qualify for immigration, as their higher salary indicates a high level of qualification and reduces the concern of displacing lower-skilled South African workers.
The exact allocation of points in this regard remains somewhat uncertain, but it appears that Critical Skills and the labour market test each offer 100 points, while NQF level and salary thresholds contribute 50 points each, with a total requirement of 100 points. Overall, these proposed changes hold significant promise and are indeed noteworthy.
Regular Review of Critical Skills List
The Department of Home Affairs plans to review and update the Critical Skills list every two years. This commitment ensures that the list remains relevant and reflects the changing needs of the South African economy. The regular updates aim to attract skilled immigrants who can contribute to the country’s growth.
The Department of Home Affairs has outlined a series of plans to improve the immigration system in South Africa. The proposed changes, including the abolition of professional body requirements, introduction of new visa categories, and implementation of a point-based system, have the potential to streamline the process and attract highly skilled individuals.
By committing to regular updates of the Critical Skills list and investing in human resources and infrastructure, the department aims to foster economic growth and enhance the efficiency of immigration services.
Written by Andreas Krensel, Managing Owner
Edited by Simon Carletti, PR and Creative Supervisor