In a recent announcement, the President of South Africa revealed plans to introduce a Tech Visa for the country. Although specific details about the proposed visa are yet to be released, drawing inspiration from other countries can provide valuable insights.
This article delves into the common features and requirements of Tech Visas in different nations, such as France, the UK, and Singapore, aiming to offer suggestions and ideas for the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (DTIC) in South Africa.
Family Inclusion, Duration of Stay, and Residency
One of the consistent aspects of Tech Visas is the opportunity for visa holders to bring their families along Tech Visa, Founders Visas, and Startup Visas—terms used interchangeably—typically have a duration of three to four years in countries like France, which is renewable.
The UK is currently planning a four-year renewable visa, while Ireland offers a two-year visa.
Crucially, these visas often provide a clear pathway to permanent residency in the host country. This feature is particularly significant in the South African context, where permanent residency could be an important aspect of attracting and retaining international tech talent.
Salary Requirements Instead of Minimum Investment
A notable trend observed across various countries is the absence of a minimum investment requirement for Tech Visas. Instead, governments often prioritise the founder’s ability to demonstrate a consistent salary exceeding a certain threshold over the past 12 months.
The salary thresholds vary, ranging from $15,000 to $20,000 USD, depending on the country. By adopting a similar approach, South Africa can emphasise the talent and expertise of tech entrepreneurs rather than their financial capacity.
Incubator Registration and Support
In many countries, startups seeking Tech Visas are required to register with a business incubator or a government organisation associated with tech startup incubators.
Fortunately, South Africa boasts a considerable number of incubators, making compliance with this requirement easily achievable. Prominent incubators in the country, such as Founders Factory, Grindstone, Startupbootcamp, Aurik, and Injini, could serve as suitable partners for the startup visa program.
Entrusting the verification process to incubators allows the government to streamline its procedures while benefiting from the expertise and networks these incubators offer.
France also extends visa eligibility to startups registered with their tech capitals, presenting another avenue for South Africa to explore.
The UK’s Innovative Approach
The United Kingdom recently introduced an innovator visa to replace its previous startup visa. Under this new system, emphasis is placed on the approval of an innovative and scalable business plan. The business plan undergoes scrutiny by three or four different organizations, with a £1,000 fee associated with the process.
While the UK also recognises the importance of funding for scaling, no specific minimum investment is mandated. South Africa could draw inspiration from this approach by developing a streamlined process that assesses the viability and innovation potential of startup ideas.
Supporting Multiple Founders
Acknowledging the collaborative nature of many tech startups, most countries allow multiple founders of a specific startup to apply for the tech visa concurrently. Given that startups often have two or three co-founders, extending visa eligibility to all founders can facilitate talent retention and foster a spirit of innovation and teamwork.
South Africa stands to benefit significantly from the introduction of a Tech Visa tailored to attract international talent and support its growing tech startup ecosystem. Drawing inspiration from successful models around the world, such as those in France and the UK, South Africa can create a visa program that prioritises talent and welcomes startups to grow South Africa.
Written by Andreas Krensel, Managing Owner
Edited by Simon Carletti, PR and Creative Supervisor