Home Opinion and Features SA unveils major skilled immigration overhauls: What you need to know

SA unveils major skilled immigration overhauls: What you need to know


South Africa stands at the cusp of a new era in immigration policy. With substantial amendments to the critical skills list, including key professions in health care and engineering, and the introduction of innovative schemes like the Trusted Employer Scheme, the nation is redefining its immigration landscape.

In a series changes to its immigration policy, South Africa has recently updated its critical skills list, initiated the Trusted Employer Scheme, and inked a significant visa-exemption deal with Ghana, marking a transformative phase in the nation’s approach to global talent, trade and travel. Picture: Etienne Creux

IN A DYNAMIC shift of its immigration framework, South Africa has introduced several critical changes to its policies, impacting professionals, corporations and ordinary citizens from specific nations like Ghana and Zimbabwe.

Nivaani Moodley and Bianca Rutherfoord-Jones, experts from Webber Wentzel, highlight that the critical skills list, pivotal to South Africa’s talent acquisition strategy, has undergone significant revisions.

“The revised August 2022 critical skills list was in effect for only 14 months, before another update was published in October 2023,” they explain.

This update introduces ‘Veterinarian’ and ‘Veterinary Nurse’ as high-demand professions, reflecting the evolving needs of South Africa’s economy.

Despite current delays in processing temporary residence visas, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is working to streamline procedures through the Trusted Employer Scheme.

This pilot project represents the DHA’s commitment to improving efficiency, though Moodley and Rutherfoord-Jones note, “Only time will tell whether the new processes will require adjustment.”

A significant shift in visa policies is the requirement for foreign nationals to include an offer of employment from a South African employer in their critical skills work visa applications.

“The bolstered role of the Department of Employment and Labour (DoEL) in work visa applications mirrors the intention of the anticipated National Labour Migration Policy,” the specialists say.

In a positive turn for engineering professionals, the DHA now recognises those registered with a SAQA-recognised body as ‘candidates’ for critical skills work visas.

This adjustment makes them more eligible than before, provided they meet other requirements and work under qualified supervision.

Further more, the immigrations expert pointed to a landmark agreement between South Africa and Ghana that now allows for a 90-day visa-free entry for ordinary passport-holders, effective from November 2023.

This deal simplifies travel, but comes with stipulations, such as the requirement for proof of accommodation and a return flight itinerary.

The validity of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP) has been extended to June 2024, ensuring the rights of ZEP-holders are protected for a longer duration.

Moodley and Rutherfoord-Jones advise ZEP-holders to apply for appropriate South African visas while there is still time.

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