Relocation service provider Relocation Africa immigration director Tracy du Plessis is concerned that the Immigration Amendment Bill might hamper job creation in South Africa when it is implemented.
Although it is not yet known when the Bill will reach imple- mentation, the removal of immigration practitioners through the repeal of Section 46 of the existing Act is cause for concern, she notes.
“This will make it more difficult for foreigners to relocate to South Africa to set up a business. As a direct result, fewer jobs will be created for South African citizens,” she says.
Under the new law, foreigners will have to submit their temporary residence permit appli- cations to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in person.
Du Plessis say there is no clarity as to the extent to which this will affect existing immi- gration practitioners and foreigners with regard to representation.
She does, however, fear that this will scare foreigners from relocating to the country as, in many cases, it will require them to queue at the DHA or relevant High Commission for hours and sometimes days to ensure that applications are submitted.
The application process is often further delayed owing to various reasons, such as appli- cants not being in possession of the correct documents, the DHA implementing new regulations or the official attending to the application not being fully trained.
“This will lead to large organ- isations seeking business oppor- tunities in other parts of the world rather than in South Africa,” she notes.
Potentially also warding off foreigners is the stipulation in the amended Bill that government should compile a list of undesirable businesses with the aim of preventing the establishment of certain types of businesses in South Africa.
However, Du Plessis says it is not yet clear which businesses will fall under this category.
“In my opinion, certain business types should not be restricted. Many business categories have the potential to boost our economy and create jobs for our citizens. Persons looking to start a business should at least be given a set period to prove that their businesses are beneficial to the local economy. If they cannot achieve this within the allocated time, only then should they be required to close down operations,” she adds.
Further, Du Plessis feels that certain aspects of the amended Bill are unclear, such as where foreigners in South Africa on a visitor’s permit, but seeking to apply for a change of status, are required to do so in their countries of origin.
“It is not specified whether this will also be required for children accompanying parents who have work permits and need to apply for study permits, to spouses accompanying work permit holders who wish to apply for work permits or spouses of permanent residents who wish to apply for work permits,” she says.
Du Plessis expects that the oil, gas and mining industries as well as organisations requiring the services of engineers will be severely affected by the amendments.
She says that, until the critical skills list is made available, as stipulated by the amended Bill, it is difficult to determine the impact of the new Critical Skills Work Permit, which incorporates the Quota Work Permit and the Exceptional Skills Work Permit.
“However, if the critical skills list prohibits foreigners who possess scarce skills from qualifying for a temporary residence permit, it will negatively affect the country’s economy, as well as the growth and empowerment of unskilled and semiskilled people in South Africa. It may also result in some local companies not being able to fulfil their contractual obligations, which will result in more job losses,” she says.
Du Plessis feels that the shortcomings of the amended Bill are the result of rushed proceedings.
“It was compiled without regard for national or inter- national policy parameters or the needs of other government departments. This is of great concern as the importation of skills to South Africa is long overdue and should be managed correctly,” she says.
Global Migration South Africa
Meanwhile, migration services provider Global Migration South Africa MD Leon Isaacson tells Polity that he concurs that the amended Bill might fuel South Africa’s skills crisis.
He reiterates Du Plessis’s statement: “We believe that the removal of Section 46 will leave a vacuum in the industry with respect to the regulation regarding who is allowed to do immigration work.
“Setting aside the amendments, the medium- to long-term prospects already do not look promising in terms of the country producing an adequate amount of required skills to satisfy the demand of a develop- ing economy,” he adds.
Isaacson agrees that the sectors that will be affected most by the amended Bill are the engineering, oil and gas sectors. However, he says that skilled mathematics and science teachers, researchers and artisans, in general, will also be harshly affected.
“Owing to the Exceptional Skills Work Permit being scrapped as per the amended Bill, there is no adequate replacement work permit that highly skilled individuals, such as lecturers, professors and researchers, can apply for without being linked to an employer,” he says.
Isaacson, who also serves as chairperson for the Forum of Immigration Practitioners South Africa, adds that a recent study, conducted by diversified employment services company Adcorp, revealed that there are currently about 830 000 vacant positions for highly skilled workers in South Africa.
He says that South Africa will, therefore, not have the skills it requires for economical growth if the DHA works according to the critical skills list, which is to be devised with the aim of filling 50 000 highly skilled positions over the next three years.
Isaacson adds that another concern is the uncertainty around which skills will be included in the critical skills list.
He feels that, as the country does not have a properly researched list of skills requirements, it is of great concern that South Africa could have arbitrary lists like the old quota lists, which leave out entire sectors and skills categories.
“There are many researchers and lecturers who occupy top positions in institutions in this country and ironically work on government projects, who may not be included in the list and thus not qualify for an appropriate work permit in future,” he concludes.