Xpatweb held its Global Mobility Breakfast on 31 August 2023, during which the latest was shared on work visa best practices, including the challenges acknowledged by President Cyril Ramaphosa that companies are taking too long to get work visas for employees.
The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) was represented by the Acting Chief Director: Permits, Mr. Phindiwe Mbhele. Many attendees commented that he presented exceptionally and he demonstrated level of frankness on the challenge as well as shared some of the plans to eradicate the delays encountered by employers. This specifically refers companies and international individuals who are applying for work visas, including intra company transfer visas, critical skills visas, corporate visas, business visas and permanent residency applications.
Marisa Jacobs, the Managing Director of Xpatweb, dealt with the challenges, latest changes to immigration law and practices, as well as the current leading practices in managing work visas for international employees and business professionals. She noted that the only way to ensure any sort of promise can be made to a business for a timely issued visa/permit, is by following a strictly legal timeframe. The days are past where it can be expected of a normal human resource function to get correctly issued and timely permits for a business. The application process now is very much operated on the standards used to prepare for a court action and she also explained that the makeup of Xpatweb’s team is increasingly geared with advocates and attorneys specialising on immigration.
Two disparities came from the presentations of Mr. Mbhele and Ms. Jacobs, which treated the attendees to an interesting debate facilitated by Jeremy Maggs –
- Mr. Mbhele noted that the DHA backlog on permits has now increased to over 74,000. The department is keeping very close track of the number of applications outstanding and despite a backlog eradication project, the outstanding permits are increasing. This was contrasted by Ms. Jacobs who noted that practically, on the ground, Xpatweb has seen a marked improvement on visas being faster issued and that many corporate employers and international employees are very pleased with the outcomes which they are receiving, especially in the past couple of months.
- Ms. Jacobs, however, noted that an area of concern is a much higher first-time rejection rate of work visa applications. These rejections are often completely unfounded in law and sometimes have even comical reasons why visas are being rejected. The application must then the appealed, which means the DHA appeal department has a backlog of appeals and this causes further delay. Mr. Mbhele disagreed on this point and noted that the rejection rate has only slightly increased from previously below 25% to now 26%.
Everyone attending the Global Mobility Breakfast agreed that the demand for international employees is increasing and to address the skills gap required to remain globally competitive. The annual Xpatweb Critical Skills Survey is expected to be finalised in October 2023, and any employer with foreign employees or the need for potential foreign employees should consider participating in the survey, which is used by government to inform their decision making.
Submitted by Xpatweb