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Mavuso stresses centrality of efficient visa regime, lauds recent progress made


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Mavuso stresses centrality of efficient visa regime, lauds recent progress made

29th May 2023

By: Marleny Arnoldi
Deputy Editor Online


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Business Leadership South Africa CEO Busi Mavuso bemoans, in her latest weekly newsletter, the months of waiting for visa decisions and how it is impacting on businesses’ ability to make progress with investments.

She says South Africa desperately needs skilled immigrants and yet the current visa regime makes it very hard to get them. It also makes it difficult for businesses to expand their operations without skilled staff being able to enter the country.


“We have long aspired to be a gateway into Africa in attracting multinationals to base their regional headquarters here, but of course they cannot do that while it is so challenging to station their regional leadership here,” Mavuso elaborates.

Aside from the months of waiting that often accompanies a visa decision, it also means that families are often split with one spouse being able to get a visa but their children having to wait months. This disrupts their education.


“A work visa application process takes almost six months, assuming there are no delays and ignoring the extensive time required to assemble the required documents.

“This situation is well recognised as an impediment to investment and President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged at the 2023 South Africa Investment Conference that the visa regime would be overhauled,” Mavuso states.

She welcomes government’s progress through Operation Vulindlela (OV) with the publishing of a detailed report on visas with good recommendations on how to improve the regime, as well as the subsequent action by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to set out an implementation plan for realising the recommendations.

The report unpacks the benefits of skilled immigration, such as that it improves the employment of unskilled labour and increases taxes generated.

The report details the cumbersome visa application process, much of which is handled manually in physical paper form, leading to documents getting lost or damaged in many instances.

Many of the requirements are incredibly difficult to meet, including that a police clearance certificate must be produced for every country the applicant has lived in for more than 12 months since they were 18, Mavuso explains.

Many countries require in-person applications for police clearance certificates.

“Just imagine how that requirement would go down with a banking executive who has worked in group businesses across a dozen countries, which is exactly the kind of regional business leadership we should be trying to attract,” she argues.

Mavuso believes the OV report makes some excellent recommendations, including those related to efficiency and modernisation.

Importantly, the report makes policy recommendations to enable employer schemes, under which approved employers would have access to a simplified route to bring in skilled employees, with the administrative burden being placed on the employer.

The administrative burden, including criminal record and qualification checks, are things the employers often do anyway.

The report also recommends the introduction of a points-based visa system to integrate multiple visa categories and improve the objectivity of visa decisions, enabling highly skilled and well-paid workers to enter the country more easily.

Moreover, the report suggests new categories for remote workers and for start-ups to attract the best global talent.

Several of these recommendations will be done within 30 days, though deeper systems upgrades will take up to two years.

“Encouragingly, the DHA says it will implement the trusted employer scheme within three months, though the points-based system will take up to two years,” Mavuso notes.

She adds that these regulations could greatly improve the business environment and help overcome South Africa’s loss of skills through emigration.

Although these mark some major steps forward, the success of the system will, however, depend on bureaucratic decision-making, both in maintaining the scarce skills list and in processing applications, Mavuso stresses.

She says a centralised assessment of scarce skills is fundamentally unable to reflect what businesses across the economy need in an environment of rapidly changing requirements.

“We have previously advocated for more freedom for companies to determine their own skills requirements, with incentives to hire local employees driven by cost differentials rather than bureaucratic fiat.

“For example, foreign workers could be subject to a much higher skills development levy, enabling government to raise funding to improve domestic skills development.”

Ultimately, the delivery of these reforms will be a positive sentiment driver that South Africa is a good place for investment and skilled foreigners.


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