IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? The South African Government has released its anticipated White Paper that provides a policy framework for comprehensive review and overhaul of the country’s immigration system and the introduction of significant changes over the next two years.

What does the change mean? The White Paper is intended to bring South Africa’s immigration system up to date and calls for strategic management of all aspects of migration to further the country’s economic goals – from the entry and departure of foreign nationals, to attracting critical skills and investment, to promoting regional integration and addressing refugee populations, and enforcing compliance regimes.

Changes requiring only administrative action will take effect immediately; changes requiring legislative approval will be included in legislation to be submitted to Parliament by March 2019.

Key business immigration proposals:

  • Points-based work permit system. The paper proposes a points-based system combined with critical skills lists or quotas, and recommends a scoring system to be based on factors such as qualifications, work experience, age, amount to invest, type of business and ability and willingness to transfer skills to South Africans.
  • Replacing permanent residency with long-term resident visas. Permanent residency is to be replaced with a long-term resident visa to ensure that applicants continue to meet qualifying criteria on a periodic basis. However, such long-term resident visas are to be fast-tracked for foreign nationals with needed skills, business or investment funds.
  • Resident visas for students. To promote retention of international talent, international students are to be granted resident permits upon graduation to encourage them to stay in the country and contribute to the economy.
  • Skills transfer. Recruitment of skilled foreign workers are to be linked to a mechanism that ensures that skills are transferred to South African citizens, either through direct training programs or through a levy on employers.
  • Visa-free travel for African nationals. A visa-free regime will allow African citizens to visit South Africa for up to 90 days on the condition that return agreements and other security and information-sharing agreements are in place.

Background: The White Paper details many of the proposals that were first outlined in a Green Paper that the Department of Home Affairs released last year and reiterates the policy objectives of systemic overhaul of the immigration system.

BAL Analysis: The White Paper’s policy objectives and proposed changes have far-reaching implications for South African employers and multinational companies that rely on foreign talent. Companies should anticipate significant changes to the country’s immigration regime in the coming two years.