I was recently invited by WESGRO (Western Cape Trade Promotion Agency) to participate as a speaker at an Immigration workshop. During the workshop, Mr Ronny Marhule shared the most recent updates on the Department of Home Affairs plans for the upcoming Immigration Amendment Bill. He indicated that the draft bill can be expected around March 2019. This would mean that after our general elections in April 2019 the new minister will then continue with the legislation process. During the presentation, he mentioned a few interesting points which I herewith wish to share with you.
He indicated that the department is of the opinion that with the Intra Company Transfer visa (ICT) there is a serious abuse of this category abroad. He indicated that the department is of the opinion that a lot of companies bring in the foreigners on the ICT route because it is the easier way.
He was also very explicit in confirming the departments’ stand on the matter of changing from an ICT to another Visa from within South Africa. Mr Marhule explicitly said that the department will not allow any change of condition or status from an ICT visa.
He then shared with us a draft of the still to be published critical skills list. It is apparent that it is much shorter than the current list. Many categories have fallen away, amongst them, the highly sought after category of the corporate general manager. Other categories which seem to be missing are the business analyst, Several IT related categories as well as some engineering categories. I believe it is time for several multinationals to engage with the department and emphasise that the corporate general manager category must remain on the critical skills list and should not only be reserved for C-level executives or JSE listed corporations. Mr Marhule indicated to also look at the occupation in high demand list which will be used as a precedent.
Another interesting point he mentioned is that the department is definitely introducing a minimum retirement age for the retirement visa as well as permanent residence based on retirement. This minimum age is currently missing in the legislation. However, some South African missions already require a minimum age.
Furthermore he indicated that the current requirement for South Africans travelling with children, to take birth certificates with, will not change. This is a requirement in terms of national legislation and not a requirement the Department of Home Affairs can influence. However, for foreigners the requirement has been dropped, but he indicated that they will recommend to foreigners to still travel with the child’s unabridged birth certificate. This is particular the case, if one parent should travel with a minor or the surnames are different.
Although the topic of the WESGRO workshop was immigration policy to boost investment, it was apparent that the Department still very much lacks a long-term policy approach which is investor friendly. They still looking mostly from a risk approach and all indicated changes will make immigration more difficult in the future rather than easier. The negative interpretation of the ICT visa combined with a much shorter and critical skills list and the current very negative recommendation process of the Department of Labour would not leave much room for corporations to bring skilled experts into the country. We hope that during the consultation with the public the Department of Home Affairs will change this rather restrictive view.
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by Andreas Krensel