Introduction of the Remote Working Visa
President Cyril Ramaphosa last week reiterated the government’s plan to introduce a remote working visa, which it promised a year ago in a bid to solve South Africa’s skills crisis.
In his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday, Ramaphosa said one of the key ingredients for economic growth and competitiveness was the ability to attract skills that the economy needed.
“Having completed a comprehensive review of the work visa system, we will move quickly to implement the recommendations put forward. These include establishing a more flexible points-based system to attract skilled immigrants, implementing a trusted employer scheme to make the visa process easier for large investors, and streamlining application requirements,“ he said.
He said the government would also be introducing a remote worker visa and a special dispensation for high-growth start-ups.
“While the reform programme is underway, we will continue to support public and social employment to provide work to those who need it.”
Provincial Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities Mireille Wenger said there needed to be no more talk as the action was needed to implement the remote working visa.
“I welcome the renewed commitment from President Cyril Ramaphosa to ‘introduce a remote worker visa and a special dispensation for high-growth start-ups’ in his Sona.
“However, we have heard this before in the 2022 Sona. One year later, we still do not have a remote working visa with the visa regime, which overall remains a significant obstacle to attracting investment to the country. A clear deadline for implementation must be announced, as a matter of priority.”
Wenger said: “The longer we wait, the more opportunities we miss out on to grow the economy and create jobs, exactly at a time when we need them the most.”
According to Wenger, the Western Cape government had submitted a constructive and detailed proposal to the Department of Home Affairs, initially in May 2021 and again in September 2022, setting out how to move urgently to implement the changes needed to benefit from the economic spin-offs these changes would bring.
“I firmly believe that introducing a remote working visa and improving the visa regime overall, as well as ensuring private sector participation at the Port of Cape Town, are essential interventions needed to grow the economy at a faster rate and, ultimately, create jobs,” Wenger said.
Meanwhile, Global Business Solutions chairperson Jonathan Goldberg said: “Exactly as they did with granting of the water licences to put 90 days from bringing it down for a couple of years, they need to do that with visa applications.”
He said the digital worker was a great attraction to contribute to the South African economy.
“Regarding skilled work visas, we cannot have a situation where we have international companies attracted by international investments and have them battle for skilled worker permits.
“They should virtually automatically get a certain amount of skilled work permits with very little regulatory or administrative burden. We know companies that have applied for many immigrant workers that have been clogged up in the system, and the system has ground to a halt,” Goldberg said.
He said presidential intervention straight after the Sona in this regard would go a long way to getting investor confidence back and keeping existing investment in the country.
Propr co-founder and managing director Max Urban said the worldwide trend of working from anywhere had resulted in there being 35 million known digital nomads worldwide, which was expected to grow in 2023 and beyond.
“The remote worker visa will not only make it easier for these travellers to enter the country but also open up opportunities for the tourism and hospitality sector to profit, particularly South African short-term rental owners,” he said.
Urban said Propr, a short-term rental management company, was already seeing evidence of more short-term bookings being placed by the digital nomad cohort.
“Our average length of stay has increased, compared to the pre-Covid era. However, it is important to note that many nomads switch Airbnbs more than once a month, which means that quite a few of our shorter stays are still remote workers, but it is hard to quantify the exact number,” he said.
Urban said in light of the limited number of economic growth opportunities in South Africa, it was vital that the government play its part and make it as easy as possible for all tourists – not just digital nomads – to enter the country.
“This is crucial as South Africa has undoubtedly lost billions as a result of contradictory visa requirements relating to unabridged birth certificates and the shortening of visas to three months.
“By making entry into the country a simpler exercise for all travellers, it will allow us to undo some of the damage that has been done,” he said.