According to Reuters, a proposed reduction to the South African critical skills visa list threatens the prospects of those hoping to immigrate to South Africa for work purposes, and also jeopardises the livelihoods of many immigrants currently working in South Africa.
The proposed version of the critical skills visa list would drastically reduce the number of skills that could qualify immigrants for a working visa.
Additionally, current immigration laws already hamper the ability of foreign entrepreneurs to enter the country’s business sector, requiring a minimum of R5 million to be invested into the country if foreign entrepreneurs wish to do business in South Africa.
Impact on tech companies
Given the nature of tech companies, which require employees with highly specific and complex skills to perform optimally, it is often necessary to attract foreign nationals with these skills so that these companies can perform the complicated tasks required of them.
These skills are often in short supply locally, meaning that if foreign nationals are not allowed to enter the South African market, these companies will not be able to function effectively.
However, the proposed changes to the critical skills visa list are likely to inhibit the possibility of some of these professionals entering the country and working for South African tech companies.
Important tech skills such as AI and machine learning, IoT, and data science skills are all excluded from the proposed critical skills visa list, meaning that foreign nationals offering these skills might not be able to earn a work visa.
Threat to current immigrants
Not only will the implementation of the proposed changes make it more difficult for highly-qualified tech professionals to enter South Africa; many foreigners who are already working in South Africa are likely to have issues renewing their visas, too.
This is because general work visas are reportedly no longer being issued, which halts these working immigrants’ abilities to renew their expiring visas.
This means that not only will skills stop entering the country; many immigrant workers with valuable skills will be forced to leave South Africa, reducing the skills available to tech companies, and potentially harming the tech industry as a result.
Not the end of the road
The proposed critical skills visa list changes do not necessarily signal the end of the road for prospective immigrants.
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