South Africa’s visa relief for foreigners with special skills

Aaron Motsoaledi

Foreign nationals in South Africa with special skills, especially those on intra-company transfer visas have been given a green light to apply for an extension of their visas by another two years.

This is contained in the Immigration Directive no. 15 of 2020 issued by South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi on Thursday.

He said the move was meant to contribute to an environment in which economic growth is promoted through the employment of needed foreign labour, foreign investment is facilitated and that the entry of exceptionally skilled or qualified people is enabled.

Dr Motsoaledi said he had made the directive in line with the neighboring country’s immigration Act.

This waiver, he said was applicable to holders of ICT visas that expired during the lockdown, including the current period and to those which will expire by 30 June 2021.

“With the powers bestowed upon me in terms of section 31(2)(c) of the Immigration Act, 2002 (Act No 13 of 2002) decided to allow holders of legally issued Intra-Company Transfer(ICT) visas who are currently residing in the Republic of South Africa to apply for another term of 24 months for the ICT visa that they currently hold,” said the Minister.

He said those applying for the extension must prove that the local entity, branch, or affiliate of the company abroad still required the services of the ICT visa holder.

The Minister said they will also need proof in the form of verifiable documents that the skill transfer to a South African or Permanent Residence was completed during the four years of the visas as per the
initial undertaking.

“The ICT visa application will be considered as a new application with no accumulation nor continuation of the validity period of the current visa; In addition, the ICT visa shall not lead towards permanent residence;
and that the (visa) holder will remain in the employment of the designated employer for whom the initial and current ICT visa was issued. No change of employer, status or condition from current visa,”
said Minister Motsoeledi.

He added that the temporary visa concession would only be applicable to holders of legally issued intra-company visas and who are currently resident in the Republic during the lockdown.

Any further extension or modification or amendments to the terms of this concession, the Minister said will only be valid if communicated in writing.

“This Immigration Directive follows Immigration Directive No.14 of 2020 which deals with “Re-instatement of visa exemption for international travellers”,” he said.

South Africa is home to many migrant workers among them Zimbabweans most of whom are their courtesy of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP).

The permits are valid between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2021and replaced the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP) whose lifespan expired in December 2017.

A total of 197 941 holders of the ZSP permit were eligible to apply for the ZEP when the program started but only 169 000 manage to apply via the Visa Facilitation Services.