If the goal of Immigration Policy and a smooth functioning Immigration Management System is the desired structure to facilitate the movement of skills and capital into South Africa to grow our human resources and create competitive advantage and excellence, then we still have a way to go. Such a system will require extensive education of the public and clear and positive support from our political leaders and civil servants.
While we are a young democracy, we must start to focus on continuity of policy and action rather than short term whimsical changes, which shown deep indecision and make it seem, to the investor, immigrant and foreigner, that we are not serious about these issues.
The Critical Skills list, soon to be published, will not enhance the skills base of the South African workforce in its current form. The draft, published in February this year for comment, excludes Maths and Science teachers – a concession to powerful unions, despite this desperate need. Generation of South African children will be deprived of educational opportunities due to this omission. The list also redefines a Critical Skill and makes it subject to formal qualifications at a certain level - diploma, bachelor’s and master’s degrees- and excludes short courses and vendor qualifications which have become the norm for highly paid positions in the IT sector.
In house training and experience are not part of the criteria anymore. We are not bringing foreigners into the workforce because we have a shortage, which is the essential purpose of the list. We are creating an obstacle which says we don’t really need you.
While we are talking of obstacles: for an Intra-Company Transfer visa, a 4- year Skills Development Plan, which requires a one- on -one training program for a designated South African to take over when the position when the foreigner leaves, constitutes an anomaly and an inappropriate requirement which was inserted into the 2014 regulations. It creates a duplication of requirements, as companies already have skills development plans, and a false expectation for the South African trainee and an onerous condition for the foreign employee and company. This should be removed as a requirement.
Covid-19 has made the operations of Home Affairs quite difficult, but a backlog in Permanent Residence applications, totalling upwards of 33 000 cases, has been in place prior to Covid. A court case compelling Home Affairs to issue overdue applications, some as old as 6 years, has been the last resort of some 200 applicants. To their credit Home Affairs has undertaken to finalise these soon, but there is huge cost and inconvenience to 200 families who all make a contribution to our country and have a Constitutional right to apply and be secure in their status with their families in South Africa.
Temporary residence visas take 3-9 months to process at the moment, and the Minister has resorted to issuing blanket extensions until the end of September 2021.
In conclusion: it would be refreshing and conducive to the achievement of the goal of enhancing growth to deal with the responsible Government departments on a transparent basis. Continuity would be good as would the fostering of mutual respect for all professionals in the field as we work together for good of the country.