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VISA Reforms Announced by South African President but is the Government Doing Enough to Follow Through?

Statement by Mireille Wenger, Provincial Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities

I welcome the announcement made by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 5th South Africa Investment Conference of several reforms to the country’s VISA regime.

The key announcements made include:

  • Decentralising the adjudication of visa applications to foreign missions;
  • The introduction of a Trusted Employer Scheme for qualifying companies for skilled applicants, in line with global best practice;
  • The introduction of new visa categories for remote workers and start-ups to attract entrepreneurs;
  • The expansion of the e-Visa system to include an additional 20 countries over and above the 14 that are currently eligible; and
  • Extending the e-Visa system to cover new visa categories such as study, business and intra-company transfer visas. 
Ultimately, reform requires follow through and building confidence requires action – something which has been lacking by the National Government to date. We need much more speed in overhauling the current VISA regime. 

The current VISA system makes it extremely difficult to secure the VISAs required for investment and has become a major barrier to growth in South Africa. 

We have also been waiting for the introduction of the remote-working VISA, as announced in President Ramaphosa’s 2022 and 2023 State of the Nation Addresses, which would attract salaried individuals to South Africa, thereby boosting our economy.

While I do welcome that more countries will be added to the 14 who are currently eligible to apply via the e-Visa system, the fact is that this system is not working and needs to be fixed on the backend before more applications start piling up.

In a reply to a Parliamentary Question in the National Council of Provinces, it was revealed that only 48% of e-Visa applications received have been processed, and that of all applications received, a mere 3% had been granted. Clearly there is much work to be done to ensure the VISA system helps rather than hinders investment, economic growth, and job creation. The Western Cape Government is fully committed to doing what we can to get the system working and will continue to push for the action needed to do this.

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