South Africa plans to offer ‘digital nomad’ visas

President Cyril Ramaphosa

The department of home affairs has published amendments to legislation regarding critical skills and so-called “digital nomad” visas in an effort to attract highly skilled individuals into the country.

“To succeed in an ever-changing global economy, our country needs far more people with the right skills. This is so that our economy can be competitive, grow and create employment,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his regularly weekly newsletter on Monday.

“A remote worker who wants to work in South Africa while being employed by a foreign company will be able to receive such a visa.”

If the legislation comes to pass, South Africa will join Namibia, Cape Verde, Mauritius and the Seychelles as the fifth country in Africa to offer digital nomad visas. Highly skilled workers in the IT sector, such as programmers and software architects, are typically the target of such visas.

For the critical skills visa, the draft regulations propose a points system that takes into account the applicant’s age, qualifications, language skills, work experience and whether they have an offer of employment in a local company or not. This practice is similar to other jurisdictions worldwide. High-earning workers in the IT sector are a particular target.

“The introduction of a remote working visa responds to the rapidly evolving world of work, where increasing numbers of skilled workers, notably in the tech industry, are attracted by the lifestyle benefits of working from a remote location,” said Ramaphosa.

Critical skills

As a popular tourist destination, South Africa has the potential to attract a large number of remote workers and those with critical skills. Over and above the benefits they bring to the professional landscape, these individuals will help stimulate the economy by spending what they earn from abroad with local businesses.

“Normally, someone who qualifies for this visa is a high-income earner. They will stay in a hotel or rent a big house and spend their money in the local economy,” said Richard Firth, chairman and CEO of software engineering firm MIP Holdings.

Ramaphosa advised companies looking to import skills that are on the critical skills list to look to the Trusted Employer Scheme published by the department of home affairs in October 2023. Under this programme, companies can apply for trusted employer status, which would help streamline the visa process for incoming employees.

Read: Digital nomad visas are on the rise in Africa – but South Africa is far behind

“International experience shows that employees with critical skills contribute to improved productivity, enhanced innovation and improving the competitiveness of the firms they work for,” said Ramaphosa.  – © 2024 NewsCentral Media

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