South Africa Remote Work Visa
(Getty Images)
  • The City of Cape Town, voted as one of the “Best Places For Remote Working in 2021”, is calling on national government to an introduce a new visa.
  • The Remote Working Visa would favour digital nomads, and make it easier for foreigners to work and play in South Africa for longer periods than current options allow.
  • But South Africa’s stagnant eVisa programme remains a stumbling block in attracting visitors looking for a “workation”.
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If the City of Cape Town gets its way, South Africa may introduce a Remote Working Visa to attract digital nomads – especially to the Western Cape.

After being voted one of the “Best Places For Remote Working in 2021” and receiving a Safe Travel Stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Cape Town is looking to position itself as an ideal “workation” destination in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the coronavirus and associated travel restrictions continue to devastate tourism, the City of Cape Town – which attracts the lion’s share of South Africa’s international visitors – has unveiled a new ten-point plan that includes a big international marketing campaign.

That, it says, will try to leverage its new status as a good place to work from, in an attempt to attract the suddenly swelled tribe of digital nomads who can work from home, no matter where in the world that home may be.

“We are seeing innovation within the tourism sector to accommodate the changed behaviour of remote working by offering affordable long-term stays, including other benefits required to work remotely and we will expand this message through the broad range of products and businesses who can use a leg up in this challenging time,” says the City’s mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, James Vos.

“An abundance of natural beauty and wide-open spaces makes Cape Town an ideal location to live and work with solid fibre infrastructure and top-class hospitality services and products.”

With the WTTC Safe Travel Stamp, which identifies registered Cape Town tourism operators as compliant with international health and hygiene protocols, Vos says the city is primed to benefit from a resurgence in international travel.

And while the City’s marketing plan will focus on coworking spaces, stable internet access, and a reliable public transport system (in the form of MyCiTi busses and a new “blue dot” taxi service), Vos touts the idea of a Remote Working Visa as a progressive step towards attracting professionals to work and play in Cape Town.

“Looking at the country as a whole, whether you’re in Limpopo or KwaZulu-Natal, every part of our country is a perfect destination for these digital nomads to come here for long stays, what we call the ‘workaction’, and they add so much value to the local economy by staying in guesthouses, using taxis, visiting restaurants and whatever else,” says Vos in detailing his appeal to the national government for the new class of visa.

Ideally it would be available through online application.

“It’s time for the eVisa to come online because it’s a click away, using innovation and technology, we have to get with the times as a country,” says Vos.

South Africa's electronic visa or eVisa is currently being piloted in two countries, India and Kenya, and provides an approved eVisa electronically linked to the traveller’s passport.

“The point is, as soon as you make it easier, people choose you,” says Vos.

The rollout of government’s eVisa programme, which started in 2019, has, however, faced several delays and has stagnated amid the global pandemic.

The Remote Work Visa, highlighted by Vos as the next logical step for government’s eVisa programme, would allow visitors from more than 100 countries to complete their applications online, thereby avoiding the need to appear at embassies or consulates in-person.

It would allow for stays ranging between three months and a year – for those who can provide proof of the income they'll earn, from foreign sources, during their stay in South Africa.

Various Caribbean nations like Barbados and Bermuda to Scandinavian countries and even Dubai have all introduced different types of contract, freelance or remote work visas.

All require applicants to make their money abroad, while spending it in their temporary host country.

To qualify for Dubai’s Remote Work Visa, for example, the applicant needs to produce proof of employment and meet the $5,000 (R74,000) monthly salary threshold.  You’ll also need to register for United Arab Emirates (UAE) insurance.

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