South Africa looking into a remote working visa – here’s what it should allow

Business Insider SA

South Africa remote working visa
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  • South Africa’s work visa system is being reviewed, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • Part of this review includes the potential of a remote working visa which aims to attract digital nomads.
  • This remote working visa should allow foreigners employed outside of South Africa to stay for longer, along with their dependants.
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South Africa’s department of home affairs is looking to introduce a remote working visa to attract the new breed of digital nomad.

The Covid-19 pandemic has moved workers away from traditional office spaces. With remote work having become the standard – and hybrid models likely to replace permanent in-office schedules post-pandemic – the way people do business has changed.

A big part of this change has seen a boom in digital nomads: remote workers who use telecommunications technology, like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, to do their jobs from anywhere in the world.

These digital nomads offer a lifeline to tourism and hospitality sectors decimated by the pandemic. Usually high earners in the information technology sector, their salaries – in strong foreign currency – are injected into the local economy.

See also | SA’s small towns were hesitant about fibre – now, as Zoom towns, they’re begging for it

Countries looking to attract these digital nomads need to present an alluring work-life balance, with natural attractions and entertainment being a big pull. A weaker currency, in favour of the foreign worker, also counts. But, most importantly, the country needs to cut red tape and bureaucracy around its immigration laws.

Countries like Costa Rica and Mauritius have recently amended their immigration policies to introduce remote work visas. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched its green visa and freelance visa, to attract foreign workers, in 2021. Spain’s new Startup Act aims to introduce a dedicated digital nomad visa in the coming months.

South Africa, too, could be offering a remote working visa in the near future. That’s according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who, during his latest State of The Nation Address, spoke about “streamlining and modernising the visa application process”.

“A comprehensive review of the work visa system is currently underway, led by a former Director-General of Home Affairs, Mr Mavuso Msimang,” said Ramaphosa.

“This review is exploring the possibility of new visa categories that could enable economic growth, such as a start-up visa and a remote working visa.”

A remote working visa will make it possible for professionals to live and work – for a foreign company – in South Africa. The current visa system allows these professionals in, but only for 90 days or less, with certain restrictions.

An amendment to Section 11 of South Africa Immigration Act, which would extend the visa’s validity to attract digital nomads, has been proposed by Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Growth, James Vos.

While the department of home affairs is yet to comment on the requirements and allowances associated with a remote working visa, Vos, who has advocated strongly for the country to attract digital nomads throughout the pandemic, says certain criteria must be met.

The biggest change would be extending the visa’s validity beyond 90 days, says Vos. “This is because remote workers tend to stay beyond three months in a location.”

In Mauritius, for example, the “Premium Visa” is valid for a year. The same is true for Dubai in the UAE.

The remote working visa will also, ideally, be available online through South Africa’s eVisa programme, which was recently rolled out to 14 countries, as announced by Ramaphosa.

“The remote working visa will additionally require an applicant to provide evidence of employment abroad, as well as a sufficient income from such employment or own business registered abroad,” explains Vos.

To make the offer more attractive, the applicant’s dependants should be allowed to accompany them.

Visa applicants already need to supply proof of sufficient financial resources, accommodation, and medical insurance. These requirements are generally accepted as the standard for remote working visas, too.

“Last year, I submitted this proposal to the National Home Affairs Department and in the coming days, I will reach out again with suggestions for the next steps,” says Vos.

“South Africa has long been a global tourist hotspot. By showing that we also have the means for people to work while they’re here, we entice them to stay longer.”

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