South Africa is moving ahead with plans to overhaul its immigration policies, with Department of Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize confirming this week that the Cabinet has approved the proposed White Paper on immigration and is taking steps to implement new proposals.

It is anticipated that the White Paper, which has not yet been published, will introduce a points-based system for work permits, new fees for employers who use foreign labor in order to fund training and education programs for local workers, and the waiver of visit visa requirements for citizens of African Union countries.

“The transformation of South Africa’s international migration policy is among the major priorities of the department,” Mkhize said, adding, “We are focusing on implementing the White Paper approved by the Cabinet in March 2017. This is an important milestone for South Africa.”

Key points:

  • The DHA is expected to publish the White Paper shortly and will accept additional public comment immediately thereafter.
  • Legislation implementing the proposals of the White Paper will then be introduced to Parliament for debate and could be adopted as soon as  the end of the year.
  • A BAL backgrounder on the changes on the horizon for South Africa’s immigration system, and the possible impact for employers, is available here.

Background: Mkhize announced that the White Paper had been approved during a speech on an upcoming budget vote for the Department of Home Affairs. She also committed the DHA to completing plans for a National Identity System (NIS) to replace the National Population Register and increasing efforts to digitize records and issue more smart ID cards. She said standards would remain in place to process 85 percent of permanent residence permit applications within eight months and 90 percent of temporary residence visa applications under the general work visa and business visa categories within eight weeks. The DHA is also committing to improve the target for the critical skills visa category by 5 percent so that 80 percent of applications are adjudicated within four weeks.

BAL Analysis: The White Paper’s policy objectives and proposed changes have potentially far-reaching implications for South African employers and international companies that rely on foreign talent. Companies should anticipate significant changes to the country’s immigration regime in the coming year. BAL is following the progress of these proposals and will work closely with our clients to advocate policies favorable to foreign direct investment.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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