Visa delays impacting economic growth

Delays in the issuing of visas to skilled professionals, who want to live and work in the country are causing a huge problem for businesses.

Delays in the issuing of visas to skilled professionals, who want to live and work in the country are causing a huge problem for businesses.

Published Jan 10, 2024


Delays in the issuing of visas to skilled professionals, who want to live and work in the country are causing a huge problem for businesses and is impacting negatively on economic growth and investment.

This is according to Melanie Veness, chairperson of the Association of South African Chambers (Asac), who said the massive backlog in the issuance of visas is creating an untenable position for businesses that are reliant on the services of skilled foreign professionals.

“These are people who are needed to fill the gaps on the critical skills list. We’re losing those professionals to other countries, because they simply cannot wait for extended and unreasonable periods to get a visa or a spousal visa,” she said.

In response to a Parliamentary question in November about the processing of backlogged visas by DA MP Adrian Roos, who sits on the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee, Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the processing backlog of visas and permits as at August 31, 2023, is 74 309 and 43 944 respectively.

Another committee member, IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe, told The Mercury that the backlog persists and would have increased since the committee's last meeting at the end of last year.

Veness said inward investment was stifled as firms wishing to introduce new innovative business models from other countries, cannot bring their management teams across, with the relevant experience.

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) CEO Cas Coovadia said it was very concerned about the ongoing delays in the processing and securing of visas through the Home Affairs department.

“This bottleneck, with significant backlogs, particularly relating to scarce skills needed for sectors of our economy, are a further inhibitor to economic growth and erodes confidence in South Africa,” he said.

Coovadia said Busa had raised this issue with the Presidency and will continue to work with them to address the matter.

Chairperson of the board and head of African Futures and Innovation at the Institute for Security Studies, Jakkie Cilliers, said bringing skilled foreigners into the country was important for growth and development.

“It’s a real source of concern and the situation just seems to be getting worse, it’s hugely important that the government try and get on top of this situation as quickly as possible,” said Cilliers.

Economist Dawie Roodt said the visa backlog was having a huge impact on the country’s economy.

“I’ve spoken to many business people, especially international businesses and they want to get certain skills and you simply cannot get those skills locally and it’s such a hassle to get visas for those people,” he said.

For example, Roodt said in the motor industry, people with very specialised skills are needed to manufacture certain motor components.

He said this is one of the industries that the government is trying to protect and push, however, by making it difficult for people with certain skills to come into the country, the government was undermining its own objectives.

In his Parliamentary response Minister Motsoaledi said the department expects to clear the backlog by November 2024.

He said the department has developed a plan to address the backlogs which aims to move the older Temporary Residency Visas applications from 2022 concurrently, with the current applications of 2023 by splitting the temporary residence visa team into two.

“The plan includes the utilisation of its current capacity supported by the additional officials from other branches including those in provinces. It also includes those officials who have returned from the Foreign Missions after serving their four-year deployment term.”

The Department of Home Affairs had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

The Mercury