It has been more than 500 days since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the government’s intention to introduce a Remote Working Visa, and still this permit has not seen the light of day.
The plan to implement this sought-after visa category was first mentioned in Ramaphosa’s 2022 State of the Nation address, when he said the ability to attract skilled immigrants was the hallmark of a modern, thriving economy.
Earlier this year, the Department stated that it was working to a June 2023 deadline to have this new visa category – which would cater for remote workers and start-ups – included in the revised Immigration Regulations.
This would be subject to State Law Adviser approval and public consultation.
However, Western Cape minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities Mireille Wenger says Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, has confirmed in a letter to the Western Cape Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Opportunities and Tourism, that his department has missed its deadline to introduce the Remote Working Visa in South Africa by the end of June.
“This means that it has now been 527 days and counting since President Ramaphosa first announced the intention to introduce this much needed and sought-after visa category in his February 2022 State of the Nation Address.”
Wenger says the introduction of a remote working visa is a “clear win-win solution” to boost long-stay tourism in the Western Cape and South Africa, and is very much in line with South Africa Tourism’s drive to get tourists to stay longer.
“The continued and unnecessary delay to introduce this visa means that South Africa and the Western Cape continue to lose digital nomads to competitor destinations, such as our neighbour Namibia, which have moved with speed and urgency to attract this new market.
“While Minister Motsoaledi attributes the delay to the need to amend the Immigration Act, the Western Cape Government’s constructive proposal to the Department of Home Affairs, first submitted in May 2021 and again in September 2022, sets out clear recommendations that would enable the introduction of this visa within the existing legal framework, through amendments to Immigration Act 13 of 2002 regulations – without needing to amend the Immigration Act.”
She says there is a clear proposal on how to swiftly introduce a remote work visa and that “continued failure” to introduce this visa category “is costing our economy and compromising job creation, at a time when we should be doing all we can to grow and support sectors that have shown resilience and significant job-creating potential, such as tourism”.
FNB Property Economist John Loos also believes that a remote working visa would be of great benefit to the country and the economies in the areas foreign workers choose to settle. In fact, he equates it to the positives that come from European swallows or retirees investing in property here.
“Such people bring with them amazing purchasing power, whether they are drawing a pension or working for a company in, for example, Germany. They are not taking people’s jobs, just working from South Africa.
“Effectively, they will be working in Germany but spending their money here. It just makes sense.”
This foreign market of retirees and workers offers “great potential” for economic activity as many parts of South Africa are cheap for people to live in, considering the strength of their home currencies.
“While I do believe that there are more negatives than positives to a weak Rand, one of the positives is that we become cheap for tourists, retirees, and remote workers who want to live here because of the great lifestyle and weather on offer.”
Citing the Eagles song The Last Resort, Loos says there are a number of reasons why people would see South Africa as some sort of paradise. At the same time though, he cites the last verse of the song – ‘They call it paradise, I don't know why; You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye’ – as the only major downside to attracting more people to the economy, which is the scarcity of resources.
“This, however, is a challenge in any economy.”
* This story will be updated with Department of Home Affairs comment once it is received.