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Tourism sector welcomes SA’s remote work visa in the age of digital nomads

Picture: Supplied/City of Cape Town.

Picture: Supplied/City of Cape Town.

Published Feb 14, 2022

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South Africa will explore adopting remote-working and start-up visas, as per President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address last Thursday (10 February).

“The world over, the ability to attract skilled immigrants is the hallmark of a modern, thriving economy. We are, therefore, streamlining and modernising the visa application process to make it easier to travel to South Africa for tourism, business and work,” he said.

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In a press release shared by the City of Cape Town, Alderman James Vos, the Mayco Member for Economic Growth, agreed that implementing a Remote Work Visa would be highly beneficial to various sectors of the economy.

Vos first highlighted the economic spin-offs of this new visa just over a year ago when Cape Town made the Big 7 Travel website’s ‘Best cities for remote working’ list. Since then, the City has held a Remote Work Webinar in collaboration with Cape Town Tourist (CTT), which brought together tourism and hospitality sector stakeholders to strategise on how to appeal to 'digital nomads.'

The term ‘digital nomads’ is used to describe an expanding group of people who live and work from anywhere in the world by embracing location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyles. According to a survey by MBO partners, the number of digital nomads in the United States alone surged by over half to 11 million in 2020, as a mass withdrawal of people from the workplace in 2020 exposed just how many jobs may be conducted from outside the office.

This explosion of digital workers seeking to escape the confines of a home office could mean great things for the country that extends beyond general tourism. Vos shared: “We have learnt that each one of these working tourists tends to spend up to R50 000 during their stay, which has the potential to add up to a significant boon for the economy. This revenue reaches multiple industries, including educational institutions, transport, accommodation, retail, and restaurants.”

Under Vos’s proposal, the National Government would need to make an amendment to Section 11 of the Immigration Act, which relates to an extension of visas beyond 90 days for specific activities. This is because remote workers tend to stay beyond three months in a location.

The application can be authorised by a Ministerial Directive while applying regulations already in place and governing visitors’ visa applications.

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At present, these visa applicants must show:

· Control of sufficient financial resources (by means of a bank statement);

· Proof of accommodation and medical insurance for the duration of their stay;

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· Medical certificate, radiological report, and police clearances.

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;

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· allow the applicant’s dependants to accompany them.

Vos’s plan of action will also entail engaging with industry organisations like CTT and the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) to start developing specialised product and pricing categories for this market so that Cape Town remains the top choice for these nomads.

As we enter into the third year of the pandemic, we are reminded that the remote work model isn't simply a fad, it's a way of life for many people. “Let’s fully capitalise on what we as a city and country can offer digital nomads,” said Vos.

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