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  • New Immigration Rules On Expatriates In South Africa

New Immigration Rules On Expatriates In South Africa

04 September 2017

By Shohana Mohan, Director and Head of Individual and Expatriate Tax, BDO SA

South Africa issued a White Paper on Immigration Policy in 1999. The White Paper has not kept up with the various changes in the last 18 years. These include substantial increases in the global mobility of workforces (migrants increased from 12.3 million in 2011 to 16.5 million in 2016), and the objects of the National Development Plan. As a result, a number of reviews and proposals have been approved by Parliament on 29 March 2017. The paper addresses the management of:

  1. Admissions and departures;
  2. Residency and naturalisation;
  3. International migrants with skills and capital;
  4. Ties with South African expatriates;
  5. International migration within the African context;
  6. Asylum seekers and refugees;
  7. Integration process for international migrants; and
  8. Enforcement.

Permanent residence

The permanent residence policy aims to introduce a long term residence visa to ensure that applicants continuously meet the qualifying criteria. A point’s based approach will be introduced to assess applicants’ compliance with specific minimum requirements. Granting of citizenship will be considered under exceptional circumstances and will be subject to the approval by the Minister.

Skilled hire

The requirement for critical skills be assessed using a point’s based system, similar to Australia and Canada. Weightings will be assigned based on qualifications, work experience, age, type of business and willingness to transfer skills to South Africans. To promote the growth of the Continent as a whole, candidates from the SADC region will get preference over other locations. Specific skills transfer to South Africans will receive priority. The plan will be reviewed on an annual basis. A levy will be imposed on the employing entity if milestones are not met and skills transfer is not taking place.

It is estimated that 520 000 South Africans emigrated between 1989 and 2003. To track skilled outbound South Africans, South African citizens who intend to emigrate for longer than three months will be registered. To harness the South African skilled labour pool, reintegration programmes will be considered to encourage the sharing of skills and the reintegration for returning expatriates into the labour market.

A visa-free regime will allow African citizens to visit South Africa for up to 90 days provided that return agreements and other security and information-sharing agreements are in place. This will encourage mobility.

Overall, multinational corporations will need to align their recruitment policies and resource pools with the shift in focus in South African immigration laws.

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