The migrant crisis sweeping across the world has placed a spotlight on how countries deal with this challenge, not only from a humanitarian perspective, but also from a workplace perspective. South Africa’s policy response to International Migration has been static for the past 17 years since it was articulated in the 1999 White Paper on International Migration. Much has changed in the world over this period, including the ever-increasing demand for highly skilled workers in short supply, many of whom are Foreign and rely on the routine administrative functions of the Department of Home Affairs to issue residence and work permits.
Home Affairs recently issued a Green Paper on International Migration for public comment (published on 24 June 2016) as a precursor to a White Paper to be tabled in Parliament later in the year. Policy choices outlined in the Green Paper may have a significant impact on the economy and talent management in the workplace.
Of interest to Employers are Economic Migrants, which refers to foreign nationals who migrate for economic reasons such as seeking employment or to conduct business, as well as Temporary Residence Visas, which refer to any of the visas issued to a foreign national to enter and temporarily reside in the country. These include transit, visitors, work and business visas.
From a talent management perspective, the current international migration policy is aimed at granting visas to those with critical skills; skills that cannot be obtained in the South African labour market; or substantial amounts of capital. Home Affairs publishes a list of critical skills from time to time after consultation with the Departments of Labour, Trade and Industry and Higher Education and Training. General work visas are only granted if there is no response to an advert placed in a
national newspaper. Other types of work visas are for categories such as intra-company transfers and corporate visas typically used in mining and farming to recruit migrants from SADC countries.
There is criticism of the current system in terms of its enabling SA to compete internationally for skills because of administrative inefficiency and lack of flexibility. Despite the implementation of some measures assisting on a small scale, there is an urgent need to make larger changes in approach, capacity and regulations in order to address the serious skills gaps that are holding back development, training and job creation. [Written submissions must be lodged with Home Affairs by 30 September 2016].
By Kevin Alborough, Chairman