New rules governing immigration into South Africa came into effect on 26 May 2014. These changes are extensive and will take time to bed in, so we provide this overview for reference.
The new rules streamline the types of work permit available to three principle categories:
Critical Skills Work Permit
The Critical Skills Work Visa is a newly introduced category which will replace the Quota and Exceptional Skills work permits. The role must be listed on the current Critical Skills list, and the applicant must obtain written confirmation from a South African Qualifications Agency (SAQA) endorsed professional body, council or board confirming their skills and qualifications. Visas in this category can be valid for up to five years and are renewable.
General Work Permit
The General Work Visa is aimed at new hires in professions not on the Critical Skills list and will require the role to be advertised. After this labour market test has been completed, it is now necessary to lodge an application with the Department of Labour for a certificate confirming that this labour market test has been completed, that no suitable South African citizen or permanent resident could be found, that the salary is on a par with that paid to South Africans or permanent residents occupying similar positions, and that the foreign national has the necessary skills and qualifications. Visas in this category can be valid for up to five years and are renewable.
Intra-Company Work Permit
Intra-Company Transfers will require the foreign national to have been employed by the company overseas for at least six months. There is now more emphasis on what the benefit of the transfer will be to the South African workforce, so a transfer of skills plan must be in place prior to submission of the application. It will be possible for Intra-Company Transfer status to be held by a foreign national for double the length of time than it was previously — for up to four years instead of two years.
Section 11(2) Visas
The Section 11(2) is a visit visa category allowing short-term work for up to three months. Previously, written permission was obtained in advance from the Department of Home Affairs and then a non-visa national such as a U.S. citizen could then enter South Africa with a copy of the letter and receive the stamp at his or her port of entry. Now the application will be consular for all applicants with the application filed at the relevant South African Mission in the applicant's country of residence, and an endorsement placed in the passport prior to travel.
An Important Note on Police Certificates
Long-term, temporary residence categories, such as the three kinds of work permit, require police clearance certificates from all countries the applicant has lived in since the age of 18 for one year or longer. A concession previously existed for foreign nationals to obtain these police certificates within six months of entering South Africa. This concession has now been removed and will potentially increase lead times for foreign nationals seeking to obtain South African work authorisation as the certificates will need to be obtained in advance of the application.
And on Unmarried Partners
The South African authorities have clarified the requirement for Life Partner visas for unmarried and homosexual dependant partners. As with many other jurisdictions, the main applicant and spouse must prove that their relationship has subsisted for at least two years via an affidavit and documentation showing financial support for each other. The South African authorities will additionally administer this requirement by conducting separate interviews with the main applicant and partner simultaneously. After two years of the visa being issued, if the individuals intend to remain in South Africa, then an affidavit must be submitted confirming that the relationship is continuing.
Previously in-country applications such as extensions had to be submitted 30 days prior to the expiry of the applicant's current status. The new immigration rules require extensions to be submitted 60 days prior to the expiry of the individual's immigration status. The only exception to the 60-day rule is if the current visa was issued for less than 30 days, in which case an extension application must be filed no later than seven days prior to the visa expiry.