South Africa’s visa backlog putting billions in investment at risk
The slow pace of visa approvals for foreign experts and CEOs might lead to multinational corporations investing elsewhere, says Jean Claude Lasserre, the chairperson of the French Trade Advisors.
Speaking to ENCA, Lasserre said that the slow processes at the Department of Home Affairs, paired with a backlog of unprocessed visas, have left many highly skilled professionals, including process engineers and financial experts from entering the country.
The presence of these outsourced skills in South Africa forms part of France’s pledge to invest R50 billion into the country.
This follows a recent South African Reserve Bank Quarterly Bulletin that showed that foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow from across the globe was R27.2 billion in the first quarter of 2022.
Lasserre said that more than 99% of the people employed in the investment projects are from South Africa; however, some experts from overseas are still required – even if they invest heavily into the upskilling of domestic staff.
He said that if the process of getting visas is not sped up, it will ultimately lead to disinvestment in South Africa as it makes organising and doing business in the country more difficult.
Slow visa processes are a shared concern among many multinationals, not just French companies, said Lasserre. This is why there have been strong calls for the Department of Home Affairs as well as the Department of Trade and Industry to address the issue.
The long queue of visa applications has no prioritisation and does not consider the length in which someone must wait. If this was to continue, multinationals might look elsewhere to invest as projects will be delayed.
South Africa is a pipeline for the international community into Africa as a whole, but if this issue can not be addressed, multinational corporations may look elsewhere on the continent to make a hub, said Lasserre.
Getting a working visa has recently been made even harder to get by the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL), say immigration experts at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.
The legal experts said that employers must ensure that they comply with new requirements to avoid any administrative delays in the processing of visa applications.
The new annexure to regulations means that there is a compulsory preliminary process to be followed before work visa applications are submitted to the Visa Facilitation Services.
The new procedure adds additional compliance steps and requires that an application be submitted to the DEL for vetting.
Steps by government
In an attempt to process the backlog of visa applications on foreign nationals, the Department of Home Affairs, on 27 June, decided to introduce temporary measures to assist the situation.
In terms of visa applications that are still pending, the department said that foreign national who are awaiting the outcome of their visa application is granted a temporary extension until 30 September 2022 of the current visa status.
The department added that:
- Applicants with pending long-term visa applications who originate from countries that are exempt from the port of entry visa requirements and who wish to travel may do so by presenting their VFS receipts on arrival back to collect their visa outcomes.
- Applicants with pending long-term visa applications who originate from countries that are visa restricted would require a port of entry visa and their VFS receipt in order to be re-admitted into South Africa.