At a lunch hosted by the Austrian Business Chamber today, Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor addressed local foreign business representatives and diplomats on the current considerations of the new Immigration Law in South Africa. She expressed her concern that large European Union (EU) companies are asking her department to approve waivers of certain work permits because of the skills shortage in SA, but without plans for transferring skills to locals. SA had a serious shortage of skills, forcing companies to recruit beyond the country’s borders.
Abuse of Waivers
In “*her speech today in Johannesburg, the minister said that while the department valued the people, trade and investment from the EU, she was still concerned. “I have found some of the waiver applications troubling. Many lead to a situation that suggests South Africans will never meet the requirements to do these ‘specialist’ jobs … I do want some discussion of a plan to build skills in SA,” she said. Ms Pandor stated further that the EU was central to SA’s industrial policy, job creation and foreign investment. Many companies were using the waiver policies on work permits, which was good, but the concerns she expressed should be seriously considered as the department wanted to help the government to effectively use immigration policy to enhance the achievement of its national goals.
Intra-Company Transfer Work Permits
She said another large group of applicants that require waivers were holders of intra-company transfer work permits who have been seconded to SA from another branch or head office of an organisation. Intra-company transfer work permits are valid for two years and cannot be renewed under the current Immigration Act of 2002. Under the new act, the department will be extending the period of validity to four years. “I believe that two years is too short a period for professionals and for newly established branches of major corporations. Our policies and regulations will have to change in response to these new models of work,” Ms Pandor said.
The minister also said that the department was proposing a new immigration policy to simplify the migration work permit process within the Southern African Development Community region and further afield on the continent, in a bid to ease the current burden on the country’s asylum system.
Exceptional Skills and Quota Work Permits
Reflecting on the question by Into SA CEO Ralph Ertner with regard to future Exceptional Skills Work Permits, she informed the participants that Quota Permits and Exceptional Skills permits will continue to exist and that an external company is currently compiling an overview over skill shortages in various sectors of the industries. The term “exceptional” will be replaced by “critical” and will most probably be subject to the Departments discretion. While she mentioned the shortage in the medical and nursing field, she was questioned by Ralph Ertner, about the inconsistence of the policies of the Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA) with the attempt to attract those skills in terms of favourable immigration procedures. Ms. Pandor commented that the various departments will have to start talking to each other and policies will have to be streamlined, inter-departmental.
The new Immigration Law is expected to be tabled for Public Comment shortly.