What Alternatives Do Current Exceptional Skills & Quota Work Permit Holders Have in Light of the New Immigration Act?

weldingWhen the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) did away with the exceptional skills and quota work visa categories in May 2014, many of those living and working in the rainbow nation under these groupings may have felt thrust into limbo.

Urgent questions about current visa validity, the possibility of renewal, plausible visa/permit alternatives and more sprung up…and words like ‘panic’, ‘undesirable’ and ‘deportation’ were batted around haphazardly.

To give some peace of mind to current exceptional skills and quota work visa holders and to distinguish between truth and speculation, we’ve put together a comprehensive FAQ guide. If you find your query still hasn’t been answered, contact one of our consultants directly.

Q: Am I illegal if I have a quota or exceptional skills work visa? What if I have permanent residency on an exceptional skills basis?

A: As long as your quota or exceptional skills work visa is still valid, you are not illegal. However, you will not be able to renew this permit in the lead up to expiry, and it’s wise to start making alternative plans (see below) as soon as possible if you’d like to remain in South Africa legally. Permanent residence holders who qualified for their status based on an exceptional skills basis are not affected by the immigration rules change – your permanent residence is valid and will continue to be valid.

Q: Can I still travel in and out of South Africa on my quota or exceptional skills work visa?

A: Yes, as long as your visa is still valid, you’re free to exit and re-enter South Africa legally.

Q: If I applied for an exceptional skills or quota work visa prior to the immigration rules change on 26 May 2014, will my application still be considered?

A: At this point, there’s nothing in the new legislation that addresses pending applications. That means that the Department of Home Affairs should continue to honour and process exceptional skills and quota work visa applications that were submitted prior to the rule change according to the old legislation. Subscribe to our blog to keep updated on this point.

Q: If I have a pending application, can I exit and re-enter the country legally?

A: The answer to this question depends on your current status. If you have a visa in your passport that is still valid, you can of course exit and re-enter the country legally. If you don’t, it’s recommended that you don’t exit. Directive 43, which allowed applicants to leave/re-enter South Africa with evidence from the Department of Home Affairs that an application was pending, has been repealed. Thus, those who exit without a valid visa are now in serious danger of being declared undesirable.

Q: If my exceptional skills/quota work visa is soon expiring, what alternative avenues do I have to remain in South Africa legally?

A: Believe it or not, there’s still plenty of opportunity to qualify to live/work in South Africa legally. Here are a few visa/permits that you may qualify to apply for:

  • General Work Visa
  • Critical Skills Work Visa / Critical Skills Permanent Residence
  • Corporate Work Visa
  • Spousal/Life Partner Visa/ Permanent Residence
  • Study Visa
  • Business Visa

Do note, it’s more important than ever that you give some hard though to which visa or permit may be best for you. To find out which category would suit your situation, contact Intergate for a free visa/permit eligibility assessment.

Q: If I’ve held exceptional skills or quota visas for five consecutive years or more, do I still qualify to apply for permanent residence based on the five-year continuous work category.

A: Yes!