Critical Skills Visa – Need to knows

Critical Skills Visa
Critical Skills Visa

Much has been written about the new critical skills visa for South Africa which came into effect with the new immigration regulations in June 2014.

Brought in as a ‘replacement’ for its predecessors, the quota and exceptional skills work permits, the critical skills work visa is based around the applicant’s qualification sector and occupation.

The key is that the applicant’s qualification sector and occupation appears on what is called the critical list.  The critical skills list is a government gazette that lists what may be termed ‘scarce skills’. In other words occupations that are difficult to fill from South African labour.

A welcome addition

There has been a justified welcoming of the critical skills work visa and there is no doubt that its introduction provides prospective (suitably qualified) immigrants with a more efficient route to a work visa.

With the sensible attraction of not needing a job offer before it can be granted, and allowing the holder a full 12 months to secure suitable employment, South Africa has created a much more competitive environment for it to attract much needed international talent.

The critical skill list

In what seems a straight forward requirement, the act states:

An application for a critical skills work visa shall be accompanied by proof that the applicant falls within the critical skills category as published from time to time by the Minister by notice in the Gazette.

So if you appear to be on the critical skills list you qualify – or do you?

There needs to be some evaluation of an applicant against their claim that they match a published occupation on the list, so let’s take a look at the full Regulation 18(5) requirement:

An application for a critical skills work visa shall be accompanied by proof that the applicant falls within the critical skills category as published from time to time by the Minister by notice in the Gazette in the form of-

In the form of is the pivotal part of the requirement and here we see the introduction of professional bodies.

The role of professional bodies in the application process

In keeping with other countries immigration procedures, the Department of Home Affairs, has introduced professional bodies (there are 48) into the critical skills application process. As with any new process of course it takes some time to ‘bed in’ and more importantly a willing party.

It would seem that consultation with some professional bodies may not have been as in-depth as was required and early indications are that some of these professional bodies are not fully up to speed with what is required.

The regulations for a critical skills visa are quite specific:

a)      a confirmation, in writing, from the accredited professional body, council or board recognised by SAQA in terms of section 13(2)(i) of the National Qualifications Framework Act, 2008 (Act No. 67 of 2008), or any relevant government Department confirming the skills or qualifications of the applicant and appropriate post qualification experience; and

b)      if required by law, proof of application for certificate of registration with the accredited professional body, council or board recognised by SAQA in terms of section 13(1)(i) of the National Qualifications Framework Act, 2008 (Act No. 67 of 2008); and

c)      proof of evaluation of the foreign qualification by SAQA.

In layman’s terms that places an onus on the professional body to:

  • Confirm the applications qualifications, skills and experience
  • Provide proof the application for registration by the applicant

The latter of these is of course the simplest, the former far more complex.

This role is new to professional bodies and understandably many of them simply do not have an internal process in place for the verification of the applications skills, experience and qualifications.

Responses to date have ranged from everything that is required for a critical skills visa application to included proof of membership to “sorry we have no verification process in place as yet so cannot currently help”.

Now here of course lies a problem – no verification process, means no confirmation, which means no critical skills visa application.

The introduction of professional bodes was of course welcomed when announced. There was an expectation ‘professionals would be giving opinions about professionals’. The lack of consultation from DHA has however impaired the professional body’s ability to get ready for the involvement that has been thrust upon them.

This causes administrative delays as they have in many cases no process on how to go about the verification process.

The result –  it is keeping much needed professional skills (which the DHA is of the opinion we need) from South African employers.

It’s not a once off process

Surprisingly not in the Act itself, but the last bullet point on the critical skills list for requirements is the sentence:

Proof of employment within 12 months after obtaining Critical Skills work visa in a form of an employment contract specifying the occupation and capacity in which the foreigner shall be.

In other words this is not a once off process and a failure to comply with the regulation will put your critical skills visa at risk.

Summary

Prospective applicants need to take care, poor advice or a lack of research may indicate at face value you qualify, but as with most immigration categories concerning a critical skill, there is much more to it.

In terms of the professional bodies, we hope they can adjust quickly and play the important role they have been given with speed and efficiency.

Enquiries for Critical Skills Visa

To find out more about the critical skills visa, prospective applicants can contact us on info@intergate-immigration.com and we suggest you include a copy of your CV for a free evaluation.