Carol Paton Writer at Large
Picture: 123RF/HASLOO
Picture: 123RF/HASLOO

The department of higher education has begun the lengthy process of compiling a new list of critical skills that will be used to determine whether a foreigner may apply for a visa to live and work in SA.

The “critical skills visa” is one of a few options that potential immigrants can use to seek legal status, and aims to ensure that only individuals whose skills are in short supply are able to settle in the country. The existing list, which was compiled and gazetted in 2014, includes a long list of occupations.

Earlier in 2019, a new draft list that was more restrictive came into circulation. Immigration lawyers, who received the list from officials at home affairs, say that the list was intermittently applied, although not officially. Among the major changes is that the category of corporate general manager has been excised — an omission that has raised concern among business organisations.

Business has lobbied government for many years to open up the economy to easier immigration of skilled people, which it believes will be positive for economic growth, but mostly without success.

That draft list is now in abeyance and a process is under way to compile a new list. The department of higher education says it is working closely with home affairs and other relevant government departments, such as the department of trade and industry and the department of employment and labour to compile a new report.

In response to questions, the department said on Tuesday that the draft list would emerge in about November and would be refined by March 2020.

“This year, the department of higher education and training will be producing the report on the critical skills. This report will form the basis upon which the critical skills list will be developed, gazetted and published by the department of home affairs. We anticipate that the report on the critical skills will be ready by the end of March next year,” spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said.