The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) on Monday launched a digital certificate of evaluation as a pilot to benefit holders of qualifications obtained in other countries.

The digital certificate reduces the lead time it takes to reach the qualification holder because it can be shared in real-time and can be verified in real-time as evidence to support applications for further studies, visas, employment, registration or professional licensing in SA.

SAQA is responsible for evaluating foreign educational qualifications to determine their South African equivalence.

Professionals including doctors who obtained their qualifications from outside the country have often expressed frustration at the red tape involved in having their certificates verified. SAQA’s verification process could take twenty working days or more.

The authority said on Monday that the digital certificate will be offered to holders of valid qualifications that were obtained in other countries upon evaluation of those foreign qualifications.

"As part of its mandate SAQA evaluates foreign qualifications which means that it first verifies the status and authenticity of foreign qualifications and then compares them to national qualifications by locating them within the South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF)," SAQA said.

It said the digital certificate would come together with a digital seal, which can be embedded in e-mail signatures, social media profiles and websites so that holders can showcase their qualifications.

"In this pilot phase SAQA has used the services of PrivySeal to provide the digital certificate and the digital seal in a secure manner," it said.

SAQA CEO Joe Samuels said: "This development builds on the efforts SAQA has made to ensure quicker and more efficient evaluation of foreign qualifications through the establishment of the African Qualifications Verification Network in 2016, as well as the Southern African Development Community Qualifications Verification Network in 2017, and SAQA’s ongoing work with members of the Groningen Declaration Network."