Business Maverick


‘Game-changer’ — updated Immigration Act regulations now open to freelance digital nomads

‘Game-changer’ — updated Immigration Act regulations now open to freelance digital nomads
After a tumultuous journey back to the drawing board, the Department of Home Affairs has finally unveiled its updated Immigration Act regulations, introducing a digital nomad visa and a point-based system for work permits (Photo: IStock)

Home Affairs was forced to withdraw its work permit rules after an outcry about the lack of public participation. Now, the City of Cape Town says the updated regulations allowing for a digital nomad visa will boost the local economy.

After being forced to return to the drawing board following an outcry elicited by the lack of public consultation around the Immigration Act regulations, the Department of Home Affairs has finally gazetted the long-awaited changes to its work permit regime, which allows for a digital nomad visa (DNV), and a point-based system for the general work visa.

The update is little changed from the previous version and questions are asked about how much — if any — public comment was factored in, although the new regs now allow freelancers to apply for a digital nomad visa, provided they meet the R1-million + income requirement for a year.

Both foreigners who derive their income from foreign employers or those who conduct remote work can now apply for visas. As before, the applicant needs to earn a gross income of at least R1-million. Should they stay for less than six months in a 36-month cycle, they may apply to be exempt from paying tax; if they intend to stay for longer, they would have to register with the South African Revenue Service.

The second attempt at the amendment to the Immigration Act Regulations was necessitated after an outcry — not only over the sham public consultation process, in which none of the submissions made by law firms, immigration specialists and others were taken into consideration — from international employers who were unable to recruit skilled workers into South Africa.

The Department of Home Affairs recently announced that it will reopen the Trusted Employer Scheme for applications from companies in South Africa at the end of May 2024.

The scheme, announced on 11 October 2023, is described as a “one-stop shop for business applications intended to streamline the hiring process for South Africa-based companies seeking to employ foreign workers. It is intended to benefit eligible employers by providing expedited processing times and reduced administrative hurdles in securing foreign talent. Typically mandated steps, such as obtaining South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and Department of Labour recommendation letters, have been waived under this scheme.

Responding to the announcement of the DNV, City of Cape Town Mayco Member for Economic Growth, Alderman James Vos called it a “game-changer for our visitor economy”.

“By enabling remote workers to stay longer in our city, we can substantially boost our tourism value proposition, as these visitors will spend more money, benefiting various local businesses and services.”

He said the City had laid the groundwork for the DNV but it is up to the national government to ensure that the visas can be effectively issued and that the visa system works efficiently. DM


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