SA's current business visa requirements are driving away potential investors

South Africa’s current business visa requirements are driving away potential investors at a time when government claims it is doing the opposite – attracting foreign direct investment.

There is nothing attractive about the current requirement that business visa applicants receive a positive recommendation from the Department of Trade and Industry. On the contrary, immigration experts say this requirement is contributing towards South Africa’s visa bottleneck crisis. Not only is the DTI recommendation cumbersome, it is not actually required in terms of the Immigration Act. “It makes life difficult and turns people away,” says one top Cape Town immigration expert.

The current business visa requirements are far more stringent than investment visas in many other countries in less dire need of attracting investment and business talent. In addition to a DTI recommendation, business visa applicants must have proof of a foreign direct investment of at least R5million, and ensure that at least 60 percent of employment is for South African citizens or permanent residency holders.

The net result is that potential investors have a lot of boxes to tick even before their paperwork is added to the backlog of close to 100 000 applications. 

Instead of making life easier for skilled businesspeople to create jobs, government continues to make life difficult. Research shows that business visas create jobs; we should be handing them out at the airport, not keeping them under lock and key. 

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has reportedly pushed back the deadline to fix the backlog from June to November, but even the extended timeline seems fanciful.

The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry believes the crisis demands far more by way of intervention than the current backlog eradication plan. Urgent and far-reaching action is required, at every level, including an honest appraisal of senior management expertise.

We also call on our government partners to commit to a comprehensive review of current legislation as proposed by the recently-published White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection. 

Jacques Moolman
President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce & Industry