Latest developments in South African immigration

​There have been several interesting immigration developments in South Africa. These include additional changes to the critical skills list, the launch of the trusted employer scheme, and Ghana being on South Africa's visa-exemption list.

Additional changes made to the critical skills list by the Department of Home Affairs and the launch of the Trusted Employer Scheme

In the last year, the critical skills list has seen some significant changes, with a new list being published in February 2022 and the list including relief for foreign professionals in the healthcare sector in August 2022. The revised August 2022 critical skills list was in effect for only 14 months, before the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) published another revised critical skills list in Government Gazette No 11628 on 3 October 2023.

Comparing the critical skills list published on 2 August 2022 with the newly published version, the DHA has identified two additional occupations in which certain skills or qualifications are considered to be in high demand and essential to South Africa's economy. The two new occupations that have been identified and included on the revised critical skills list effective from 3 October 2023 are Veterinarian and Veterinary Nurse.

At the moment, foreign nationals are experiencing delays in applying and obtaining their South African temporary residence visas, due to the backlog at the DHA. However, foreign nationals are still required to apply for the relevant South African temporary residence visas which they qualify for. The DHA is making progress in attempting to streamline certain processes by launching its pilot project towards the Trusted Employer Scheme. Only time will tell whether the DHA's new processes will be effective and whether it will require adjustment.

Further emphasis has been placed on the following matters:

Critical skills work visa

The critical skills work visa is no longer issued for 12 months which previously enabled a foreign national to seek employment in the relevant qualified occupation. Foreign nationals applying for a critical skills work visa and permanent residence in this field, are now required to include an offer of employment from a South African employer in the application. The South African employer is also required to be verifiable and should be in good standing with the Department of Employment and Labour (DoEL). The bolstered role that the DoEL plays in work visa applications appears to mirror the intention of the anticipated National Labour Migration Policy which seeks to strengthen the DoEL's role in labour migration governance more generally.

Corporate General Manager and Director occupations will be required to confirm any additional requirements that may be needed. University Lecturers will be required to specify their classification of education in the subject matter in the Critical Skills Technical Report.

Candidate Engineers

Perhaps the most thrilling news from this revised list is that the DHA has advised that all foreign nationals who are engineering applicants registered with a South African Qualifications Authority's (SAQA) recognised Professional Body, Board or Council as a "candidate" and others similarly graded will now be more eligible for a critical skills work visa than before, provided that they still meet all other requirements set out in the Immigration Act and Regulations and that they will be taking up employment under the supervision of a qualified "professional" where applicable.

Previously, foreign nationals who applied for critical skills work visas as a "candidate" were refused due to the lack of a confirmation of skills letter from the relevant SAQA recognised Professional Council (ie Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), as ECSA did not issue such confirmation letters to candidates but only for qualified professionals.

Relief for Ghana nationals as they may become part of the visa-exempt list but with certain restrictions

South Africa and Ghana have agreed on a 90 days (per annum) reciprocal visa-free entry deal for ordinary passport holders which was effective from 1 November 2023.

This means that citizens from Ghana do not need a visa to visit South Africa. To be certain whether your country falls within the visa exemption list, refer to this link.

Should a national of either country have exhausted the 90 days visa exemption within a 12-month period (ie from date of entry), ordinary passport holders for either country will then be required to apply for a visa at the relevant Embassy before entering that country again.

Upon entry into either country, the national will be required to provide (i) proof of accommodation, (ii) ability to sustain him or herself while in either country, and (iii) a return flight itinerary.

Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP)

The validity of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP), originally in place until 31 December 2023, has been extended until 30 June 2024. The rights of ZEP holders accordingly remain protected until this time.

We encourage all ZEP holders to apply for the appropriate South African temporary residence visas while there is still time.

Our immigration specialists are available to assist foreign professionals and their employers in assessing whether they are eligible for long-term South African temporary residence visas and South African permanent residence.


These materials are provided for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice. While every effort is made to update the information regularly and to offer the most current, correct and accurate information, we accept no liability or responsibility whatsoever if any information is, for whatever reason, incorrect, inaccurate or dated. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage, whether direct, indirect or consequential, which may arise from access to or reliance on the information contained herein.

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Webber Wentzel > News > Latest developments in South African immigration
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