In a bid to tackle South Africa’s burgeoning skills crisis, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is set to roll out the Trusted Employer Scheme (TES) this week. The initiative aims to streamline the visa application process for foreign workers, addressing longstanding issues of complexity and delays.
For years, businesses have grappled with the intricacies of the visa system, facing lengthy processing times that hinder the recruitment of much-needed talent from abroad. Recognizing the detrimental impact of these delays on economic growth, the government has been under pressure to reform its visa application procedures.
Foreign workers have emerged as a vital short- and medium-term solution to South Africa’s skills shortage. However, the cumbersome visa process has deterred many potential candidates, diverting valuable capital flows to countries with more efficient systems in place.
In response to these challenges, the DHA unveiled the Trusted Employer Scheme in late 2023, offering a lifeline to qualifying companies seeking to expedite the visa acquisition process for foreign employees.
To be eligible for the scheme, companies must meet specific criteria, including substantial capital investment, participation in graduate development programs, and a commitment to maintaining a workforce comprised of at least 60% South Africans. Additionally, applicants must demonstrate a good standing with relevant government departments.
Of the 180 applications received by the DHA, 65 have been approved, while 35 were rejected for failing to meet the minimum requirements. However, rejected applicants have the option to appeal for reconsideration. The DHA has emphasized the importance of timely submissions, with late applications not being considered.
With the Memorandum of Understanding shared with Trusted Employers, implementation of the scheme is imminent pending finalization of formalities. According to Phindiwe Mbhele, Director of Corporate Accounts at the DHA, the TES is designed to streamline the processing of various visa categories, including Critical Skills Work Visas, Intra Company Transfer Work Visas, and General Work Visas.
Previously, obtaining a Critical Skills Work Visa necessitated time-consuming SAQA verification and professional body registration, causing significant delays for employers. The new system promises to expedite talent mobilization, albeit with stringent requirements to ensure compliance with qualifications and professional standards.
Moreover, the visa application process has posed challenges for families, with accompanying spouse and child visas experiencing prolonged processing times. The TES aims to alleviate these concerns by extending its benefits to accompanying family members, easing the burden on expatriates and their loved ones.
While the Trusted Employer Scheme streamlines documentation requirements, compliance remains paramount. Trusted Employers are expected to adhere to all stipulated criteria, with the understanding that compliance is essential for expedited processing of applications. The scheme does not absolve employers of their obligations but rather places greater responsibility on them to uphold standards and ensure the integrity of the system.
In conclusion, the launch of the Trusted Employer Scheme marks a significant step towards addressing South Africa’s skills crisis. By simplifying the visa application process and incentivizing compliance, the scheme aims to attract much-needed talent while fostering economic growth and development.