As one of the fastest growing countries on the African continent, South Africa is making it easier to attract the right skill sets to it’s shores. The Critical Skills Work Visa replaced the Exceptional Skills and Quota Visas. The Department of Home Affairs has a list of criteria that needs to be filled in order to qualify for the Critical Skills Work Visa. We will first take a look at what you need to qualify for the Critical Skills Work Visa and then look at how you can fast-track a permanent residency process if you are a graduate from one of the ‘critical skills’ professions.

What you need to apply for a Critical Skills Work Visa

The Department of Home Affairs has stated that you need to provide the following documentation: A completed application form signed by the applicant, a valid passport, a vaccination certificate if required by the Act, proof of financial means in the form of bank statements, cash and/or travellers’ cheques. You also need a cash deposit equivalent to a return or an undertaking from the employer, medical and radiology reports, a police clearance from any country you have lived in for longer than 12 months, proof of registration for a certificate from the accredited Professional Body, Council or Board recognised by SAQA (The South African Qualifications Authority). Furthermore, you need proof of evaluation of the foreign qualification by SAQA and have it translated by a sworn translator into one of the official 11 languages of South Africa. Lastly, you will need to show proof of employment within 12 months of obtaining a Critical Skills Work Visa in the form of an employment contract specifying the occupation and the capacity in which the foreigner shall be employed.

However, because South Africa has a serious skills shortage within certain occupations The Department of Home Affairs has now made it easier for graduates who are studying within a critical skills area to apply for permanent residency immediately after completing their qualification. Many of the usual criteria for permanent residency are set aside as long as certain criteria are met. Firstly, the course must be at a degree level or higher (bachelors degree, honours degree, masters degree and/or doctorate). Secondly, the course must be within the critical skills area. There are 12 areas of education on South Africa’s critical skills list. These areas cover industries where South Africa does not have the local talent to fill those gaps. Foreigners tend to apply for jobs in the areas of Engineering, the Health Professions, Clinical Sciences and the Life and Earth Sciences. Degrees in subjects like Psychology and Law do not qualify. A few examples of jobs that qualify would be: nurses, veterinarians, mining engineers, civil engineers, chemical engineers, integrated developers, solutions architects, public health physicians, biological scientists, aquatic scientists and engineering geologists.

Thirdly, there is no need for professional body registrations. Eligible graduates do not need to submit a certificate from a Professional Body, Council or Board recognised by SAQA. Getting these certificates often take about 12 months so this is a huge advantage. You will, however, still need to meet the other criteria like getting police clearance and undergoing certain medical tests.

Fourthly, you do not need to apply for temporary residence first. To apply for permanent residency under the Critical Skills Work Visa category, applicants must have 5 years post qualification relevant experience. This is not necessary for graduates with critical skills applying for permanent residency. An advantage of permanent residency is you get to enjoy similar privileges that South African citizens do. This means you can change employers freely whereas you cannot do this with a Critical Skills Work Visa or any temporary residence visa for that matter. It must be noted that while your permanent residency application is with the Department of Home Affairs, you need to be in the country on a valid temporary visa.

The fifth advantage is that you do not have to wait as long as other applicants for permanent residency visas. The Department of Home Affairs has marked applications for permanent residency from students with critical skills as a priority. This decision makes turnaround time closer to 12 months rather than the usual over 24 months that other permanent residency applications would take. This is a massive advantage.

Finally, your family can join you in South Africa. Spouses, life partners and dependent children can apply for permanent residency at the same time as the main applicant. It must, however, be noted that family members’ permanent residency applications can take 2 to 3 years to be completed which is quite long. However, once it is issued, your family members are free to work, study and/or start a business like any other permanent resident.

In conclusion, applying for a permanent residence visa as a graduate with critical skills has many advantages over other avenues, including the Critical Skills Work Visa. If you would like to know more about this option, please feel free to contact Visa Immigration SA.