One year on, the remote worker visa feels only a little less like a remote possibility
It’s ‘inexcusable’ that SA still doesn’t offer this when the average work-from-destination traveller could be spending ‘at least’ R50 000 here each month.
Digital nomads are rushing to beautiful locations all over the world but can’t come to South Africa. Image: Bloomberg
It’s been a year since President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his 2022 State of the Nation address (Sona) that a comprehensive review of the work visa system was “currently underway”.
Led by a former director-general of Home Affairs, the review was “exploring the possibility of new visa categories that could enable economic growth”, including “a remote working visa”.
In his 2023 Sona Ramaphosa provided an update.
“Having completed a comprehensive review of the work visa system, we will move quickly to implement the recommendations put forward,” he said.
“We will also be introducing a remote worker visa and a special dispensation for high-growth start-ups. While the reform programme is underway, we will continue to support public and social employment to provide work to those who need it.”
Rosemary Anderson, national chair of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa), says there are so many examples South Africa could learn from, taking the best out of each to come up with a great new ‘digital nomad visa’.
“It is inexcusable that we have not done this yet.”
Several other jurisdictions have been quick off the mark to capitalise on the growing number of digital nomad or remote workers – including Germany, Portugal, Norway, Spain, Greece, Dubai, Namibia, Cape Verde, Mauritius and Seychelles.
Countries like Hungary, Croatia, Costa Rica, Columbia and Ecuador have criteria that make it easy to successfully apply for a digital nomad visa.
“Questions regarding tax, length of stay, health insurance and other factors have all been sorted out by dozens of countries, so there is no reason why we can’t do the same,” she says.
The Western Cape government sent a comprehensive proposal to government way back in May 2021, and resubmitted it in September 2022.
The province proposed a short-term remote work visa for an initial one-year period, with the option to renew it for an additional two years. The qualifying requirements could include a minimum threshold amount of income or savings, proof of accommodation for at least one year, and proof of travel and health insurance.
Georgina Maree, spokesperson for the Western Cape ministry of finance and economic opportunities, says Ramaphosa now has a report – containing recommendations from his own department – but three months later has not released it.
“We are eagerly awaiting its release,” says Maree.
Max Urban, managing director of Propr, a short-term rental management company, says the trend of working from anywhere has seen a growth in digital nomads to the point where they now number close to 35 million. Propr has seen an increase in the average stay of remote workers in recent times.
“Each person would bring in foreign currency and help support our ailing economy.”
He believes it is “not unreasonable” to assume that these travellers could on average spend at least R50 000 per month in the country.
“South Africa has undoubtedly lost billions as a result of contradictory visa requirements relating to unabridged birth certificates and the shortening of visas to three months,” Urban adds.
The negative impact of government on attracting visitors to SA is echoed by Fedhasa’s Anderson.
“Each of our government departments and municipalities needs to evaluate whether they are assisting or damaging tourism. If they are contributing to the problems that tourism faces, they are not only part of stunting job creation in our industry but are directly causing job losses.”
“We need to start equating all the obstacles created by government in terms of job losses … Home Affairs’ tourism visa protocols, [the] lack of a true eVisa system and the long missing-in-action digital nomad visa is damaging and stunting tourism job creation in South Africa,” says Anderson.
“Finish ‘en klaar.”
*Written by Amanda Visser
This article originally appeared on Moneyweb and was republished with permission. Read the original article here