Trusted Employer Scheme
The systematic problems with our work visa system needed an innovative solution and Home Affairs have late 2023 announced a “Trusted Employer Scheme”. In order to qualify, companies needed to meet a number of criteria including capital investment, facilitate graduate development programs, employ a minimum of 60% South Africans, and maintain good standing with relevant government departments, etc.
108 Applications, 65 Approved
The Department of Home Affairs received 108 applications, 65 have been approved, 35 employers were declined for not meeting the minimum criteria and the remainder await adjudication. An appeal process is in place for declined applicants, offering an opportunity for reconsideration. There were also late applications, which were not considered by Home Affairs; the point being how can you be treated as “trusted” when you are unable to make the submission deadline?
DHA enters into a Memorandum of Understanding
This MOU was shared to some Trusted Employers last week, and implementation can start as soon as this week, once the formalities have been concluded. Most of our submissions have received this MOU and we will keep a close eye on how quickly this moves to allowing actual submissions and becoming an operational process.
Podcast explaining the Trusted Employer Scheme
In a podcast last week between Marisa Jacobs, Managing Director of Xpatweb, and Phindiwe Mbhele, Director of Corporate Accounts of the Department of Home Affairs, where the Trusted Employer Scheme is unpacked, they confirmed that the scheme design allows South African Employers to fast track almost all visa categories.
This is achieved by exempting and simplifying the complex and time-consuming items of the visa application process.
Critical Skills Work Visa
Employers may under the Scheme submit an undertaking to secure a SAQA Verification and Professional Body registration for the applicant allowing them to secure the work visa while these processes run in parallel.
SAQA verifications currently take on average 4 months to complete, significantly delaying companies to apply for and secure work visas. This new process will allow employers to mobilise talent within a fraction of the time it currently takes.
Mbhele explains in the Podcast that the onus will be on the Trusted Employer to ensure that the minimum requirements of qualifications, experience and professional registrations are met. He adds that the Company has much more to lose by not vetting the talent that they recruit to take the most senior and technical roles in their business.
Intra-Company Transfer Work Visa
For Multinationals applying for Intra Company Transfer Work Visas, they have already demonstrated as part of the Trusted Employer Scheme submission, that they have in place the necessary graduate development programmes, bursary schemes and otherwise skills transfer initiatives to develop South Africans citizens. As such Trusted Employers will not be required to submit skills transfer plans with their Intra Company Transfer Work Visa applications.
General Work Visa
Companies making use of the General Work Visa category will not be required to complete a local job search and obtain a Department of Labour certificate to apply for a General Work Visa. Instead, an undertaking will be required, and which will again aid in a significantly streamlined work visa application process.
The Immigration system has especially in the last 24 months been criticised for the separating of families with accompanying spouse and child visas taking longer to process.
Notably, the benefits of the Trusted Employer Scheme will extend to accompanying family members, alleviating a significant source of stress for expatriates and their loved ones.
Strict Compliance will be Key
While the documents requirements are significantly alleviated, this is with an expectation of “Trust” as is so prominently noted in the title of the Scheme Mbhele warns.
Each Trusted Employer is expected to ensure they continue to comply with the requirements noting that the undertakings are in place to ensure the faster processing of applications allowing the mobilising of talent in a fast and predictable manner.
The undertaking importantly, do not absolve the requirement but places the onus on the employer instead. Xpatweb operates a parallel compliance system and dashboard, which provides a technology tool for tracking and retention of records.
In conclusion, the Trusted Employer Scheme is well poised to be the Department of Home Affairs’ most successful initiative yet if it gets the traction promised. The market is cautiously optimistic.