Remote working visa option holds promise for the recovery of tourism in South Africa
| Johannes Kgotso Tiba

Remote working visa option holds promise for the recovery of tourism in South Africa

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As a result of COVID-19, South Africa is one of the countries that implemented one of the harshest lockdowns in the world. At the forefront of the minds of government authorities was to ensure that the rate of infection from the pandemic was reduced, in order to ensure public health facilities would not be overwhelmed. The measures the authorities implemented entailed, among others, closure of international borders, visa cancellations and banning of nationals from countries that were hard-hit by COVID-19.

In the process, tourism, one of the economies critical sectors, was negatively impacted by these preventative measures against COVD-19. The importance of the tourism sector in South Africa cannot be underestimated. According to the South African government, employment in the tourism sector accounted for 4.2% of total employment in the South African economy in 2018, and was projected to increase to 709,000 jobs in 2019. Unfortunately, by May 2020, Tourism Business Council of South Africa reported that 600,000 jobs in the tourism sector had been lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recent easing of lockdown rules and the opening of international borders to travellers visiting South Africa may help the tourism sector to recover a bit.  However, I believe other initiatives will be needed to ensure that the recovery of the sector is sustainable. One such effort is the creation of an option to accommodate remote workers or digital nomads for international travellers who would like to continue performing their work remotely in South Africa. (Here are some other countries around the world are already offering remote working visas.)

Employers: Benefits of remote working 

As a result of the pandemic, many companies in South Africa and around the world have realized that employees are more productive when working remotely. Thus, to retain them they must continue to provide such a benefit. As South Africa is one of the leading tourist destinations in the world, it is advisable for the country to provide such an option to attract these remote professionals and their families to live and work for their companies from their respective rented homes, second homes or even hotel rooms. 

In the Middle East and Africa, countries like the United Arab Emirates and Mauritius have already led the way in attracting remote working professionals to their country in order to support the tourism sector during these difficult times.

Although South Africa does not have a specific visa option for remote working in terms of the South African Immigration Act (Act #13 of 2002), it is advisable to have such a visa option for the country to be well positioned to benefit from the ever-growing number of international remote or nomadic workers. The requirements for such a visa can be set in a manner that would accommodate remote workers to live and proceed with their work in South Africa, and it could be issued for 12 to 24 months, for example. 

Remote working: Visa requirements 

Requirements such as a written confirmation from the employer that the applicant is employed, along with his or her salary per month and proof of health insurance can also be requested. A directive authorizing South African diplomatic missions to assist applicants for such an exemption can be issued.

It is important to note that for the successful adoption of an option of this nature, a partnership approach from South African diplomatic missions, Tourism Business Council of South Africa, Department of Tourism, Department of Home Affairs, Travel Agencies and Provincial Tourism Agencies would be required.  Marketing initiatives using webinars in favourite tourist markets of South Africa can also be used.

These options would go a long way in planting a seed for the country’s tourism sector to recover and be ready to launch when COVID-19 infection levels are manageable around the world.

Fragomen has an experienced team of immigration professionals to support you every step of the way. Should you wish to discuss this opportunity please reach out to me, Johannes Tiba at [email protected] or your Fragomen immigration professional.

This blog was published on 12 February 2021, and due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on global immigration, please visit our dedicated COVID-19 site, subscribe to our alerts and follow us on LinkedIn.