Govt to review work permit system

Thursday, November 12, 2009
By: 
Bathandwa Mbola

Cape Town - Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma says her department plans to conduct a comprehensive review of the work permit system to make it easier for foreign investors to live and work in South Africa.

"We have to create an environment where scarce skills can come into South Africa easily and contribute to the economy," Dlamini Zuma said on Thursday, during Governance and Administration Cluster media briefing in Cape Town.

She added that there was no reason why foreign students, business people and people with skills that were in short supply should not get work permits in their country of residence.

The department also wanted to look into the duration of the permits for foreign investors, who would not be interested in investing in the country if the period of their stay was limited, for example, to two years.

It would also review extending the work permits of people with scarce skills to five years.

"If I had a scarce skill, I would want to know that if I go to a country I'll be able to get a permit that will last me for five years - and not to have to chase the permit every year," Dlamini Zuma said.

She said they had "no choice but to turn around the department as quickly and effectively as possible".

The minister said that business had called for the rules to be relaxed to attract more skilled migrants to the country and therefore the department would work towards ensuring that the issuance of work permits was not restrictive to government's long- term objective of promoting economic development.

A review of the work permit system would also minimise fraud.

Dlamini Zuma said her department was looking at drawing up lists of scarce skills that would receive priority treatment. More access would be given to companies that needed to acquire these skills.

On other issues, Dlamini Zuma said a discussion document was being developed with the view to formulating policy and proposing legislation on the separation of economic migrants from genuine asylum seekers.

This would address the issue of economic immigrants coming to South Africa for work, but applying for asylum seeker permits. "That route has become ridiculous. Last year for instance we had over 100 000 people seeking asylum but only 10 000 qualified," she said.

She said discussions would be held with labour, business and other departments to develop the policy.

The department is also investigating making changes to the birth certificate to include more information and make it more secure. The current certificate is easy to forge, said Dlamini Zuma.

On other programmes, the minister said the department has implemented a robust counter-corruption strategy, the mounting of a campaign aimed at encouraging South Africans to value their identity and protect their citizenship.

"In this regard, a campaign has already begun to accelerate birth registration by all bona fide South Africans and to obtain Identity Documents at the qualifying age. "