Extensions no longer granted in many work permit categories

2 Sep 14

SOUTH AFRICA

IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? Under the recent immigration changes, foreign nationals in several work permit categories are no longer able to extend their work permits beyond their expiration dates.

What does the change mean? Companies and assignees should not assume that work permits due to expire will be extended and should be prepared to explore alternatives if extensions are not possible.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Quota Work Permits,Exceptional Skills Work Permits, General Work Permits, Intracompany Transfer Work Permits.
  • Who is affected: Foreign workers holding permits in the above categories.
  • Impact on processing times: No direct impact.
  • Business impact: The inability to extend certain visas will have a significant impact on business planning and whether certain assignees will be able to remain in their positions in South Africa.
  • Next steps: Companies should perform an inventory of all work permit expiration dates and allow at least six months before expiry to provide ample time to plan the best way forward.

Background: Companies and foreign assignees should pay special attention to the following work permit categories when planning extensions or renewals:

  • Quota Work Permits. Extensions are no longer available as this category is no longer provided for in legislation. Companies currently sponsoring employees on Quota Work Permits will need to assess alternative Work Visa options and realize that in some instances there may be no viable alternative option.
  • Exceptional Skills Work Permits. Extensions are no longer available as the category is no longer provided for in legislation. Companies currently sponsoring employees on Exceptional Skills Work Permits will need to assess alternative Work Visa options, and in some instances there may be no viable alternative option.
  • Intra-Company Transfer Work Permits. It is now not possible to extend or renew an existing ICT Work Permit issued for the maximum period of 24 months. Current holders of these permits will have to assess options, and given current practices of the Department of Home Affairs, the foreign national may have to leave the country and submit a new application abroad.
  • General Work Permits. While it is possible to apply to extend or renew an existing General Work Permit, a certificate must now be obtained from the Department of Labour to support the application under the terms of the amended law. The Department of Labour has elected to enforce the process and requirements for certification of a first General Work Visa application, but the process for obtaining a certificate for a renewal application is extremely onerous. In many instances, it may not be possible to get a certificate to support the extension application; therefore, General Work Permits will need to be assessed for alternative options and in some instances, there might not be a viable alternative option.
  • Section 11(6). Spouses of South African citizens holding Visitor’s Permits endorsed for employment may renew their statuses. However, unmarried partners in permanent same-sex/opposite-sex relationships will be required to prove that their relationship has been in existence for at least two years. If they are not able to do so, they may be denied a renewal of their Visitor’s Permit (Section 11(6)) status and would have to investigate alternative options.

BAL Analysis: As a general rule, work permit renewals will be very challenging and in many instances not possible at all. Companies should begin planning for alternatives in the event there are no other work visa options available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in South Africa. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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