The South African Republic has officially announced plans to introduce a digital nomad visa in the foreseeable future. The South African economy, and particularly the tourism sector, has been struggling since the onset of the pandemic. The introduction of the remote working visa is one of the attempts to kick-start the tourism industry.
Digital nomads is the term used for online remote workers, often expats, that live and work from various locations around the world, while changing locations when it suits them. It is a modern take on the nomadic lifestyle, hence the term digital nomad.
The Government of South Africa is making attempts to attract these digital nomads, both to help tourism and potentially attract skilled labor.
“The world over, the ability to attract skilled immigrants is the hallmark of a modern, thriving economy. We are therefore streamlining and modernizing the visa application process to make it easier to travel to South Africa for tourism, business and work,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his State of the Nation Address.
“A comprehensive review of the work visa system is currently underway, led by a former Director-General of Home Affairs, Mr. Mavuso Msimang. This review is exploring the possibility of new visa categories that could enable economic growth, such as a start-up visa and a remote working visa,” he added (emphasis ours). The full transcript of the address can be found here.
Under the current system, foreign remote workers can apply for a visa, but they are only allowed to stay for 90 days or less. Digital nomad visas typically allow workers to extend their stay beyond the standard visa’s 90-days limit, while providing other benefits.
However, beyond reworking the visa system and introducing a digital nomad visa, there are other issues South Africa must contend with to attract these types of long-term visitors and regular tourists alike. One of the main issues is the high crime rates, a fact President Ramaphosa is acutely aware of.
“We must deal with another major challenge, a challenge which was well articulated to me by the President of China who told me that many Chinese tourists want to come to South Africa and Africa, but the issue that is holding them back is crime,” President Ramaphosa is quoted as saying per Africanews.
The President of South Africa has announced that changes to the visa system are underway, but there has been no announcement yet on what the specific requirements will be.
We must look to examples of other African countries that have introduced a digital nomad visa and to statements made by James Vos, Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Growth, who has submitted a proposal regarding the remote working visa to the National Home Affairs Department in 2021.
The island nations of Cape Verde, Mauritius, and Seychelles already offer digital nomad visas, but the South African Republic would be the first mainland African country to do so if their plans materialize.
A digital nomad visa could allow visitors to stay in South Africa from 3 months to a year, bring their dependents with them, and there is even the possibility of tax breaks for visitors who reside in South Africa long enough to become tax residents.
However, as the Government has not made any concrete announcements, we can only speculate for now. We will keep you informed as the situation progresses.
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