New Critical Skills List for South Africa

In February 2021, Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, released a new critical skills list scheduled (for now) to be implemented by October 2021. The previous critical skills list was released in 2014. The new skills list has a clear focus on the technology, engineering, financial, and medical sectors, with many skills from the previous 2014 list excluded completely; this shows a definitive shift in the country’s needs.

As a result of the 17 month-long lockdown due to Covid-19 and the immediate suspension of temporary and permanent residency applications, South Africa is in desperate need of skilled workers. Although the lockdown instituted in March 2020 was for the health and safety of all South African citizens and residents, it also severely impacted the economy by banning skilled workers and wealthy would-be immigrants from investing and creating new (and much needed) business and employment opportunities.

So what changed?

The full 2021 critical skills list can be read here. Please note that sections highlighted in green show signals of increased labour demand due to Covid-19. All sections with a moderate labour demand are in white, and sectors with a slow recovery and lower demand due to Covid-19 are highlighted in red. A welcomed benefit of the new critical skills list is a clear indication on which professional body an applicant should apply with – under the 2014 list this was vague and often led to incomplete or incorrect applications for residency.

This also means that holders of critical skills which are set to be removed from the list (corporate general manager, for example) will be unable to renew their visa or apply for permanent residency on the basis of their particular critical skill. These visa holders will need to consider a change in category to a new critical skill category and also reconsider their plans for an application of permanent residency, which will only re-open January 2022.

Additionally, it appears as though applicants who do not have university degrees (but copious amounts of work experience) may be left behind in the process. This will undoubtedly leave behind valuable members of society who would be able to contribute to the South African economy without facing time consuming recourse, such as waivers of certain requirements for a critical skills visa.

What about my pending application?

Applications which were in process prior to the new critical skills list being implemented should not be prejudiced and should still be able to gain either temporary or permanent residency on the basis of a skill that may not exist in the new critical skills list.

Although all residency applications are expected to begin processing from 1 January 2022 onwards, applicants should remain patient as they plan their future in South Africa. The Department of Home Affairs is currently suffering a large backlog of about 33,700 pending residency applications.

If you would like more information on the new critical skills list, how to apply for temporary or permanent residency or require litigation assistance with your pending residency application, please contact us.