By Sue Segar
THE Western Cape’s Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, Mireille Wenger has vowed to continue to “fiercely agitate” for the urgent introduction of the long-awaited digital nomad visa – a specific type of visa that enables applicants to work remotely in foreign countries.
Interviewed by Cape Business News, Wenger said the “unnecessary delay” in introducing the visa means that South Africa and the Western Cape continue to lose digital nomads to competitor destinations, including South Africa’s neighbour, Namibia. “They have moved with speed and urgency to attract this new market,” Wenger said.
Digital nomads are able to earn a living by working online from locations they choose globally, as opposed to staying in a fixed location for work. The visa means workers are free to explore different countries without having to apply for long-term visas. The digital nomad option has taken off among many workers, especially individuals working in the tech sector.
Numerous countries already offer digital nomad visas and this has resulted in a growth in foreign visitors, which brings revenue into the countries.
It is common cause that the digital nomad visa would benefit South Africa, and, in particular, the Western Cape because it would mean that tourists extend their visits. According to the department of Home Affairs, the Immigration Act needs to be amended to allow for the introduction of these visas.
Despite President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing, during his State of the Nation address in 2022, his intention to launch a digital nomad visa, it has still not got off the ground, and, in August, the department of Home Affairs announced that South Africa had missed a deadline to implement it by the end of the year because of the failure to amend the Immigration Act to include the provision for digital nomads.
The Western Cape Government submitted proposals to the department of Home Affairs in 2021 and in September 2022, which included recommendations which would enable introducing this category of visa without having to amend the Act.
“The Western Cape Government’s constructive proposal to the Department of Home Affairs, first submitted May 2021 and again in September 2022, sets out clear recommendations that would enable the introduction of this visa within the existing legal framework, through amendments to Immigration Act 13 of 2002 regulations – without needing to amend the Immigration Act,” Wenger said.
“There is a clear proposal on how to swiftly introduce a remote work VISA. The continued failure to introduce it is costing our economy and compromising job creation, when we should be supporting sectors that have shown resilience and significant job-creating potential, such as tourism.”
Wenger added that the longer the visa is delayed, the more opportunities South Africa and the Western Cape will lose in terms of foreign investment and growth in sectors such as tourism.
She called on the department of Home Affairs to consider the proposals by the Western Cape government.
“The introduction of a remote Working VISA is a clear win-win solution to boost long-stay tourism in the Western Cape and South Africa and is very much in line with South Africa Tourism’s drive to get tourists to stay longer.
“I will continue to fiercely agitate for the urgent introduction of the VISA by engaging with Minister Motsoaledi and investigate all routes to ensure its long-overdue introduction, for the benefit of both the provincial and national economy,” Wenger said.