10 things you need to know about the new critical skills list

The much anticipated list was published last week.
Image: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

Herewith a quick overview of the top 10 facts you need to know.

1) Corporate general manager is in

The list includes both corporate general manager and director as occupations in high demand. This comes as a huge relief after the occupation was left of the draft list causing panic for those currently holding a visa in this category as well as businesses who need these skills to operate optimally. There have been new parameters placed hereon which include that it must be for those who have an offer of employment from a medium or large enterprise and that you must have a minimum NQF qualification of level 8.

2) Qualifications Minimum requirement

The new list requires a minimum NQF level qualification for each occupation ranging from level 3 to level 10 and mostly NQF level 8 and 9 required. The act requires that a critical skills visa applicant in this category must have the necessary “qualification and/or experience” related to the position. The revised list now clearly defines that a qualification is required for each occupation on the list.

3) Engineering occupations remain prevalent

The list continues to include numerous engineering occupations including electrical engineer, chemical engineer and mining engineer which were initially left off the draft list. The Xpatweb annual critical skills survey in 2021 confirmed that engineering skills are of the most sought-after skills in South Africa and employers are looking for highly qualified engineers with many years experience. As we continue to see South African engineers recruited globally we foresee a rise in the shortage of experienced engineers in South Africa.

4) PR under the old critical skills list occupations

Those who hold critical skills visas under the old list (2014) and whose skills did not make it onto the new list, will still be allowed to apply for permanent residency under their occupation as reflected on the 2014 list. This was a concern for many as their critical skills visa would not be renewable if not included on the new list. The concession to allow these visa holders to still progress to permanent residency will mean these skills can remain in South Africa long term.

5) Firm offer of employment a must

New guidelines confirm that all applicants in the category critical skills visa must have an offer of employment in hand at the time of making the application. Previously an applicant was allowed to apply without such an offer and was issued a one-year visa to allow them to secure employment before applying for a full 5-year visa. This is no longer allowed.

6) Foreign language speakers included

Call centres raised concerns at the original exclusion of foreign language speaker from the draft list published in March 2021 as this would spell disaster for their need to serve European, Middle East and Asian markets. The new list now includes a revised occupation of outbound and inbound contact centre consultants respectively with specialist language skills listing the same listed as previously including German, Swiss German, Flemish, Greek, Swedish, Danish, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and French. Languages that did not make the list despite submission to include same are Portuguese, Arabic, Russian and Brazilian.

7) Teachers and lecturers back on

The quota list pre 2014 included teachers and was controversially removed from the list in 2014. All teachers had to go through the extensive general work visa process to gain a work visa. The new list sees STEM teachers for Grade 8–12 included with a NQF level 7 requirement as well as University Lecturers with NQF level 9 and 10.

8) Let’s talk post qualification experience

Applications for permanent residency under critical skills will require the inclusion of proof of post qualification experience that have been vetted by MIE or similar organisations. This is an additional step that was previously satisfied with a detailed CV and reference letters from past employers.

9) Withdrawal of waiver for critical skills graduates in SA

Those who studied in a critical skills area were in the past, under Ministerial waiver, granted exemption from certain requirements such as past qualification experience and registration with a professional body. These exemptions have now been withdrawn and all applicants must comply with the requirements of the act.

10) Teething pains expected

As with all law changes, we expect to see some initial teething problems and especially with adjudicating officials placed at Embassies all around the world, getting everyone on the same page in terms of the requirements to qualify for a visa under the revised list will have some issues in the coming months. Reach out to your service provider to guide you on how to navigate the new requirements for a first-time correct application and build in some timeline delays to ensure you are not caught off guard.

Ultimately, it is crucial for all South Africans to understand what skills our nation needs for our economic development and how we as South Africans can contribute productively, since our critical skills list is not just intended for foreign nationals but can also serve as a guide for Matriculants in their professional pathways to also plug the gap in line with skills shortage in the country.

Marisa Jacobs is director of Xpatweb.

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