What you need to know about the Critical Skills Technical Report

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) supported the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in developing and applying a methodology to select occupations for the Critical Skills List (CSL) through the Labor Market Intelligence (LMI) research initiative in 2020. The CSL serves as the foundation for granting critical skills work visas (CSVs) to foreign nationals with critically scarce talents.

This resulted in the production of a technical report that included a methodological description of the occupations on the critical skills list, the way in which these professions where chosen and further detail on the processes and requirements that need to be adhered to by foreigners when applying for a critical skills work visa.

Although the majority of this report is devoted to responding to requests for inclusion or deletion from the list, the comments covered a wide range of issues. Part 2 describes the considerations for inclusion and exclusion criteria, as well as how these criteria were applied in conjunction with requests obtained through the public comment process. Further comments on methodology, qualifications, industry body, policy legislation, regulation, and Organizing Framework for Occupations (OFO) were also received. Much of this report is devoted to the process of finalizing the list and presenting it in its completed state. Various stakeholders validated this list in Part 3 through the Nedlac process, which sharpened the “penultimate list” (for confirmation by the DHA Minister) in Part 4.

Whilst the methods to which the critical skills list came about are noteworthy, there are particular points of interest in the technical report that make an impact on the process of applying for a critical skills work visa.

Items that impact the process of applying for a critical skills work visa

Alternative titles

Table 6 shows a list of all alternate names for the vocations included in the final CSL. While the Organizing Framework for Occupations (OFO) contains most of these specializations and alternate titles, there are a few titles indicated that are not in the OFO. As a result, the researchers have prepared the following list of all specializations and alternate titles associated with the final CSL jobs.

Lecturers included

Annexure 2 of this technical report outlines the fields of study for lecturers as accounting and informatics, agricultural, environmental, and natural sciences, arts-design and social sciences, business studies, commerce, education, management sciences, engineering and the built environments, food service management, health sciences, humanities, information and communications technology, law, medicine and health sciences, science, physics, public management and administration, and theology.

Minimum NQF level

The view brought forth in the report is that if a position is to be filled via a critical skills work visa, the NQF requirement should tip the scales in favor of South Africans; in other words, non-South Africans should have greater qualification expectations than South Africans.

In keeping with this principle, the researchers have set qualifications criteria in the CSL that are slightly higher than what South Africans are required to practice. Their hope is that this will attract skilled persons from outside while ensuring that South Africans with such skills are not disadvantaged.

With such great importance being placed on these NQF levels it is imperative that foreigners prove that their qualifications fall within these requirements when submitting their applications.

Professional bodies

Stakeholders and comments to the public feedback period emphasized two main points in addition to the specific proposed modifications. These are things that the DHA should think about – Clarifying in the report that the professional bodies named are not necessarily the only professional bodies to whom foreign nationals can apply for professional membership; or simply removing references to specific professional bodies from the CSL because their inclusion could be anti-competitive. In this case, the DHA could check the entire list of professional bodies registered by the South African Qualifications Authority against its CSL rules on professional bodies (SAQA).

Currently, the regulation governing the publication of the CSL requires that occupations be covered by a SAQA-registered professional body (statutory or non-statutory). Considering this regulation, the researchers took the following steps to ensure that no SAQA-registered professional body was left out of the study:

  • If a person is required by law to be licensed to practice in a certain occupation, the CSL will show the SAQA-registered professional organization or bodies that offer that licensure.
  • If a person is not obliged by law to be licensed to practice in a particular occupation, the CSL will show that there are no professional organizations associated with that occupation (of which there may be many). In this case, the SAQA website has a database of all SAQA-registered professional bodies relevant to the critical skills list.

Corporate general manager

The technical report has made significant distinctions in the case of Corporate General Manager (CGM) and Director. The opinion reported is that these jobs could be exploited if the size of the organization is not provided (ie, individuals who are self-employed, a sole employee and designated as a manger will be able to obtain a critical skills work visa). As a result, only those offered employment in a medium or large enterprise will be considered for a CSV. The size of a business can be evaluated by looking at both the total number of full-time equivalent paid employees and total annual turnover, according to the Department of Small Business Development (2019). As a result, in order to apply for a CSV as a CGM or Director, both of the criteria listed must be satisfied.

How to approach your critical skills visa application

Foreign applicants should make use of the guidelines set out in the technical report when compiling their applications for a critical skills work visa as the report is concise in its description of what the Department of Home Affairs will be considering when adjudicating such applications.

We are recommending a careful and considered approach, proactively anticipating challenges during the adjudication process in terms of the new criteria as set out.

We caution applicants and employers in conjunction with your preferred provider, when preparing new applications, to assess and determine best suited category to apply under and the documentation included to demonstrate the candidate qualifies in the selected category. New applications will be widely open to interpretation, and it is our role when preparing your application, to make it clear to the adjudicator that the applicant indeed qualifies for a visa under the new Critical Skills list.

Olwen South, expatriate solutions specialist at Xpatweb.

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