The Draft Critical Skills list, published in February this year, will be beset by the old problems as well as some new ones.

This is according to Global Migration Group CEO Leon Isaacson who, as chairman of the immigration practitioner’s professional forum in 2010, led the process of analysing the legislation and presenting to the Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs at the time.

The new draft list, according to Isaacson, has changed the definition of Critical Skills, which was not defined by the law after 2010.

“The list is effectively meant to be a shortage list, that is a list of skills which we do not have in the short to medium term (three to 10 years) in the South African market, and it allows government and the private sector to recruit and employ these skills from an international skills pool, to fill the gaps.

“By creating new criteria, the whole focus shifts and a much stricter qualification-based system has been adopted. This is fine but is conflates skills and qualifications and only recognizes qualifications earned at technikons and universities. IT qualifications earned through vendor certificates and short courses, will not be included, according to the draft.

“The international trend in many sectors like, IT, HR ICT, Design and Marketing is away from long courses which become outdated very quickly, towards modular courses which offer employment opportunities at the end of the short course training (three to nine months).”

There is a glaring gap in the draft list, in that there is a total exclusion of Mathematics and Science teachers at Primary and High School levels, Isaacson says. This is a short-term crisis, with serious long term consequences for the country and is a national tragedy.

“As a shortage list, the solution is easy: assess the gaps in these teacher requirements and allocate the unfilled places to foreigners via the Critical Skills list. So if there is a shortage of 5 000 Maths and 5 000 science teachers, put these on the list as skills which are required and expedite the filling of the vacancies. We have heard many stories of highly qualified foreign teachers being kept waiting for years while schools have to go through bureaucracy, only to be refused at the end of the process, because the union objects.”

There are other issues which have remained unaddressed since 2010 and Isaacson says it is hoped that Operation Vulindlela can provide a solution. There are a large number of court decisions at High Court, Appeal Court and Constitutional Court levels which must be integrated into Home Affairs’ processes and are still not being implemented by the department.

There is also no continuity between the current scheme and the future list with respect to current visa holders, he points out. Their eligibility for future visas may be compromised by the hasty implementation of the new list. While waivers are available, the application process takes and unconscionable six to 12 months and their path to Permanent Residence. Those current visa holders who wish to apply for permanent residence will find that their future applications are sabotaged by the changing of the lists. This will disturb many current projects which require these skills, some of which are government-related and commissioned.

“We can only hope that the new list will provide a logical and thorough list linked to the economic needs of the country, and not some ideological political argument. And we need a straightforward adjudication system which follows the Constitution in terms of fairness and efficiency,” says Isaacson.