At least 250,000 Zimbabweans living in South Africa who were issued with four-year quota permits in 2009 will compete for only 35,000 jobs with other foreigners following changes to SA immigration rules last week. The permits held by Zimbabweans will expire in December this year.
Last week, the South African government listed 35,000 positions as the only critical posts to be offered to foreigners.
According to South Africa's department of home affairs, the list of critical skills has 53 categories and 35,000 positions. All categories of work permits will be scrapped and a new critical skills work visa will be introduced.
The critical skills work visa will mirror the skills that South Africa desperately needs, according to the government. Firms will be required to prove that they hired a foreigner because they had failed to find a suitably qualified South African.
It will be mandatory for every business to ensure 60 percent of employees are South African identity book holders or those with permanent residence status.
South Africa home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba said in a statement that the new regulations would help the country continue to ensure effective and efficient immigration management.
He said this was in South Africa's security interests, in addition to promoting economic development and prosperity.
"These new regulations came into effect in May and effectively, this marked the commencement of the Immigration Amendment Acts of 2007 and 2011 and the new Immigration Regulations, 2014," he said.
"The Draft Regulations were published in the Government Gazette on February 14, 2014 for public comment. The closing date for public comment was February 28, 2014 but was extended to March 7, 2014 to allow for more submissions."
The most profound effect of the changes would be felt by existing exceptional skills and quota work permit holders as it will be impossible to renew either of the permits.Many Zimbabweans working in South Africa hold one of these two documents.
Minister Gigaba said there would be a clear distinction between short-stay visas and long-stay permanent residence permits under the new regulations.
"Under the new regulations, the word 'visa' replaces the word 'permit', except for the permanent residence 'permit'. For example, a visitor's permit will now be called a visitor's visa, a work permit will now be called a work visa and a study permit will be called a study visa. The Act now requires that a person who is on a visitor's or medical treatment visa may not change his or her status while in the republic, except in exceptional circumstances and that study visas must be issued for the duration of the study or course," he said.
Minister Gigaba said minors were now expected to have their own passports which are expected to be used together with their birth certificates, amidst a range of new restrictions that are meant to curb increasing child labour and abuse. The statement also said cross-boarder permits and transit permits were repealed.