Applying for critical skills work visa in South Africa as an artisan has been a challenge for the longest time. In 2014 when the current amendments to the Immigration Act were gazetted several gaps were identified in the Act which included the absence of a SAQA accredited professional body to register artisans. ECSA was not an option due to their minimum NQF criteria of 5 which was a notch above the rating being given by SAQA for artisans.  There was a time letters issued by the National Artisan Moderation Body, (NAMB), were sufficient and then they were not. There was a time when registration with the South African Institute of Draughting was good enough and then it wasn’t. The latest dispensation saw applications being rejected because Home Affairs required a South African trade test.  This of course is absurd for two reasons; the artisan is already trade tested and secondly a South African trade test requires a minimum experience in South Africa.

This inconsistency was a direct result of the absence of a key legislative instrument, namely the National Register of Artisans.  In terms section 26C of the Skills Development Act 97 of 1998 as amended, the Minister of Higher Education is required to establish a register of artisans.  This register unfortunately could not be implemented as the regulations were not yet in place to establish this register, therefore the NAMB letters were acceptable as they pointed to the absence of the National Register of Artisans.  In the absence of a clear framework on how to recognise foreign artisans in the republic it meant that the Department of Home Affairs was left to its own devices hence the constant changes in approach.

Fortunately, that gap has now been closed and a clear process of registering artisans is now in place.   The National Register of Artisans Regulations was gazetted the 19th of March 2021 and provides a framework for the registration of all artisans, local and foreign. There 4 categories of artisans, Practising Artisans, Non – Practising, Foreign Practising and Foreign Non-Practising Artisans.  Under regulation 3 it is mandatory for all artisans to register with the Department of Higher Educations National Artisan Development Support Centre (NADSC).  

The registration requirements for foreign National Practising Artisans are the following, a certified passport copy, evidence of legal visa for entrance into the country, certified copy of trade test whether conducted locally or abroad, SAQA evaluation of foreign trade test, proof of address and proof of previous registration for a renewal.

Importantly regulation 6 has some consequences for visa applications by artisans.  6.5 Provides that all foreign national artisans must register with DHET before applying for critical skills work visa or any work visa with DHA. 6.6 goes on to state that foreign national artisans will not be granted critical skills work by DHA if they are not registered with DHET. This means that as of 19th March 2021 it became impossible for an artisan to get a visa without first registering the NADSC