Cape Town Time:


What’s missing from the President’s announcement on the remote workers’ visa is the date for implementation

10 February 2023


Those working in the tourism industry will tell you that everything is about timing and certainty.

I first proposed the remote worker model since the lifting of lockdown when Covid-19 almost wiped out the travel and hospitality sectors. Since then, we have been lobbying for the introduction of a remote working visa because of its massive economic spinoffs for the industry. Our research shows that a special visa would help attract more international visitors, particularly ‘digital nomads’ who can work virtually from anywhere in the world.

We know that each one of these working tourists tends to spend up to R50,000 during their stay, which has the potential to add up to a significant benefit for the economy. Over 40 countries around the world have already adopted a special visa for remote workers or digital nomads.

According to the latest Tourism Sentiment Index, global sentiment for tourist activities in South Africa has increased with the country now ranked 16th in the world. South Africa was named one of the top spots worldwide for its natural beauty and experiences, as a festival and events destination, and for its restaurant scene. We also took the number one spot as a wine destination, a pat on the back for the Cape, considering that the vast majority of the country’s wines are produced here.

The Tourism Sentiment Index proves that there is a thirst for South African travel. If, however, our visa system is not revised and improved, we stand to lose out to destinations with less arduous administrative platforms. Remote workers have exploded onto the travel scene and, according to one report of an incentive programme in Oklahoma in the USA, digital nomads generated nearly $20 million (approximately R 346 million) in additional local gross domestic product. With a special visa, South Africa stands to realise such gains.

In my proposal, on behalf of the City of Cape Town, the South African National Government would simply need to make an amendment to Section 11 of the Immigration Act which relates to an extension of visas beyond 90 days for specific activities.  

I have suggested that the amended Act would also include the following requirements:

      An applicant must provide evidence of employment abroad, as well as a sufficient income from such employment or own business registered abroad;

      Prohibit the applicant’s work activities in South Africa;

      Allow the applicant’s dependants to accompany them on application.

If South Africa were to implement such strategies, we could indeed create a tourism-related job in every home in the country, just as it is my mission to do in Cape Town. Whether you’re in aviation, logistics, transportation, boat-building, hospitality, retail, design, or clean energy, tourism relates to your work because it brings clients to your door. Cape Town is an ideal destination for digital nomads from across the country and the world who are looking to blend aspects of tourism and work into their day-to-day and Cape Town’s tourism industry is ready to innovate for it.

I implore President Cyril Ramaphosa to act with haste in rolling out an improved visa system, including that of the remote worker visa. Our economy and jobless South Africans can’t wait any longer.