‘They will make life unbearable’: Public Backlash Over SA’s Digital Nomad Visa Plans

South Africa’s plans to introduce a digital nomad visa has received public backlash. Last week, the government published draft regulations for digital nomads visas, inviting the public to share feedback and comments that will shape the eventual outcome of the visa.

Although the government argues that the digital nomad visa will help boost the economy of famous destinations in the country such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, some members of the public state that it will do the opposite. Some of the concerns heard by BW TechZone include the rising cost of living for locals, increase in inequality, and tax leakage concerns.

One person, speaking to TechCabal on condition of anonymity stated that the incentives for nomads outweigh the potential benefits for the South African economy. “The nomads are befitting from an affordable cost of living and other perks but to me, they are not bringing anything valuable in. On social media, users also expressed concerns about the potential impact of the digital nomad visa.“Europeans and Americans are infiltrating the housing market and gentrifying our cities,” said one X user. “This is making housing unaffordable and worsening the cost of living crisis.”

Another person also added that coupled with Cape Town’s already expensive cost of living, the influx of digital nomads will exacerbate the situation. “Cape Town is already too expensive for even people with good jobs,” they said. “Imagine now if people with dollars and euros start flooding in.”

Although other people stated that they are ok with digital nomads in the country, they expressed concerns over possible tax leakages. “A temporary bank account should be introduced for tax reasons,” one person told BW TechZone. “SARS needs to link with the nomads country of origin to collect its dues from the nomad.”

The City of Cape Town, a preferred destination for most digital nomads, has been promoting digital nomadism to boost its economy for a couple of years. In 2021, it launched the Digital Nomad initiative, which aims to encourage domestic and international audiences to consider Cape Town as a remote working destination. In 2022, the city also signed an agreement with AirBNB to promote the city as a destination of choice for digital nomads.

The general public has until March 29 to comment on the proposed regulations for the introduction of the digital nomad visa.

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