Virginia, US

Jul 15 2016

Fragomen Immigration Update: July 8 - 14, 2016

Azerbaijan, China, Colombia, France, Ghana, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States

In United States immigration news this week, cutoff dates for final issuance of an immigrant visa will be imposed on EB-1 India, EB-1 China and EB-2 Worldwide, according to the State Department’s August Visa Bulletin. Cutoff dates for EB-2 and EB-3 India will advance by two weeks, while the dates for EB-2, EB-3 and EB-5 China will remain unchanged. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has determined that it will only accept employment-based adjustment applications next month from foreign nationals with a priority date that is current for final action under the State Department's August Visa Bulletin.

Also in the United States, employers with FY 2017 H-1B cap cases not chosen for processing should have received their returned petition packages with fee checks by July 8. The agency continues to process receipted H-1B cap petitions.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada conducted its 38th Express Entry draw; the number of invitations for permanent residency remained low. 

The United Kingdom clarified the rights of EU nationals in the UK. In the European Union, the European Commission has decided not to suspend the visa waiver policy for U.S. and Canadian citizens.

The Netherlands relaxed the eligibility criteria for the Foreign Investors scheme. The job search period provided to knowledge migrants whose employment ends while their residence permits are still valid was also expanded.

Ghana introduced a pilot visa-on-arrival program for African Union nationals.

These items and other news from Azerbaijan, China, Colombia, France, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, July 14, 2016
August Visa Bulletin Update: USCIS to Honor Employment-Based Final Action Dates Only Next Month

In August, USCIS will only accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is current for final action under the State Department’s August Visa Bulletin. 

To view entire article, click here.

United States, July 11, 2016
August 2016 Visa Bulletin: Retrogression for EB-1 India and China and EB-2 Worldwide

In August, cutoff dates for final issuance of an immigrant visa will be imposed on EB-1 India and China and EB-2 Worldwide, which includes all countries except for India and China. Cutoff dates for EB-2 and EB-3 India will advance by two weeks, while remaining unchanged for EB-2, EB-3 and EB-5 China.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, July 8, 2016
USCIS Completes Return of FY 2017 H-1B Cap Petitions Not Selected in the Lottery

Employers with cap cases not chosen for processing should have received their returned petition packages with fee checks by today, USCIS has announced. The agency continues to process receipted H-1B cap petitions.

To view entire article, click here.

South Africa, July 14, 2016
Client Feedback to Policy Paper on Changes to Immigration System Encouraged

The South African government's policy paper on changes to the immigration system marks the start of a policy-making process and should not be interpreted as an amendment to any current immigration laws or regulations. Any proposed changes would not become law until multiple legal stages are completed, which may take up to two years or more depending on the various stages of review.

To view entire article, click here.

Canada, July 13, 2016
Latest Express Entry Draw Remains Low

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will invite 747 candidates to apply for permanent residence in its most recent Express Entry draw. The number of invitations remains low, as in the past few recent draws.

To view entire article, click here.

European Union, July 13, 2016
Visa Waiver Policy for U.S. and Canadian Citizens Sustained

The European Commission has decided not to suspend the visa waiver policy for U.S. and Canadian citizens, according to a communication released today.

To view entire article, click here.

Netherlands, July 12, 2016
Knowledge Migrants’ Job Search Period Eligibility Expanded

Knowledge migrants whose employment ends while their residence permits are valid can now remain in the Netherlands for three months following the end of their employment agreement to look for other employment, regardless of the reason for the cessation of their employment.

To view entire article, click here.

Ghana, July 12, 2016
Visa-on-Arrival Introduced for African Union Nationals

African Union nationals whose countries do not have a visa-free agreement with Ghana are now eligible for a 30-day visa-on-arrival for business and tourism.  The visa-on-arrival program will be piloted for three months starting at Kotoka International Airport and will be extended to other ports of entry in the future. 

To view entire article, click here.

Netherlands, July 12, 2016
Foreign Investors Scheme Eligibility Criteria Relaxed

Changes proposed to the Foreign Investors scheme have been implemented, including a longer visa duration, a revised assessment framework, and the elimination of an accountant report requirement.

To view entire article, click here.

United Kingdom, July 11, 2016
Home Office Announcement Clarifies Rights of EU Nationals in the United Kingdom

A joint statement by the Cabinet Office, Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office has revealed that the government "fully expects that the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in EU member states, will be properly protected". 

To view entire article, click here.

European Union, July 11, 2016
Commission to Announce Decision Regarding Temporary Suspension of Visa Waiver Policy for U.S. and Canadian Nationals

On July 13, the European Commission is expected to announce a decision about the temporary suspension of the visa waiver offered to U.S. and Canadian nationals. The European Parliament and/or the Council can reject the proposal during the next stage of review and no immediate changes are expected for visa requirements for U.S. and Canadian nationals traveling to the European Union.

To view entire article, click here.

Other Immigration News This Week

United States: DHS Extends El Salvador TPS – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended the designation of El Salvador for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eighteen months, from September 10, 2016 through March 9, 2018.

Current El Salvador registrants will have from July 8, 2016 through September 6, 2016 to re-register. USCIS will issue new EADs with a March 9, 2018 expiration date to eligible El Salvador TPS beneficiaries who timely re-register and apply for EADs under this extension. DHS recognizes that not all re-registrants will receive new EADs before their current EADS expire on September 9, 2016. Accordingly, DHS will automatically extend the validity of EADs issued under the TPS designation of El Salvador for six months, through March 9, 2017. For Form I-9 employment eligibility verification purposes, through March 9, 2017, employers may accept a TPS-related EAD with a September 9, 2016 expiration date, along with a copy of the most recent Federal Register notice extending El Salvador TPS.

Certain nationals of El Salvador (or those having no nationality who last habitually resided in El Salvador) who have not previously applied for TPS may be eligible to apply under the late initial registration provisions if they meet at least one of the late initial filing criteria, and all TPS eligibility criteria (including continuous residence in the United States since February 13, 2001 and continuous physical presence in the United States since March 9, 2001).

Azerbaijan: Temporary Residence Now Required for All Work Permits – Foreign nationals who work in Azerbaijan, even those on short-term assignments, must apply for a temporary residence permit since a personal identification number (PIN) is now required to e-register the local employment contract with the government's online system, and the PIN is only available in the temporary residence permit. E-registration is necessary because the Labour Code considers the local employment contract to be effective from the date of e-registration. Previously, foreign nationals on short-term assignments did not require a temporary residence permit and could work based on their work permit alone. 

China: New Requirements for Z Visa Invitation Letter – Sponsors applying for Z visa invitation Letters (IL) in Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai must indicate in the letter the location of the Chinese consular post to which the application is being sent. This new requirement is gradually being enforced nationwide. Companies that do not provide the correct information may face IL application issues. Due to this new requirement, the government processing time in some locations, such as the Liaoning Province, has increased. Sponsors should contact their immigration professional to ensure that IL applications include the proper information.

Colombia:  New Quota for Barrancabermeja Municipality – Effective immediately, local workers in the oil, mining and infrastructure sectors in the Barrancabermeja municipality are subject to a new quota.  One hundred percent of the non-skilled workforce and at least 80% of the skilled workforce must be local, with certain exceptions. Workers in these sectors must also submit a certificate proving their local residence.

France: EU Blue Card Minimum Salary Increased – Foreign nationals employed under the EU Blue Card in France must now earn EUR 53,836.50 per year instead of the previous EUR 53,331 per year. Employers should work with their administrative departments to ensure EU Blue Card holders are paid the new minimum salary amount.

France: Some Foreign Nationals Subject to Simplified Health Insurance Registration Process – The registration procedure for the French social security administration (Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie – CPAM) has been simplified for employees in the following statuses: "employee on assignment", "EU Blue Card", "skills and talents" and "scientists". Such foreign nationals will no longer have to legalize or apostille their personal records; they can now register upon arrival without waiting for a residence permit.  Additionally, the CPAM of Paris will centralize all records, which is expected to reduce processing times to one month.

Netherlands: Dutch Blue Card No Longer Available to Intracompany Transferees – Due to a change in law, the Dutch Blue Card - a combined work and residence permit for highly-skilled migrants - will only be available to foreign nationals under a Dutch employment contract, in line with the European Blue Card Directive.  Previously, it was also available to intracompany transferees on assignment. This will not impact intracompany transferees' immigration options, as other work and residence options are available.

Papua New Guinea: Potential Delays Ahead – The Labour Department and the Immigration & Citizenship Service Authority is closed July 15 due to relocation to the Central Government Office building. Visa and work permit processing will be temporarily suspended during this period. Some offices, such as the Labour Department's Receipting and Paying Office, have been closed since last week. There is no change to the immigration process, although the closures are expected to cause slight delays to ongoing applications. Full immigration services are expected to resume on Monday, July 18, at the new offices. Fragomen will announce any further updates.

South Africa: VFS Online Application Tracker Experiencing Technical Issues - The VFS online system has been down for three weeks, preventing users from checking the status of their applications. The tracking system allows applicants to determine when applications have been approved, visas can be obtained and payment can be made. Applicants should contact their immigration professional to determine whether there are alternative tracking methods.

South Africa: Holiday Closures Likely to Cause Delays - Public institutions in South Africa (including immigration authorities) and South African consular posts abroad will be closed August 3 and 9 to observe public holidays. Foreign nationals seeking immigration services on those days should consider seeking services before the closure period. Applicants should also be prepared not to receive responses to immigration applications on those days.

Global Immigration News Links

The Economist explains why points-based immigration systems do not work.

A report by the Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration seeks to understand and address public anxiety about immigration.

The influx of Syrians to the United States has accelerated in recent months and annual arrivals are likely to reach 10,000 by the end of September—the amount promised by the Obama administration—the Wall Street Journal reports.

Britain’s new immigration system will not necessarily be modelled on the Australian points-based system promised by leading Leave campaigners during the referendum, the Guardian reports.

The European Union is now offering a new immigration plan, hoping to sway reluctant countries, the New York Times reports.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.