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Feb 09 2018

Weekly Immigration Update: February 2 – 9, 2018

Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, European Union, Indonesia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States

In United States immigration news this week, President Trump has signed a short-term measure to reopen the federal government through March 23, 2018, while lawmakers finalize a broad two-year budget deal. The stopgap measure temporarily reauthorizes expiring immigration programs, including the EB-5 Regional Center Program and E-Verify.

Also in the United States, President Trump has ordered the creation of a National Vetting Center to coordinate security screening of applicants for immigration benefits and entry to the United States, and to facilitate greater interagency information sharing.

The UK government announced plans to double the immigration health surcharge later this year. The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that EU social security certificates can be called into question if there is evidence of fraud.

Italian consulates are heavily scrutinizing whether requests for business visas fall within the scope of acceptable business visa activities.

In Beijing, China, companies who sponsor foreign national employees are advised to re-register with the local Exit and Entry Administration.

Thailand has introduced a new SMART Visa program intended to attract qualified foreign nationals in four categories - talent (experts), senior executives, investors and certain startup entrepreneurs. Indonesia has temporarily suspended the processing of work permit applications for oil and gas companies.

Effective January 1, Kazakhstan has increased its minimum monthly salary for foreign workers.

These items and other news from Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, February 9, 2018
After Brief Shutdown, President Trump Signs Spending Bill

  • After a brief government shutdown overnight, President Trump has signed a short-term measure to reopen the federal government through March 23, 2018, while lawmakers finalize a broad two-year budget deal. 
  • The stopgap measure reauthorizes the EB-5 Regional Center Program, E-Verify and other expiring immigration programs through March 23.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, February 6, 2018
President Trump Orders Creation of National Immigration Vetting Center

  • The National Vetting Center is being established to facilitate greater interagency cooperation in the screening of applicants for immigration benefits and foreign nationals seeking admission to the United States.
  • The Center will not begin operating until the President approves an implementation plan, which the Department of Homeland Security must submit within six months. The practical impact on applicants for visas, permanent residence and admission is not yet known.


To view entire article, click here.

 

Mozambique, February 8, 2018
Visa Fees Increased for Applicants in South Africa

The Mozambican High Commission in Pretoria has increased visa fees for applicants in South Africa. The increased fees are already in effect and apply to all nationals who are based in South Africa.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Italy, February 8, 2018
Use of Business Visas Restricted

Italian consulates are heavily scrutinizing business visa requests and are only issuing business visas for purposes of stay within the scope of acceptable business visa activities. Due to this scrutiny, Fragomen recommends that visa nationals should only apply for business visas to Italy if the activity they will perform falls within the scope of acceptable business visa activities.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Indonesia, February 8, 2018
Temporary Suspension of Work Permit Applications for the Oil and Gas Sector

The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of Indonesia recently revoked a regulation which governs the entry of foreign workers in the Oil and Gas sector. As a result, the Directorate-General of Oil and Gas announced that it has suspended the processing of Rekom RPTKA and Rekom IMTA applications, which are two key steps within the Indonesian Work Permit process for Oil and Gas companies. Fragomen expects that the suspension will be temporary.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Nigeria, February 7, 2018
Increased Efforts to Employ Local Workers

The President of Nigeria has issued an Executive Order aimed at ensuring locals with required skills are given preference in the workplace. The framework for the implementation of the Executive Order has not yet been announced.

To view entire article, click here.

 

European Union, February 7, 2018
Social Security Ruling Affects Onboarding Checks

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that EU social security certificates can be called into question if there is evidence of fraud. Their ruling sets up a procedure for host countries who suspect workers of holding fraudulent social security documents to investigate and, if there is a finding of fraud, to remedy the situation. This ruling exposes employers to risks if their workers are found to have fraudulent social security documents and employers may have to make social security back payment contributions.  Furthermore, this ruling may also affect the validity of employee's work permits, amongst other penalties. Therefore, this ruling increases the importance of onboarding checks and document retention for host entities.

To view entire article, click here.

 

China, February 6, 2018
Company Re-Registration Requirement in Beijing

Effective immediately, companies in Beijing who sponsor foreign national employees are advised to re-register with the local Exit and Entry Administration. Failure to do so may impact applications filed with the local Public Security Bureau.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Thailand, February 6, 2018
New SMART Visa Announced

Thailand's Immigration Bureau has announced a new SMART Visa program, effective February 2018, which is intended to attract qualified foreign nationals in four categories -  talent (experts), senior executives, investors and startup entrepreneurs - to work in ten targeted "S-Curve" industries in Thailand. This new visa program confers greater benefits to foreign nationals compared to the Long-Term Visa. 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United Kingdom, February 6, 2018
Immigration Health Surcharge to Double

The UK government has announced plans to double the immigration health surcharge later this year.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Australia, February 2, 2018
Immigration Reform Updates

Australian immigration updates and reminders include:

  • Lengthier processing times for the subclass 457 visa program;
  • Accredited Sponsors are not affected by lengthier processing times; 
  • Sponsors, beginning in March 2018, will be required to contribute to the Skilling Australians Fund; 
  • An increase in government filing fees; and
  • Introduction of a more robust labor market testing for the Temporary Skills Shortage visa program.


To view entire article, click here.

 

Kazakhstan, February 2, 2018
Minimum Salary Level Increased

Effective January 1, 2018, the minimum monthly salary for foreign workers has increased to KZT 28,284, up 15.6 percent from last year.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Weekly News Briefs

United States: Latest PERM and PWD Processing Times – As of January 31, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) was conducting analyst review for PERM applications filed in August 2017 or earlier, and processing audited cases filed in June 2017 or earlier. DOL is working on standard reconsideration requests submitted in December 2017 or earlier. There is no update on the government error queue, though these appear to be current. 

DOL is issuing prevailing wage determinations for PERM and H-1B requests filed in November 2017. The agency has been processing PERM and H-1B redeterminations requested in December 2017, and PERM center director reviews requested in December 2017. 

These reports are available on the iCERT home page. 

Brazil: Sao Paulo State Designated as Risk Area for Yellow Fever –The World Health Organization (WHO) designated the entire state of Sao Paulo as a risk area for yellow fever following increased reports of yellow fever in this area. The WHO recommends that all foreign nationals traveling to Sao Paulo are vaccinated at least 10 days prior to traveling, regardless of their country of origin.

Brazil: Electronic Visas Now Available for Certain Nationalities – Nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States will now have the option of applying for electronic visas (e-visas) when traveling to Brazil for tourism or business purposes, transiting through the Brazilian airport or for sports and artistic performances. The e-visa is valid for up to two years and grants foreign nationals stays of up to 90 days per entry. Foreign nationals on e-visas who are traveling for tourism or business purposes can stay in Brazil for up to 180 cumulative days per year and can extend their stay in-country at the Federal Police. Foreign nationals on e-visas who are travelling to Brazil for sports and artistic performances can only stay in Brazil for 90 cumulative days per year and cannot extend their stay in country.

Colombia: Special Stay Permit for Venezuelan Nationals Extended – Venezuelan nationals can now apply for a Special Stay Permit (Permiso Especial de Permanencia - PEP) if they were in Colombia by February 2, 2018 (previously they needed to be in Colombia by July 28, 2017). They must also still meet the same qualifying criteria as was previously required, including having legally entered Colombia, not having a criminal record in Colombia or abroad and not having an open deportation order in Colombia. The permit is valid for 90 days and renewable for up to two years. It can only be requested once and is not a path to residency. Applications must be filed by June 5, 2018.

Ecuador: Requirement for Tourists To Provide Proof of Health Insurance Postponed to May 1, 2018 – The implementation of the requirement for tourists to provide proof of health insurance when traveling to Ecuador has been postponed until May 1, 2018. After this date, all foreign nationals traveling to Ecuador for tourism will be required to present a Health Insurance Certificate, which should provide proof of international health insurance coverage during their trip. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has not yet released what information the certificate will contain. However, MoFA has announced that they will inform airlines closer to the deadline so that the airlines are able to request the certificate from tourists prior to boarding their trips to Ecuador. This requirement will affect all foreign nationals entering Ecuador since even those foreign nationals who will apply for a visa in-country will arrive in Ecuador on a tourist visa.

Kazakhstan: Employers Can Retrieve Bank Deposits More Quickly – Kazakh authorities have changed the process used by sponsoring employers to retrieve funds deposited as guarantee amounts for foreign national workers. Once the foreign national has departed, employers can now retrieve these funds directly from the bank where they were deposited. Previously, sponsoring employers were required to prove that the foreign national had left Kazakhstan and obtain approval from the Labor Department in order to retrieve the funds. This change will allow employers to access the funds more quickly by avoiding administrative delays.

Saudi Arabia: Revised Penalties Announced for Select Labor Law Violations – The Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD) issued revised regulations on penalties for employers who violate select labor law conditions. Some of the penalties that may be imposed on employers for non-compliance with the respective regulations include:

  • Fines of SAR 10,000 for not opening a company file with the MLSD or not updating company records (including contact details, line of business and others);
    • Fines of SAR 10,000 for allowing foreign national employees to work in a profession other than the one specified in their work permit;
    • Fines of SAR 10,000 for not submitting monthly salary files for the Wages Protection System purposes; 
    • Fines of SAR 10,000 for not providing employees with the corresponding leave balance; and
    • Fines of SAR 2,000 for withholding an employee’s passport, residence permit or medical insurance without their written consent.


Fines imposed by the MLSD must be settled by employers within one month from the issuance date, otherwise the amount due to the Ministry will be doubled.

 

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