Virginia, US

Feb 02 2018

Weekly Immigration Update: January 26 – February 1, 2018

Belarus, China, European Union, Hong Kong, Ireland, Kenya, Macau, Oman, Panama, Singapore, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam

In United States immigration news this week, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address to Congress, during which he renewed his call for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) relief in exchange for increased border security and limits on family and diversity immigration. He also voiced continued support for a merit-based system.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may impose a short suspension of 15-day premium processing service for fiscal year 2019 H-1B cap filings. Also in the United States, Temporary Protected Status for Syria will be extended by 18 months, through September 30, 2019.  Syrian TPS beneficiaries will be required to re-register to extend their benefits.

In the European Union/United Kingdom, the Council of the EU has adopted guidelines for the second phase of Brexit negotiations. In Ireland, the Court of Appeal will request clarification from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on entry visa processing times for family members of EU nationals.

China released its implementation guidelines for the Talent (R) Visa for highly-skilled foreign nationals. Singapore's Ministry of Manpower has expanded its personal detail requirements to the Training Employment Pass, Dependant Pass and Long-Term Visit Pass categories.

Oman's Ministry of Manpower immediately suspended the recruitment of foreign national workers in 87 professions across various industries. The suspension is expected to last for six months.

These items and other news from Belarus, Hong Kong, Ireland, Kenya, Oman, Panama and Singapore follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, February 1, 2018
State of the Union Address Focuses on Immigration Curbs

In his remarks to a joint session of Congress, President Trump largely renewed his call for DACA relief in exchange for increased border security and limits on family and diversity immigration.  He also voiced continued support for a merit-based system.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, February 1, 2018
DHS to Extend TPS for Syria

Temporary Protected Status for Syria will be extended by 18 months, through September 30, 2019.  Syrian TPS beneficiaries will be required to re-register to extend their benefits.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 26, 2018
H-1B Update - USCIS Anticipates Brief Premium Processing Suspension for H-1B Cap Cases

  • USCIS may impose a short suspension of 15-day premium processing service for FY 2019 H-1B cap filings.
  • The agency does not expect to suspend premium processing for H-1B extensions and other non-cap H-1B filings.


To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 26, 2018
White House Immigration Framework Offers DACA Relief in Exchange for Expanded Enforcement Powers and Cuts in Family and Diversity Immigration

  • In exchange for expanded relief and a potential path to citizenship for DACA recipients and DACA-eligible foreign nationals, the White House is requesting $25 billion to fund border infrastructure and personnel, expanded powers to remove unauthorized foreign nationals, restriction of family-based immigration to spouses and children under age 21, and elimination of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program.
  • The framework does not substantively address high-skill immigration, but would reallocate some of the 50,000 Diversity Lottery immigrant visas to reduce the employment-based permanent residence backlog. 


To view entire article, click here.

 

Ireland, February 1, 2018
Clarification Requested From the Court of Justice of the European Union on Entry Visa Processing Times for Family Members of EU Nationals

The Irish Court of Appeal will shortly ask for guidance from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on what constitutes a reasonable time frame for a Member State's immigration authorities to process entry visa applications for non-EU national family members of EU nationals residing in the respective host Member State. This question arose due to litigation in Ireland challenging long standing and significant processing delays regarding entry visas sponsored by EU nationals for their non-EU national family members, particularly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, due to a surge in the number of these applications and alleged security concerns. The response from the CJEU could clarify the time limits for processing such entry visa applications which will apply to all EU Member States. 

To view entire article, click here.

 

European Union / United Kingdom
The Council of the European Union Adopts Guidelines for Next Phase of Brexit Negotiations

The Council of the European Union has adopted guidelines for the second phase of Brexit negotiations. During this phase, the European Union would like to:

  • Complete negotiations on all withdrawal issues, including those not yet addressed in the first phase; 
  • Agree on arrangements for the transition period; and 
  • Reach an overall understanding of the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom. 


To view entire article, click here.

 

Oman, January 30, 2018
Immediate Suspension of the Recruitment of Foreign Nationals Across Various Industries

The Ministry of Manpower issued a decision imposing an immediate suspension of the recruitment of foreign national workers in 87 professions across various industries, which is expected to last for six months. During this time, employers will have to recruit Omani nationals for these professions.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Worldwide, January 30, 2018
Lunar New Year to Cause Government Closures, Travel Delays

Travelers to East and Southeast Asia should expect delays and interruptions in government and business operations due to the Lunar New Year, which falls on February 16 this year. These delays and closures will peak February 15 to February 17 and could last longer in Macau, Taiwan, Vietnam and China where the holiday will be celebrated through February 21. Travelers to the area should make advance arrangements, and visa and permit applicants should submit applications as early as possible.

To view entire article, click here.

 

China, January 26, 2018
Guidelines Released for Talent (R) Visa for Highly-Skilled Foreign Nationals

The Chinese State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs has released implementing guidelines for the Talent (R) Visa, a multiple-entry visa that allows foreign professionals eligible for Category A of the unified work permit classification system to perform business activities. These guidelines apply to nine cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai, as of January 1, 2018.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Singapore, January 26, 2018
Personal Details Requirement Extended to More Pass Categories

The Ministry of Manpower has expanded the requirement for foreign nationals to provide their personal contact information on the Employment Pass online portal in order to apply, receive, or renew a work pass for the following additional pass categories: Training Employment Pass, Dependant Pass, and Long-Term Visit Pass. Previously, this requirement only applied to Employment Pass and S Pass holders. 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Weekly News Briefs

Belarus: Visa and Work Permit Waiver for Hi-Tech Park – The Belarus authorities have introduced further measures to benefit the ‘Hi-Tech Park’, a government program to boost the IT sector through tax and other advantages for participating companies. These measures will go into effect on March 28, 2018.

  • Participating employers, ‘Hi-Tech Park Residents’, no longer require a permit to employ foreign workers and do not need to obtain special work permits for their foreign employees. Employers interested in obtaining Hi-Tech Park Resident status are advised to contact their Fragomen representative.
  • Foreign national workers who are planning to enter into a local employment contract with Hi-Tech Park Residents, foreign shareholders of Hi-Tech Park Residents and the employees of these foreign shareholders are not required to obtain visas. All qualifying persons listed above, in addition to entering Belarus without visa, can stay in Belarus for up to 180 days per calendar year without obtaining a temporary residence permit.
  • The Hi-Tech Park administration is responsible for providing to the State Border Committee a list of all persons who do not require visas under these new measures so that the State Border Committee is aware that these foreign nationals are visa exempt. Failure to provide this information to the State Border Committee could result in foreign nationals who should benefit from the visa and work permit waiver being denied entry to Belarus.


Hong Kong/Belarus: Reciprocal Visa Exemption Forthcoming – Due to a mutual visa agreement, Hong Kong nationals will be able to enter Belarus for tourism and business for stays of up to 14 days, and vice versa, starting February 13, 2018. Foreign nationals who seek to work in either country will still require the appropriate work permit. 

Ireland: Further Steps to Work Authorization for Asylum Seekers – Following their intention to opt into a relevant EU Directive, the Irish government has taken interim measures to grant work authorization to eligible asylum seekers. On February 9, 2018, it would appear that asylum seekers will be able to apply to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) for employment permits on the same basis as other non-EU nationals. This means that similar restrictions and permit conditions, including labor market testing, may apply. DBEI may introduce special measures for asylum seekers as this policy develops in practice. Fragomen will continue to update with developments.

Ireland: Atypical Working Scheme Approval Now Formally Restricted in Validity – The validity of an Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) approval letter has now been formally restricted to 90 days. Foreign national workers must travel to Ireland and start work within 90 days of the issuance of the AWS approval letter. This was already advised as best practice and recommended by Fragomen, but has now been formalized by the Irish authorities.

Kenya: Police Clearance Requirement Suspension Still in Place for Most Applications – In October 2017, the immigration authorities in Kenya imposed a requirement for a police clearance certificate for all immigration applications. However, after a few days, this requirement was suspended for all but the Student Pass application due to a public outcry on the mode of enforcement. It had been anticipated that the police clearance requirement would be reinstated by January 2018 for all applications, though this has not yet occurred.​ It is expected that applications (other than the Student Pass) can continue to be submitted without a police clearance certificate until further notice.

Oman: Online Application Process Introduced for Express Visas – Effective immediately, applications for express visas and visitor visas for tourism sponsored by an entity in Oman must be submitted through the Royal Oman Police (ROP) electronic portal. Employers must register with the ROP’s electronic portal in order to facilitate the processing of these visas. Previously, over-the-counter applications were accepted by authorities. Changes to the visa application processing system were first announced in April 2017, but the ROP’s system at the time was unable to process various categories of visas, including express visas and visitor visas for tourism.

Panama: Government Office Closures due to Carnaval – The national government ordered the closure of government offices in Panama from February 12-13, 2018 due to Carnaval. Regular hours will resume on February 14 from 1pm. to 4 pm. To make up for the closures, government offices will be open an extra hour (half hour at the start of the day and half hour at the end of the day) from January 22 until February 7. Foreign nationals and employers should expect processing delays for work permits, residence permits and visas during and after the closures.

Singapore: Work Pass Cancellation Process Amended – An update to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) website notes that the earliest a work pass can now be cancelled is the day after the last day of employment. The original work pass card must be returned to MOM within one week of the cancellation. No formal announcement was made regarding this change. Previously, MOM's website only mentioned that the pass had to be cancelled within one week from the last day of employment and did not specifically indicate the earliest day that a work pass could be cancelled.

The impact on work pass holders will vary from individual to individual, but there is the potential for scheduling and coordination problems to arise. Work pass holders and their employers who may be affected by the change should contact their immigration professional immediately for specific guidance.

 

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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