Weekly Immigration Update: December 11–17, 2020

In immigration news this week:

  • Worldwide: Jurisdictions around the world continue to adapt their coronavirus-related travel restrictions and quarantine measures, and many have implemented extension policies and other concessions. Visit Fragomen’s COVID-19 website for the latest immigration updates.
  • Brexit: Authorities in Iceland and Switzerland published guidance on post-Brexit residence permits or residence registration options (‘Article 50 residence permits’) for current UK national residents and their non-EU national family members. Authorities in Denmark, Norway and Portugal published further guidance. Check this consolidated information page for more information.
  • United States: A third federal district court invalidated the fast-tracked Department of Labor (DOL) rule that significantly increased prevailing wage levels. The court has ordered DOL to reissue prevailing wage determinations issued under the now invalid rule. The Departments of Homeland Security, Labor and State released their Fall 2020 regulatory agendas, which reveal each agency’s rulemaking priorities for the final weeks of the Trump Administration.
  • United Kingdom: The UK government published guidance and opened the application process for European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals seeking to continue frontier worker activities in the United Kingdom after June 30, 2021, the end of the frontier worker grace period.
  • Germany: Under a new law, foreign nationals applying to change employers or to change status to an employment permit in country can now start working once the immigration office orders the requested permit to be printed.
  • Minimum salary requirements: Luxembourg and Poland published the 2021 minimum wage level. Check this consolidated information page for more information.
  • Worldwide: During the holiday season, many government offices worldwide will close or have reduced staff and operating hours, likely resulting in processing delays for work permits, residence permits and visas over the coming weeks and into the new year.

 

These items and other news from the European Union, Israel, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Spain, and Zambia follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United Kingdom, December 15, 2020

Frontier Worker Permit Guidance Published and Application System Opened

  • The UK government published details of the application process for a Frontier Worker Permit, which will allow European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals who already work in the United Kingdom as a frontier worker prior to 23:00 GMT on December 31, 2020 to continue their work in the United Kingdom after June 30, 2021. If they do not apply for this permit, these individuals will not be able to enter the United Kingdom to undertake frontier work beginning July 1, 2021.
  • Eligible applicants both in the United Kingdom or abroad can now apply for a Frontier Worker Permit via the UK Immigration: ID Check app. Eligible applicants in the United Kingdom who cannot use the app will have to wait until January 22, 2021 to apply online. Eligible applicants outside the United Kingdom who cannot use the app can alternatively complete biometrics at a visa application centre.
  • Individuals who start work in the United Kingdom after December 31, 2020 at 23:00 GMT will require a standard UK work visa.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, December 14, 2020

Federal District Court Strikes Down DOL Wage Regulation, Orders Reissuance of Prevailing Wage Determinations

  • A federal district court found that DOL did not have good cause to issue its recent interim final wage regulation without advance notice to the public.
  • The court ordered DOL to reissue prevailing wage determinations made on or after October 8, 2020 under the interim final rule.
  • DOL is expected to reissue the wage regulation in the coming weeks.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Germany, December 14, 2020

Change of Status Applicants can Start Work Sooner

  • Foreign nationals applying to change employers or to change status to an employment permit in country can now begin working once the immigration office orders the requested permit to be printed. Previously, these individuals had to wait for their new residence permit card to be printed, which could take up to six weeks from the order date.  
  • Foreign nationals who have received preliminary approval of these applications can obtain an interim permit which will provide proof of their work authorization, while they await their new residence permit card to be printed. Fragomen expects interim permit issuance policies to vary between states and to be clarified in the upcoming weeks.   
  • Affected foreign nationals and their employers will benefit from this change as the foreign nationals will be able to commence work more quickly.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, December 11, 2020

Federal Immigration Agencies Release Fall 2020 Regulatory Agendas

  • In the last weeks of the Trump Administration, federal agencies continue to move ahead with the administration’s immigration priorities, including rules that would restrict the H-1B program and increase prevailing wages across the H-1B, H-1B1, E-3 and PERM labor certification programs
  • The agencies may be able to finalize some rules already in motion before a change in presidential administration on January 20, but execution of the full agenda is unlikely. 
  • The agenda reflects agency priorities of the Trump Administration, some of which could change when the Biden Administration takes office next month.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Worldwide, December 11, 2020

Immigration Processing During the Holiday Season

  • During the holiday season, many government offices worldwide will close or have reduced staff and operating hours, likely resulting in processing delays for work permits, residence permits and visas over the coming weeks and into the new year.
  • Employers and foreign nationals with travel or relocation plans between now and early 2021 should contact their immigration service provider to discuss the impact of holiday closures on their specific circumstances.
  • These closures are in addition to closures of government offices due to COVID-19. Check Fragomen’s dedicated website for up-to-date information on COVID-19-related government closures, travel restrictions and other related information.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, December 11, 2020

One-Week Stopgap Spending Measure Funds Government Through December 18 As Budget Negotiations Continue 

  • A stopgap spending measure passed by Congress will fund the U.S. government through December 18, 2020, as FY 2021 federal budget negotiations continue. Once the measure is signed by President Trump, it will take effect.
  • The stopgap bill also extends E-Verify, the EB-5 Regional Center program and other expiring programs through December 18, 2020.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Other Weekly News Briefs

Kenya: Applicants Required to Upload Supporting Documents for Numerous Immigration Processes – Due to COVID-19 precautions, Kenya immigration authorities now require applicants for work permits, special passes and dependent passes to upload supporting immigration documents, such as employment contracts, engagement letters, and certified copies of academic and professional certificates, online. However, applicants will still be required to provide the hard-copy, original documents to the authorities for examination at a later stage in the application process. Applicants who fail to upload their supporting documents may have their applications delayed or denied.

Israel/MoroccoNormalized Relations Forthcoming – Israel and Morocco announced plans to normalize relations between the two countries. As a result, there is expected to be an immediate reopening of liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat and eventually embassies are expected to open, likely affecting mobility laws. In the next few months, Israel and Morocco are expected to open economic and trade relations. Recently, relations were normalized between Israel and Bahrain; Israel and Sudan; and Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Fragomen will report on related developments.

Nigeria: Oversight Committee Established for Employers Utilizing Business Permits and Expatriate Quotas – The government of Nigeria has instituted an oversight committee, the Special Ministerial Task Force on Monitoring and Enforcement of Expatriate Business Permit and Expatriate Quota Administration, to verify compliance with Nigerian law due to widespread violations of the expatriate quota policy by employers. The task force will have the following responsibilities: auditing documentary requirements presented by all Expatriate Quota applicants for approval and renewal from 2015 onwards; verifying compliance with all statutory returns (monthly returns rendered to the Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Immigration Service) as stipulated in the 2017 Ministry of Interior Regulations; verifying that two Nigerian nationals are being trained for each Expatriate Quota position; verifying compliance with all mandatory training programs for Nigerian trainees; and ensuring that all fines and penalties have been paid for non-compliance with the regulations and recommending appropriate remedies, among other items.

Oman: 103 Nationalities To Be Visa-Exempt for Tourism – According to an announcement by the Royal Oman Police, nationals of 103 countries will soon be exempt from obtaining an entry visa for tourism. Eligible foreign nationals will be able to enter Oman visa-free for up to 10 days with a confirmed hotel reservation, health insurance and a return or onward ticket for those arriving by air. Nationals of most European countries, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Russia, Turkey and the United States are included on the list. It is not yet clear when the new policy will take effect.

Portugal/European Union: Revised Posted Worker Directive Implemented – Effective December 10, 2020, Portugal has implemented the Revised Posted Worker Directive. Under the revised legislation, employers must submit more detailed salary information, including a salary breakdown indicating relevant allowances and reimbursements. The revised legislation also expands the reach of Portuguese labor law to cover postings exceeding 12 months, if beneficial to the posted worker. Although Portugal missed the implementation deadline of the Directive by four months, Fragomen does not expect the European Commission to take further infringement actions. Implementation remains pending in Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia (legislation pending), Spain and the United Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia: Penalty Waiver Service Now Available to Select Employers – According to an announcement by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD), select employers in Saudi Arabia can request a labor-related penalty waiver if they commit to the employment of Saudi nationals under specific conditions, as part of an initiative called “The Violations Settlement Service”. The service is available through the MHRSD’s electronic portal. Employers eligible for the service must have a green Nitaqat rating or above. They will be able to request a fine waiver for penalties imposed by the MHRSD in the past 30 days in return for committing to employing Saudi national workers for at least one year and providing proof that they are compliant by submitting copies of employment contracts, insurance certificates and other relevant documents. The employees must be registered with the General Organization for Social Insurance for pensions and must receive a salary of at least SAR 4,000. If a Saudi worker is terminated, a substitute must be hired within 30 days to avoid cancelation of the fine settlement. Additionally, employers must respond to any requests made by the MHRSD within seven days to avoid cancelation of the fine. It is not clear whether employers can use this service multiple times and for multiple penalties and if they will have to commit to employing a specific number of Saudi workers.

Serbia: Delay in Process StreamliningAs an update, the steamlined application process for online temporary residence permit applications and out-of-country joint Work and Residence Permit applications is still not available, in spite of the anticipated implementation in January 2020. These process changes, which were announced in October 2019, have not yet been implemented due to an increase in immigration officials' workload pressure. Officials have not yet confirmed a new estimated implementation date.

Spain: Stricter Long-Term Visa Application Deadline – Spanish consular posts are now requiring visa applicants to file long-term visa applications within one month of their work and residence permit being issued; previously, this was not required. Applicants who miss the deadline must re-apply for a work and residence permit, causing entry delays and increased administrative burdens. The change does not affect in-country applicants. Although this policy has been implemented in practice, the official policy has not been published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Fragomen is seeking confirmation and clarification of the policy due to its unpublished nature.

Zambia: Guidelines Released to Accommodate Foreign Nationals Who Did Not Apply for Digital Residence Permit Cards – Zambian immigration authorities have released guidelines for foreign nationals who did not convert their residence permit booklets to digital cards by the deadline of October 31, 2020. Applicants who will replace their residence permit booklets after October 31, 2020 and those with passports valid for less than six months will be able to apply in-person or online and pay a prescribed fee. Applicants with passports valid for less than six months who could not apply for reasons beyond their control will have to provide a written statement describing why they could not apply on time; if they cannot provide an adequate rationale, they will also need to pay a prescribed fee. Applicants for the extension of other types of permits (including employment, study and investor permits) and whose passports are valid for less than six months will be required to apply in-person and will have to pay a prescribed fee. Returning residents with residence permit booklets who successfully submitted applications for replacement before October 31, 2020 but have not yet collected their digital residence card will be able to enter Zambia upon proof of payment. Those who fail to provide proof will have to report to the authorities on a specified date placed in order to apply for replacement.

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