Virginia, US

Nov 06 2019

Employment Visa Holders May Need to Leave Iraq to Obtain New Employment Visa

Iraq

At a Glance

  • Effective immediately, foreign nationals can only obtain new employment visas in country every other year; on alternate years, they must leave Iraq and re-enter once they receive a new Letter of Invitation (LOI) which is expected to take up to two months. Previously, foreign nationals could obtain new employment visas in country each year.
  • There are no changes to the employment visa process for foreign nationals who are outside of Iraq when their visa expires.
  • The new regulation may increase the costs of some foreign nationals’ assignments in Iraq since there are added expenses related to travel and obtaining a new LOI.
  • Furthermore, there may also be a disruption in employment as a foreign national in Iraq must exit the country and wait for the Ministry of Interior to issue a LOI and to obtain a visa from the consulate, if this latter step is required based on their nationality and individual eligibility.

The situation

The Ministry of Interior in Iraq implemented a regulation, effective immediately, that restricts foreign nationals from obtaining a new employment visa in country every other year.

A closer look

Details of the new regulation are as follows:

  • Employment visas. Iraqi employment visas have been and continue to be valid for one year. Although they cannot be renewed, foreign nationals are able to apply for a new employment visa each year.
  • New in-country renewal process. Foreign nationals in Iraq seeking to obtain a new employment visa can now only do so in country on alternate years. Every other year, they must secure an exit visa, leave Iraq and re-enter once a new Letter of Invitation (LOI) has been issued by the Ministry of Interior and a visa is issued by a consulate, if the latter is required based on their nationality and individual eligibility.
  • Previous rule. Previously, foreign nationals could obtain new employment visas in country every year when their old one was set to expire.
  • Out-of-country renewal process. There are no changes to the employment visa process for foreign nationals who are outside of Iraq. These foreign nationals must still wait for their old visa to expire before obtaining a new one, as this is a condition to activate a new LOI.

 

Impact

  • Increased costs. The new regulation may increase the costs of some foreign nationals’ assignments in Iraq since there are added expenses related to travel and obtaining a new LOI.
  • Disruption in employment. There may be a disruption in employment since on alternate years, foreign nationals in Iraq must exit the country and wait for the Ministry of Interior to issue a LOI, which can take up to two months. Some foreign nationals, depending on their nationality, may be further delayed if they are required to obtain their employment visa from a consulate as opposed to upon arrival in Iraq.

 

Background

It is likely that the Federal Iraqi government implemented this new requirement for foreign nationals to exit the country every other year for security purposes due to the ongoing conflicts in the country.

Looking ahead

Fragomen expects Federal Iraq to continue to implement immigration laws which help to ensure the security and stability of the country and will report relevant developments with this and other policies.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to mideast@fragomen.com.