California, US

Apr 18 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: April 11-18, 2019

Argentina, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Qatar, Russia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: USCIS ran the FY 2020 H-1B cap selection lotteries, after receiving 201,011 filings against the H-1B quotas – 10,913 more filings than last year. According to the State Department’s May Visa Bulletin, there will be a slow movement in most backlogged categories, with no forward movement for EB-1 India and China.
  • Qatar: Foreign nationals with 20 years’ consecutive legal residence and Qatari-born nationals with 10 years' consecutive legal residence can now apply for permanent residence, making Qatar the first Arab country to allow permanent residence.
  • Moldova: Authorities recently introduced a new long-term visa for intracompany transfers of managers, specialists and interns; and expanded the scope of activities under a short-term visa.
  • Ecuador: Foreign nationals seeking to conduct certain business or technical activities while remaining on foreign payroll are now subject to a new short-term visa.
  • Ireland: Effective May 13, visa nationals holding an Irish Residence Permit (IRP) card will no longer be required to obtain a re-entry visa prior to travel.
  • Czech Republic: A draft bill pending with the Senate would impose consular quotas on certain business visas and Employee Cards; it would also relax and streamline some immigration processes and rules.

These items and other news from Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Estonia, Germany, Luxembourg, Moldova, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

Moldova, April 17, 2019

New Intracompany Transfer Visa Available, Among Other Changes

  • Moldovan authorities recently introduced a new long-term visa for intracompany transfers of managers, specialists and interns. Employers and foreign nationals should benefit from this new permit option for foreign nationals who remain under a home country contract, where none was available before.
  • Additionally, Moldovan authorities expanded the scope of activities allowed under a short-term visa to establishing a new company, conducting commercial and independent activities, and reduced short-term visa fees from EUR 60 to EUR 40.

To view entire article, click here.


Qatar, April 17, 2019

Permanent Residency Introduced

  • Qatar now allows foreign nationals with 20 years’ consecutive legal residence in Qatar and Qatari-born nationals with 10 consecutive years of legal residence in Qatar to apply for permanent residence. This is first Arab Gulf nation to allow permanent residency.
  • Permanent residents will benefit from various rights including property ownership in select areas; free healthcare and education in government schools; and the ability to enter and leave Qatar without obtaining permission from their employers, among other advantages.

To view entire article, click here.


Russia, April 16, 2019

Highly Qualified Specialist Applications No Longer Accepted at Head Migration Office

  • The Moscow Head Migration Office will no longer accept Highly Qualified Specialist work permit applications, requiring affected applicants to file such applications in regional migration offices, which are located more remotely.
  • Affected employers and employees should plan for more travel time and potentially longer waiting times for approval of applications during a transition period.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, April 15, 2019

May Visa Bulletin Update: USCIS to Honor Final Action Dates Next Month

In May, USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Final Action dates listed in the State Department's May Visa Bulletin.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, April 15, 2019

May 2019 Visa Bulletin: Slow Movement in Most Backlogged Categories, Except EB-1 India and China

  • EB-1 will advance by one month for most countries, to March 1, 2018; there will be no forward movement for EB-1 China or India. 
  • EB-2 will advance by six weeks for China, to May 15, 2016, and by only four days for India, to April 16, 2009. All other countries will remain current.
  • The EB-3 subcategory for Professionals and Skilled Workers will remain current for most countries. China will advance by three weeks to August 22, 2015, and India will advance by one week to July 1, 2009.

To view entire article, click here.


Ecuador, April 12, 2019

New Short-Term Visa Implemented for Business and Technical Visits

Foreign nationals are subject to the new short-term visa in the following two situations:

  • Those seeking to conduct business activities who are on foreign payroll who plan to remain in Ecuador for more than one month; and
  • Those seeking to conduct technical activities in Ecuador who remain on foreign payroll, regardless of the duration of their stay.

This adds an administrative burden since affected visitors will need to submit additional documentation to apply for this short-term visa after entry under a Tourist Visa. The visa is processed the same day all documents are submitted.

To view entire article, click here.


Ireland, April 12, 2019

Re-Entry Visa to be Eliminated Shortly

  • Effective May 13, 2019, visa nationals holding an Irish Residence Permit (IRP) card in Ireland will no longer be required to obtain a re-entry visa prior to travel. The IRP card will be sufficient proof of the right to re-enter Ireland in case of travel. Applicants will benefit from facilitated travel through the removal of the time-consuming administrative step of obtaining a re-entry visa.
  • The re-entry visa will still be required for applicants under 16 years old (since they are not issued an IRP card) and for visa nationals awaiting an IRP card following in-country registration. Adult visa-exempt nationals were already exempt from the re-entry visa requirement.
  • Visa nationals without a valid IRP card seeking to exit and re-enter Ireland before May 13, 2019 should urgently obtain a re-entry visa.

To view entire article, click here.


Czech Republic, April 12, 2019

Consular Quotas Proposed; Many Immigration Rules Would be Relaxed

A draft bill pending with the Czech Senate would introduce the following key changes to the immigration process:

  • Applications for business visas for over 90 days and for Employee Cards (the main residence permit type) would be subject to a consular quota, which may reduce processing times;
  • The Labor Office may, in some cases, reduce the time period employers are required to publish vacancies to 10 days (down from 30 days) before filing an Employee Card for Local Hires application; and
  • Employee Card holders could change employers, work locations or positions when their Employee Card expires, unless the terms of employment allow such changes earlier.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, April 11, 2019

H-1B Advanced-Degree Quota Exemption Is Reached; USCIS Runs Cap Selection Lotteries

  • USCIS received 201,011 filings against the H-1B quotas – 10,913 more than last year.
  • The overall chance of selection in the cap lotteries for this year is approximately 42 percent.
  • USCIS could take up to several weeks to complete receipting of cap cases selected in the lottery, though employers who filed cases for premium processing should receive email receipts in the coming days. USCIS will not begin to adjudicate premium processed cases until May 20.

To view entire article, click here.


Brexit News and Related News Briefs This Week

Luxembourg: Update on No-Deal Contingency Plans – The Luxembourg government has published further legislation on no-deal contingency measures, which contains the following key changes when compared to previous drafts:

  • the application filing deadline for UK nationals and their family member seeking to stay in Luxembourg after Brexit was decreased from nine to three months after Brexit day;
  • applicants are exempt from the declaration of arrival, medical testing, and the need to apply for a residence permit card after the preliminary residence permit application (which are typically required for non-EU nationals), but would still need to pay government filing fees (approximately EUR 80);
  • and those residing for more than five years (including stay during and after the grace period) would be allowed to apply for a long-term residence document (the type of document will be determined later).

Fragomen expects UK nationals and their family members who reach the five-year residence requirement during the grace period to be subject to facilitated eligibility criteria for long-term residence permit applications. Note that the contingency measures do not apply to nationals from British Overseas Territories.

Switzerland: No-Deal Brexit Policy Updates – As an update to its no-deal Brexit plans, the Federal Council approved a temporary agreement that would apply simplified work authorization rules for UK nationals until December 2020. Specifically, the Swiss government would not check professional qualifications, would waive the precedence given to Swiss workers, and would apply a temporary waiver of the need for federal government approval for cantonal permits, although the government would still check wage levels and working conditions. Separate quotas for UK nationals would also apply. Waivers would apply on a case-by-case basis. The agreement also allows the Federal Council to amend the quota set for UK nationals to take into account the interests of the economy as a whole and the precedence given to Swiss workers.

Many other EU countries have published contingency plans for UK nationals in case of a no-deal Brexit, with more expected soon. Fragomen will provide updates on the situation as they become available.

Please contact a Fragomen immigration professional for assistance in planning contingency arrangements in a single project. For more information, please visit Fragomen's dedicated Brexit site, which contains news, FAQs, and analysis/commentary in the form of blogs, videos, webcasts and events.


Other Weekly News Briefs

Argentina: Additional Requirements for Police Clearance Certificates – Peruvian and Colombian nationals applying for residence visas and transitory work authorization in-country in Argentina now need to submit a police clearance certificate from their place(s) of residence for at least one year in the past three years, and from their country of citizenship in some circumstances, which includes the applicant’s criminal record for the 10 years prior to the certificate’s issuance. Previously, the requirement did not specify the number of years the police certificate needed to encompass. Applicants whose countries of residence are not issuing the police clearance certificate specifying a 10-year criminal record should contact their immigration specialist for individual advice as potential solutions may vary based on the country issuing the certificate. The new requirement has been established on the grounds of reciprocity because Argentina issues 10- year criminal records, therefore it is likely the requirement will be extended to other nationalities soon.

Costa Rica: Penalties and Bans for Overstayers Further Postponed – The implementation of penalties for foreign nationals leaving Costa Rica after their authorized period of stay will be further postponed for 12 months, until April 20, 2020, according to a decree issued by the Costa Rican president. The government requires additional time to finalize the infrastructure for collection of penalty fees at the country’s ports of exit.

Estonia: Non-Exempt Residence Permit Quota Exhausted – The quota of 1,351 Estonian residence permits for non-exempt applicants is already exhausted; typically the quota is exhausted around June. As a result, residence permits can only be issued to exempt applicants until the new quota is released early 2020. As a reminder, the following categories of applicants are exempt from the quota, among others: Japanese and U.S. citizens; UK citizens after Brexit; stays under 12 months; top specialists, as defined by Estonian law; information technology and communications professionals; dependents and renewals. Non-exempt applicants are advised to consult with their immigration professional to explore alternative solutions.

Germany: Border Controls Extended for Six Months – The German authorities plan to extend border controls at the German-Austrian border (which were scheduled to expire May 11, 2019) until November 10, 2019. Although there is no formal update yet on current border controls in Austria, Denmark, France, Norway and Sweden, Fragomen will report if these countries extend their policies. All listed countries are part of the Schengen area, where internal border controls are in principle not allowed, with exceptions for temporary national security measures. As a reminder, both the European Parliament and Commission have recently expressed concern over the lengthy renewals of current border controls.

Moldova/Cuba: Visa Waiver in Effect – Cuban nationals can now travel to Moldova for tourist and business trips for up to 90 days in a six-month period without requiring an entry visa. Previously, Cuban nationals required a short-term visa for such trips. Further visa exemptions for Moldova were announced in December but are not yet in effect.

Russia: Moscow Adds Interview Step for Some Invitation Letter Applications – The Moscow immigration authorities have added an interview step to the invitation letter application process for companies that have not filed an invitation letter application in the past year or are applying for the first time, and for all nationals of ‘high-risk’ countries (unpublished list of approximately 20 countries, including China, India, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, based on Fragomen’s practical experience). As part of the new step, immigration officers will interview the chief executive officer or general manager of the inviting company about the company’s activities, foreign national’s purpose of stay, visa expiry tracking and other forthcoming rules related to employer obligations during foreign nationals' stays. As background, visa nationals must request an official government invitation letter for business and work visits, which is the process to which this new step applies.

Russia: Processing Delays and New Extension Submission Timing – Non-Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) invitation letter processing in Moscow is now between 16-28 calendar days, up from 10-21 calendar days. Additionally, visa extension applications filed in Moscow must now be submitted at least 20 business days before visa expiry, up from five business days before expiry. Alternatively, the applicant must exit Russia and file from abroad. As a reminder, to qualify for the visa extension, the address registration must be issued for a Moscow address and must remain valid until the day of an extension application; and the date of entry should match the migration card.

United Kingdom: Biometric Residence Card Issuance Slightly Delayed – UK biometric residence cards are being issued with several days’ delay, as UK immigration authorities are now automatically issuing national insurance numbers to applicants, which require several days to process. Previously, obtaining a national insurance number required a separate application. As the process is completed in country after applicants start work, delays will have a minimal impact, and applicants will benefit from automatic national insurance number issuance.

United Kingdom/United States: Temporary Service Disruption Delays Visa Processing – UK visa applicants who held appointments to submit fingerprints and passport photographs (biometric data) at any U.S. Application Support Center (ASC) between April 1-17, 2019 face two-week visa processing delays as ASCs were temporarily closed for such services. Affected applicants can visit a Premium Application Center (PAC) or their selected ASC at a set alternative date. The ASCs are now open and accepting new applicants. Submitting biometrics is a mandatory step in the visa application process.

United States: New Format for I-94 Numbers Beginning in May – Beginning in May, Customs and Border Protection will switch to alphanumeric I-94 numbers and will cease to use numerals only. The new I-94 numbers will continue to have 11 characters, but they will now be formatted as follows: 9 digits, followed by a letter as the 10th character, followed by a final digit as the 11th character. Numeric-only I-94 numbers will remain valid until the expiration date of the I-94 record.

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