Dec 21 2018

Weekly Immigration Update: December 14 - 20, 2018

Austria, China, Ecuador, European Union, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, Qatar, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States

In United States immigration news this week, as fiscal year 2019 budget negotiations continue, a partial federal government shutdown remains possible if a spending agreement is not reached by midnight on December 21. If a partial shutdown occurs, immigration benefits processing at the Department of Labor, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection and U.S. consulates should continue, while E-Verify, EB-5 Regional Center, and some other USCIS immigration programs would expire.

Also in the United States, USCIS indicated it will accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is current for filing under the State Department's January Visa Bulletin.

The United Kingdom published a White Paper detailing plans for its post-Brexit UK immigration system, which is expected to be implemented starting January 1, 2021. The White Paper proposes a single, skills-based immigration system, focused on talent and expertise rather than country of origin. Notably, the White Paper proposes to remove quotas and labour market testing for Tier 2 (General) Visa applications.

Germany approved a draft bill, pending parliamentary review, to reform skilled labor migration processes and ease medium-skilled migration. Austria has increased enforcement of post-arrival salary checks on foreign workers and social security compliance. In France, effective January 1, 2019, the monthly minimum wage will increase by 1.8 percent.

These items and other news from Austria, China, Ecuador, the European Union, Germany, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, December 18, 2018

Immigration Impact of Potential Partial Government Shutdown

  • If a partial government shutdown occurs after December 21, immigration benefits processing at DOL, USCIS, CBP and U.S. consulates should continue.
  • E-Verify, EB-5 Regional Center, and some other USCIS immigration programs would expire if Congress fails to reach a budget agreement in time.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, December 14, 2018

January Visa Bulletin Update - USCIS to Honor Employment-Based Filing Dates Next Month

  • In January, USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Dates for Filing listed in the State Department's January Visa Bulletin.
  • The USCIS decision to honor the Dates for Filing chart means that some foreign nationals with priority dates that are backlogged may still submit green card applications in January.

To view entire article, click here.


France, December 20, 2018

Minimum Wage Level to Increase

Effective January 1, 2019, the monthly minimum wage in France will increase to EUR 1,525.50, up 1.8 percent from last year. This does not directly affect most French work authorization types, but does impact some Talent Passport categories, as the minimum salary requirements for those categories are linked to the minimum wage. The government is expected to publish the new threshold for the EU Blue Card between April and May 2019.

To view entire article, click here.


Ireland, December 20, 2018

Government Clarifies Stamp 4 Status Applicants’ Residence and Work Rights and Recommends New Filing Deadline Due to Processing Delays

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland has announced that it is processing Stamp 4 support letters slower than usual as a result of the increased volume in employment permit applications. As a result of the slower processing:

  • The Department has clarified that foreign nationals with a pending Stamp 4 status application can reside and work in Ireland once they have completed 20 months under their Critical Skills Employment Permit; and
  • The Department is recommending that Critical Skills Employment Permit holders apply for a Stamp 4 letter of support four months before they need the letter, once they have completed 20 months on their Critical Skills Employment Permit. 

This only applies to Stamp 4 status applications made on the basis of a Critical Skills Employment Permit.

To view entire article, click here.


Mexico, December 19, 2018

Immigration Offices to Remain Open Through Holidays

The Mexican National Immigration Institute unexpectedly announced today that it will only be closed December 25, 2018 and January 1, 2019, contrary to its previous reports and past years' practices where the INM offices would suspend operations for several days. Foreign nationals should be able to submit immigration applications during the Institute's operating hours but should expect delays due to reduced staff. Notably, this mostly impacts foreign nationals in Mexico with nearly-expired visas, since they must now file their renewal applications by January 2 (instead of by January 7) due to the Department's new schedule.

To view entire article, click here.


Germany, December 19, 2018

Draft Bill Proposes to Reform Labor Migration Processes and Ease Medium-Skilled Migration

The German federal government has approved a draft bill to reform skilled labor migration to Germany that would notably:

  • Expand eligibility for work authorization for applicants with vocational degrees and professional experience;
  • Introduce new centralized state-level agencies to streamline immigration processing for skilled migrants; and
  • Increase immigration compliance requirements for employers.

The draft bill will be submitted to parliament for review in the coming weeks and is expected to be adopted by parliament by May 2019. Fragomen expects parliament to amend the draft on some points in the coming months.

To view entire article, click here.


United Kingdom, December 19, 2018

White Paper on Post-Brexit Immigration Published

The UK government published a White Paper detailing plans for the post-Brexit UK immigration system, which is expected to be implemented starting January 1, 2021. The White Paper proposes a single, skills-based immigration system, focused on talent and expertise rather than country of origin. Notably, the White Paper proposes to remove quotas and labour market testing for Tier 2 (General) Visa applications.

To view entire article, click here.


Austria, December 19, 2018

Salary and Social Security Compliance Enforcement Increased

The Austrian Labor Authority is increasing the frequency of its post-arrival salary checks on foreign workers after their first month of work in Austria. The Labor Authority can ultimately request the withdrawal of a foreign worker's work permit if it finds discrepancies between the salary documents and the work permit application materials. To prevent work permit withdrawal, employers should ensure information in the work permit application materials matches the payroll information. Additionally, employers should notify the Labor Authority if there are changes in compensation packages or sources of payroll, and ensure social security coverage from the first day of work, as failure to comply with these rules may also result in permit cancellation or other penalties.

To view entire article, click here.


Weekly News Briefs

United States: Pending Advance Parole Renewals and Travel – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its website to address international travel and pending Form I-131 Advance Parole renewal applications. The "Special Instructions" section of the Form I-131 webpage now states that if an applicant travels internationally with a valid advance parole while a renewal I-131 application is pending, the renewal application should be unaffected as long as the current advance parole document remains valid for the entire duration of the applicant's time abroad.  If the advance parole document expires while the applicant is abroad, the pending I-131 application will be deemed abandoned and denied. Previously, USCIS had been denying all renewal applications as abandoned when an applicant traveled internationally. So far, there is no official policy guidance available on the issue.

Austria: Descendants of Holocaust Victims Likely to Become Eligible for Citizenship – Based on a recent legislative proposal, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of former Austrian citizens who fled Austria before May 9, 1945 due to Nazi persecution would be entitled to apply for Austrian citizenship while maintaining their current foreign nationality. This would offer special advantages under Austrian law, which generally does not allow dual citizenship. Though the proposal is likely to be implemented in 2019, the government has not yet set out an implementation plan.

China: Option to Cancel Work Permit Notification Letter Now Available Online – Employers in China can now cancel their foreign workers’ Work Permit Notification Letter (WPNL) using the online work permit application system. The WPNL is required before a foreign worker can apply for a Work Permit. With this new function, employers can immediately reapply for a new WPNL if any of their employees’ information changes, rather than waiting three months for the current WPNL to expire, as was previously required. The change will speed up the entry time for foreign workers whose personal or work-related information changes after they submitted their WPNL application. The new process also means that foreign employees with a WPNL who do not enter China to apply for work permit (for example, if an assignment is cancelled after the WPNL is issued) can cancel their WPNL online. Implementation details of this new function may vary by city in China.  Foreign nationals impacted by this change should contact their Fragomen professional for case-specific advice.

Ecuador: Police Records Requirement Clarified – Ecuadorian authorities have clarified that applicants for all visa types can only submit police records from their country of residence for the past five years. Previously, authorities accepted police records from the foreign national's country of origin or the country of residence for the past five years. MERCOSUR permanent resident applicants are still not required to submit police records with their visa applications.

European Union: Austria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania Implement Students and Researchers DirectiveAs an update, Austria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania have now implemented the EU Students and Researchers Directive, which harmonizes and simplifies rules on stay, labor market access and intra-EU mobility for qualified researchers, students and trainees. Implementing legislation is still pending with parliament in the Czech Republic. The following nine countries have yet to implement the Directive: Belgium (currently scheduled for implementation around May 2019), Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden (scheduled for implementation on July 1, 2019). Fragomen will continue to monitor developments and will keep clients informed.

Germany: Court Rules that Document Checks on Coach Travel Prohibited – The EU Court of Justice has ruled that the Schengen Borders Code precludes Germany from requiring coach transport operators offering cross-border travel to check the passports and residence permits of passengers entering or leaving Germany. The court explained that such checks constitute border checks within the Schengen area, and are therefore prohibited. Travelers on coach travel transportation (such as buses and trains) are therefore not subject to document checks by the operators while they travel into or out of Germany.

India: In-Person Appearance for In-Country Applications in Pune Now Required – Based on Fragomen's practical experience, immigration officers have been conducting checks at the Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) in Pune (City and Rural) to verify that foreign nationals are residing in India at the address declared on their application form. Immigration officers have been calling applicants on their mobile phone to inform them to visit the FRO with the requested documentation to complete a verification process. The appearance takes two to three hours, depending on the volume of visitors. After the verification, the officer uploads a report on the e-Foreigner's Regional Registration Office (FRRO) portal that confirms that the foreign national resides in India at the registered address. A senior immigration officer reviews the report in the process of approving the in-country application.

Kenya: Policy Reminders/Changes – According to media reports, the Cabinet Secretary has reiterated the government’s stance on exercising higher scrutiny over foreign nationals applying for work permits for positions that could be filled by local workers. Though the government has not provided more specific information about this policy, Fragomen’s analysis is that work permits will only be issued to highly-skilled foreign nationals based on a discretionary, case-by-case assessment.

Furthermore, based on an unpublished government statement, foreign nationals travelling to Kenya requiring a Visitor’s Pass can no longer apply for a 90-day visa, and must instead apply for a 30-day visa and request an extension in country.

Lastly, also based on an unpublished government statement, the date of issuance for the short-term work authorization (Special Pass) is now effective from the date of payment of the government fee, and no longer from the date of issuance/approval. As the processing time from payment to issuance can take up to 14 days, this will result in foreign nationals having less time allocated to remain in Kenya under their work authorization.

Netherlands: VFS to Expand Visa Filing Locations – The private visa services provider VFS (Visa Facilitation Service) Global will expand its visa filing services for the Netherlands, adding more filing locations through its network; allowing application forms to be filled in through an online tool instead of the current paper forms; and offering long-term (D Visa or authorization for temporary stay - MVV) visa applications and civic integration exams, where these were not included in its global service scope before. Processing times will not be affected as Dutch consular posts and/or regional back offices will continue processing applications. The changes will be implemented in regional phases over the course of 2019. No disruptions are expected during the transition, as for instance existing appointments will be taken into account during the implementation.

New Zealand: Consultation Period Through March 2019 on Proposed Policy Changes – New Zealand's government is opening a public consultation period through March 18, 2019 for employers and public and private organizations to provide their input of proposed immigration system changes. The government is proposing to simplify the employer-sponsored temporary work visas system (including a new assessment framework that puts more responsibility on the employers rather than the applicant) and a new skills shortage list for various sectors that would better reflect regional skill shortages, among other changes. The government is expected to report on its final decision by mid-2019. More information is available on the government website.

Nigeria: Audits in the Oil and Gas Sector – The Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) has commenced a compliance audit in the oil and gas sector focusing on expatriate quota utilization and succession plan implementation. The audit is not specific to any areas and all companies are urged to ensure that they are compliant in terms of the quota, and that they have implemented a succession plan where applicable. Companies found to be noncompliant will be liable for a fine of 5% of the project sum for each instance of noncompliance. The audits are likely to continue into 2019.

Oman: Increased Government Fees for Medical Fitness Certificates Forthcoming – Effective February 2019, government fees for the issuance of medical fitness certificates for foreign nationals seeking residence in Oman will increase to OMR 30 from OMR 10, according to an announcement from the Ministry of Health. Private clinics are also expected to increase their fees for conducting medical tests; currently, their fee is approximately OMR 20. Foreign nationals seeking employment and residence in Oman are subject to a medical examination before their residence permits are granted. Medical examinations are available through either government licensed practitioners or private clinics.

Switzerland: Croatian Nationals Remain Subject to Labor Market Testing – Switzerland recently extended the requirements for Croatian nationals to be subject to full labor market testing, which is not required for EU/European Economic Area (EEA) nationals, and to be subject to a specific quota instead of the general EU/EEA quota. These requirements will apply through December 31, 2021.

Ukraine: Residence Card Printing Issues Resolved – The technical issues reported in October that prevented temporary residence cards from being printed and issued are now mostly resolved. Applicants can once again collect their residence card within 21-42 calendar days from the date of filing and should no longer face travel restrictions while waiting for their residence cards.

Ukraine/Qatar: 90-Day Visa Waiver for Business and Tourism – Qatari business visitors and tourists can now travel to Ukraine for up to 90 days in a 180-day period without having to obtain a visa, and vice versa. Previously, Qatari business visitors and tourists had to obtain a short-term visa to travel to Ukraine, among other travel documents. Ukrainian nationals, who previously required a pre-arranged visa for travel to Qatar, can now enter without a visa if travelling as tourists. To conduct business in Qatar, Ukrainian passport holders must obtain the respective government authorization.

Ukraine: Visa-on-Arrival to be Cancelled – Effective January 1, 2019, business visitors and tourists travelling to Ukraine will no longer be able to obtain a visa-on-arrival at the airport. Travellers will instead need to apply for an E-visa at most three months before and not later than 10 business days before traveling to Ukraine. Following online registration and application, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will process the application within nine business days and sends the visa to the traveler by email. The traveler must print it and carry it during their stay in the Ukraine. The E-visa is valid for 30 days from the issuance date. Effective January 1, 2019, the basic consular fee for E-visas will increase to USD 85, up from USD 65.

Ukraine: Minimum Salary Level Confirmed – The Ukraine parliament has confirmed that the gross monthly salary requirement for foreign workers will be UAH 41,730, up 12 percent from 2018, as of January 1, 2019. Graduates of the top-100 universities; software developers working at information technology companies; workers in creative professions, creating copyright objects; and founders, shareholders, and/or ultimate beneficiary owners of companies are still not subject to the high threshold.

United Kingdom: Draft Bill Presented to Parliament to Enable Brexit Immigration and Related Reforms – The UK government presented a draft Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill before UK Parliament. The Bill provides the legal framework for the future immigration system once the UK leaves the European Union. It ends free movement and protects the status of Irish citizens in UK immigration law. The bill will also enable changes to be made to the current rules for social security coordination, maintaining consistency between the future immigration system and the United Kingdom’s future arrangements on social security. The UK Parliament must approve the draft before it can be implemented as UK law. Fragomen will report on developments.

United Kingdom/European Union: Public Pilot of EU Registration Service – The EU Settlement Scheme, the UK registration service for EU nationals, will open to EU nationals with valid EU passports on January 21, 2019. The Scheme will also be open to non-EU nationals holding a valid EEA biometric residence card. Three prior pilots were limited to categories of applicants. The pilot seeks to ensure that the registration system will operate effectively when fully open in March 2019.  Eligible applicants benefit from early registration, avoiding the anticipated surge in applications after March 2019. Foreign nationals affected by Brexit can access Fragomen's dedicated Brexit page for more information.


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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.