Dec 23 2020

Weekly Immigration Update: December 17–23, 2020

Albania, Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, European Union, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal , Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Guinea, Republic of the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Zambia

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. Many EU and other countries have implemented temporary travel restrictions for entrants from the United Kingdom due to a new strain of the coronavirus. Visit Fragomen’s COVID-19 website for the latest immigration updates.
  • Brexit: Authorities in Croatia, Hungary and Italy 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 Belgium and the Czech Republic published further guidance.  Check this consolidated information page for more information.
  • Minimum salary requirements: France, Germany and Luxembourg published the 2021 minimum wage level. Check this consolidated information page for more information.
  • United Kingdom: The United Kingdom Visas and Immigration has released additional guidance for employers and foreign nationals planning for moves after the end of the Brexit transition period.
  • United States: Congress passed a government funding and economic stimulus package that would fund the federal government beyond December 28 and through FY 2021. The bill would also extend E-Verify for one year and the EB-5 Regional Center Program for six months, among other extensions, and would create a second stimulus check program for U.S. taxpayers, including eligible nonimmigrants. The legislation still requires President Trump’s signature to become law, and the President has publicly signaled his intent to veto the measure. According to the State Department's January 2021 Visa Bulletin, employment-based categories will continue to advance. USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment applications using the Final Action dates listed in the January Visa Bulletin. In connection with the COVID-19 emergency, ICE is extending its remote I-9 document inspection policy through January 31, 2021. CBP border restrictions permitting only essential travel across the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada land borders will be extended through January 21, 2021, and USCIS is extending its 60-day deadline extension policy through January 31, 2021.
  • Singapore: Effective December 23, all work pass holders must now update their residential address or mobile number within five days of any change, instead of 14 days.
  • Ireland: All immigration permissions—including Irish Residence Permit (IRP) cards, passport stamps and previously extended permissions—due to expire between January 21, 2021 and April 19, 2021, are being automatically renewed until April 20, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.



These items and other news from the Bahamas, Belarus, China, Germany, India, Iraq, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, and Taiwan follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, December 23, 2020

ICE Extends Interim COVID-19 Protections for Form I-9 Compliance Through January 31

  • Due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is extending its remote I-9 document inspection policy through January 31, 2021.
  • Eligible employers will not be required to review I-9 identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence until the interim policy expires or until three days after the COVID-19 emergency is over, whichever comes first. 
  • The relaxed policy only applies where company employees are working remotely due to the COVID-19 emergency. 

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, December 23, 2020

January 2021 Visa Bulletin: Advancement in Employment-based Categories; USCIS to Honor Final Action Dates for Employment-based Categories

  • EB-1 China and EB-1 India Final Action dates will advance by five months to September 1, 2019. 
  • EB-2 China will advance by one month to June 1, 2016, and EB-2 India will advance by one week to October 8, 2009.
  • EB-3 China will advance by six weeks to December 15, 2017, and EB-3 India will advance one week to March 22, 2010.
  • EB-5 China will remain at August 15, 2015, and EB-5 Vietnam will advance by two weeks to September 15, 2017.
  • USCIS has announced that it will honor Final Action dates for employment-based adjustment of status applications, for the first time in several months.



To view entire article, click here.

 

The Bahamas, December 23, 2020

Extended Access Travel Stay Permit Available for Remote Workers and Students

  • The Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) permit allows professionals and students to work and study remotely/online from the Bahamas for up to one year (extendable for up to three years).
  • Individuals applying to work remotely in the Bahamas must submit a job letter from their current employer abroad or proof of self-employment, if applicable; students must submit evidence of enrollment in an accredited learning institution and proof of sufficient funds to support themselves during their stay.
  • The permit does not allow gainful employment in the Bahamas.
  • Interested applicants can complete and submit the application online.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Philippines, December 23, 2020

Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card Registration Due March 1, 2021

  • Foreign nationals holding a valid Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card (ACR I-Card), such as long-term work visa holders in the Philippines, must appear at a Bureau of Immigration (BI) office by March 1, 2021 to file their Annual Report (AR).
  • They can also authorize their Fragomen immigration professional to file the AR on their behalf, which would waive the foreign national’s personal appearance requirement.
  • Although no additional fines and monetary penalties will be imposed for the non-filing or late filing of the AR due to a temporary suspension of fines, Fragomen recommends that the AR registration be completed before March 1, 2021 to avoid other adverse immigration impacts such as delays to renewal applications.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, Updated December 23, 2020

Spending Bill Passed by Congress Extends Expiring Immigration Programs, Broadens Recovery Rebate Eligibility for Nonimmigrants

  • The FY 2021 budget and economic stimulus legislation extends E-Verify for one year and the EB-5 Regional Center Program for six months, among other immigration extensions.
  • The legislation also creates a second pandemic recovery rebate program, with less stringent Social Security Number requirements for nonimmigrants.
  • The measure must be signed by President Trump to become effective. If an appropriations package or a stop-gap spending measure is not signed into law by midnight on December 28, 2020, government operations could be suspended and the E-Verify and EB-5 immigration programs, among others, could lapse until a spending agreement is reached and enacted.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Ireland, December 22, 2020

Further Blanket Extension of Immigration Permissions until April 20, 2021

  • Due to processing delays and closures arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to ensure that foreign nationals do not have a lapse in status, the government is automatically renewing all immigration permissions (including Irish Residence Permit (IRP) cards, passport stamps and previously extended permissions) due to expire between January 21, 2021 and April 19, 2021, until April 20, 2021 on the same basis as the existing permission.
  • In the interim, residents of Dublin should apply to renew their IRP cards through the new online system. Residents outside Dublin should continue to try to secure in-person appointments with their local registration office.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Singapore, December 22, 2020

Stricter Registration Requirements for Work Pass Holders

  • Effective December 23, 2020, all work pass holders, including Work Permit, S Pass and Employment Pass holders, must update their residential address or mobile number within five days of any change; previously, they had 14 days to make such changes.
  • To facilitate tracking of such changes, by December 23, 2020, all Work Permit and S Pass holders must download the FWMOMCare mobile application to register their details. Employment Pass holders must update their details through their existing account on the Employment Pass Online website. All pass holders will subsequently make all mobile and address changes within the new shortened timeframe through these respective platforms.
  • The shortened time frame will facilitate faster government communications with work pass holders, which is especially important for COVID-19 contact tracing purposes. Foreign nationals who fail to comply with the new requirements may have their work passes revoked.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Mexico, December 21, 2020

INM Offices in Mexico City and State of Mexico Closed Until January 10, 2021

  • As part of Mexico’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the National Immigration Institute has closed its Mexico City (CDMX) and State of Mexico (EDOMEX) branches until at least January 10, 2021.
  • As a result, employers and foreign nationals under the jurisdiction of the CDMX or EDOMEX branches will not be able to submit immigration applications and will not receive any adjudications on their applications, including issuance of exit/re-entry permits or residence cards, until the offices reopen.
  • Foreign nationals with pending immigration applications who require an exit/re-entry permit may be unable to travel internationally during the closures, except in urgent situations.
  • Additionally, foreign nationals and employers can expect processing delays of several additional weeks past regular processing times for all immigration applications in CDMX or EDOMEX, which may delay a foreign national’s work or payroll start date in Mexico.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

European Union/United Kingdom, December 21, 2020

Temporary Travel Restrictions Implemented for Travelers from the United Kingdom

  • Many EU and other countries have implemented temporary travel restrictions for entrants from the United Kingdom due to a new strain of coronavirus, currently including the Netherlands, France, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Canada and Ireland, among other countries.
  • While some restrictions are in place for an initial 48-hour period, these may be extended, and in some jurisdictions, these will last beyond the new year.
  • EU nationals may be prevented from arriving in the United Kingdom before the end of the transition period (23:00 GMT on December 31, 2020), hindering some travelers from qualifying for a right of residence under the EU Settlement Scheme.
  • This will also have an impact on UK nationals travelling to Europe to begin an assignment before the end of the year.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, December 21, 2020

U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico Land Border Restrictions Extended Through January 21

  • CBP border restrictions permitting only essential travel across the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada land borders will be extended through January 21, 2021. The restrictions do not affect air travel.
  • Essential travel includes travel by U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals traveling to work in the United States, among others.  
  • Visa Waiver and other business travelers may face additional scrutiny at the border. 
  • “Non-essential travel” at land borders is not permitted, which includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, December 18, 2020

USCIS Extends Existing COVID-19 Accommodations on RFEs, NOIDs, Appeals and Other Responses Through January 31, 2021

  • Due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, USCIS is extending its 60-day deadline extension policy through January 31, 2021.
  • Petitioners and applicants will have an additional 60 days to respond to requests for evidence, notices of intent to deny or revoke, notices of intent to terminate EB-5 regional investment centers and certain other notices dated between March 1 and January 31, 2021.
  • Employers and foreign nationals will also have 60, rather than 30, days to file any appeal or motion to reopen a USCIS decision that was issued between March 1 and January 31, 2021. 



To view entire article, click here.

 

United Kingdom, December 18, 2020

Stricter Post-Transition Period Rules for Entry with EU, EEA and Swiss National ID Cards and Work Authorization

  • The United Kingdom Visas and Immigration has released additional guidance for employers and foreign nationals planning for moves after the end of the Brexit transition period.
  • European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals seeking to enter the UK will generally be required to travel with their passports beginning October 1, 2021, except for those in limited enumerated circumstances for whom a national identity (ID) card will be sufficient for entry until December 31, 2025.
  • Sponsored migrants with pending visa applications will not be able to begin work until their visa application has been approved if their certificate of sponsorship was issued by the sponsor on or after January 1, 2021.
  • Employers and foreign nationals should ensure that their travel and work start dates align with the new guidance.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

China, December 18, 2020

Shenzhen Launches Integrated Online Platform for Work Permit and Residence Permit Applications

  • The Foreign Expert Bureau and Public Security Bureau of Shenzhen launched an integrated online platform, the Shenzhen Foreigner Integrated Service Management Platform, for employers to simultaneously submit foreign nationals’ Work Permit and Residence Permit applications, which are then processed and issued at the same time.
  • As a result, the total government processing times for the Work Permit and Residence Permit applications will be shortened to as few as seven business days, from a minimum of 15 business days, leading to earlier start dates for foreign nationals.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Other Weekly News Briefs

Belarus: Belarus Ratifies Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Visas – A treaty between Belarus and Russia stating that nationals of other countries or stateless persons who obtain a Russian or Belarussian visa will be able to travel to and transit through both countries by air or land, was ratified in Belarus on December 7, 2020. Russia has not yet ratified the treaty. The treaty is expected to take effect 30 days after it is ratified by both countries.

Germany: UK Nationals to Become National Visa Exempt – Effective January 1, 2021, UK nationals will be added to Germany’s 'Best Friends' country list, which will exempt them from having to obtain a national visa when applying for German residence, and will make them eligible to file immigration applications in Germany, instead of at a consular post. Additionally, under the ‘Best Friends’ policy, UK nationals’ assignments will not be restricted in duration, where these are normally limited to three-year periods. Under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, UK nationals were already visa-exempt for short-term trips (under 90 days per 180-day period) to the Schengen Area, including Germany.

India: OCI Card Re-Issuance Required for Some Travelers – According to an existing regulation, Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards must be re-issued each time a cardholder 20 years old or under or over 50 years old acquires a new passport. While travelers were previously allowed in practice to carry their old and new passports without having the OCI card re-issued, they must now travel with updated OCI cards reflecting the new passport number, according to increased enforcement of the existing rule. The deadline for affected OCI cardholders to obtain updated OCI cards has been extended to June 30, 2021, from December 31, 2020.

Iraq: Employer Compliance Requirements to be More Strictly Enforced – The Ministry of Labor (MOL) has started strictly enforcing compliance requirements for employers fulfilling work authorization and social security registration obligations. Specifically, employers must ensure that they complete the immigration process for foreign employees by obtaining a work permit from the MOL after the immigration authorities approved the multi-entry and exit visa. Additionally, employers must register their entire local and foreign workforce with the Social Security Office, or, alternatively, apply for a social security contribution payment exemption for qualified foreign workers. Employers that are non-compliant with the prescribed requirements will have difficulty obtaining approvals for visa applications, will be unable to procure tax clearance certificates, and may not receive payment from government entities with whom they are doing business. In the past, employer compliance requirements were not regularly enforced by Iraqi authorities, and many foreign workers were not registered with the MOL, resulting in employers avoiding detection for failing to meet nationalization requirements that require companies in Iraq to ensure that at least 50% of their employees are Iraqi nationals.

Luxembourg: Revised Posted Worker Directive Implemented – Effective December 22, 2020, Luxembourg has implemented the Revised Posted Worker Directive. The new legislation offers more detailed pay regulation; extends collective bargaining agreements to foreign workers transferred to work in Luxembourg within the same corporate, subcontractor group and hire-outs; sets forth local accommodation quality requirements for posted workers; expands employment condition requirements beyond 12 months of work, if beneficial to the posted worker; and requires employers to cover certain travel, accommodation and meal expenses for posted workers. Fragomen expects to see a change in the online notification requirements in the upcoming days. On another note, although Luxembourg missed the implementation deadline of the Directive by five months, Fragomen does not expect the European Commission to take further infringement actions.

Malta: New Citizenship by Investment Applications Now AvailableAs an update, Maltese authorities are now accepting citizenship by investment applications under the new Granting of Citizenship for Exceptional Services program. Under the program, applicants must have resided in Malta for 12 months and must make a government contribution of EUR 750,000; or have resided in Malta for 36 months and must make a government contribution of EUR 600,000. Additionally, applicants must invest EUR 700,000 in real estate (or pay EUR 16,000 for an annual lease) and maintain the property for at least five years; pay a EUR 15,000 government filing fee; make an exceptional investment and a charitable donation of EUR 10,000; and have a clean criminal and financial record. Further details on the eligibility requirements and application process are expected to be published in the next few weeks as authorities process the initial applications. Fragomen will report on related developments.

Poland: Stricter Rules for Dependents of Indian Nationals – In a recent policy change, dependents of Indian nationals may only apply for a dependent visa from abroad after the principal applicant has resided in Poland for two years. Dependents continue to require a family reunion residence permit before they can apply for a dependent visa. Under the previous policy, Indian national principal applicants could immediately sponsor their eligible dependents. As an exception, dependents of Indian nationals with a Blue Card can immediately apply for a dependent visa if they possess a family reunion residence permit and also do not need to fulfill the two-year residence requirement. Polish residence permit processing times are lengthy at four to 17 months.

Taiwan: Ecuador and Costa Rica Added to List of Recognized Countries for Same-Sex Marriages – Taiwan has expanded the list of countries from which same-sex marriages are recognized for purposes of including dependent family members in the Work Permit application. Ecuador and Costa Rica have been added to the list, which now totals 28 recognized countries. Foreign nationals with Work Permits in Taiwan may include same-sex spouses as dependents, provided both spouses are nationals of recognized countries, were married in one of the spouse’s countries of nationality and the marriage was registered in the other spouse’s country of nationality.

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