Dec 14 2018

Weekly Immigration Update: December 7 - 13, 2018

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, European Union, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal , Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Congo, Republic of Guinea, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Republic of the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis , Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, The Bahamas, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia , Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia

In United States immigration news this week, employers should prepare in advance for the upcoming FY 2020 H-1B cap season, notwithstanding a recent USCIS proposal to change cap filing procedures. Though USCIS aims to implement some elements of its proposal by April 1, 2019, it is not yet clear whether the agency will have its streamlined cap registration process in place in time.

Also in the United States, there will be no movement in cutoff dates for EB-2 India and EB-3 China and India, and a modest EB-1 advancement, according to the State Department’s January 2019 Visa Bulletin. The U.S. Social Security Administration will soon resume sending notices to employers when Social Security Number information reported for one or more employees does not match the agency's records.

In Canada, the Quebec government has confirmed its goal of welcoming 40,000 immigrants in 2019, down 24 percent from its 2018 goal.

The European Court of Justice ruled that the United Kingdom may unilaterally revoke its March 29, 2017 notification to leave the European Union. The UK Home Office has confirmed that the Tier 1 (Investor) Visa category is open for new applications despite last week's announcement that the category would be temporarily suspended. Austria has proposed a more restrictive eligibility criteria for some Red-White-Red Card employees.

China is expanding its transit visa exemption to more cities starting January 1, 2019. Effective April 1, 2019, Singapore will increase administrative fees for most Work Pass-related applications.

During the holiday season and into the new year, many government offices worldwide will experience processing delays for work permits, residence permits and visas. 

These items and other news from Australia, Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Kuwait, Netherlands, Panama, Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, United Arab Emirates, 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 13, 2018

January 2019 Visa Bulletin: No Movement in Cutoff Dates for EB-2 India and EB-3 China and India; Modest EB-1 Advancement

  • EB-2 will remain current for most countries except for China, which will advance by one month, to August 1, 2015, and India, which will remain at April 1, 2009.    
  • The EB-3 subcategory for Professionals and Skilled Workers will remain current for most countries, though China and India backlogs will remain unchanged.
  • EB-1 will advance by three months for most countries to October 1, 2017; China and India will advance to December 15, 2016.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, December 12, 2018

Trump Administration to Resume Social Security Mismatch Letters to Employers

  • In Spring 2019, the Social Security Administration will resume sending notices to employers when Social Security Number information reported for one or more employees does not match the agency's records.
  • Though a mismatch notice does not necessarily mean that an employee lacks work authorization, employers must take prompt action and have adequate procedures in place to minimize the risk of immigration-related penalties.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, December 11, 2018

Preparing for the FY 2020 H-1B Cap Amid Potential Changes

  • Employers should prepare in advance for the upcoming H-1B cap season, notwithstanding a recent USCIS proposal to change cap filing procedures.
  • Though USCIS aims to implement some elements of its proposal by April 1, 2019, it is not yet clear whether the agency will have its streamlined cap registration process in place in time.
  • If a new filing system is in place for the upcoming season, filing windows are expected to be short and advance preparation will be critical.

To view entire article, click here.


Poland, December 13, 2018

Minimum Salary Level Increased

Effective November 1, 2018, the minimum monthly salary for intracompany transferees in Poland has increased an average of 6.1 percent from last year. Thresholds for locally-hired foreign workers are scheduled to increase by 7 percent effective January 1, 2019. Thresholds for EU Blue Card applicants are due to change in February 2019, but the new thresholds have not yet been announced. 

To view entire article, click here.


Costa Rica, December 13, 2018

Holiday Travel Recommendations

Foreign nationals and Costa Rican nationals traveling to or from Costa Rica during the holidays should ensure that the following documents are up to date before they depart:

  • Passport, valid for the proper amount of time past their entry date;
  • Yellow fever vaccination certificate, if applicable; and
  • Travel permit for children, if applicable.

Foreign nationals should also be aware that government office closures between December 21, 2018 and January 7, 2019 may impact their ability to obtain these documents during these dates.

To view entire article, click here.


Austria, December 12, 2018

More Restrictive Eligibility Criteria for Some Red-White-Red Card Employees Proposed

A draft law would change eligibility criteria for key employees under the Austrian Red-White-Red Card, awarding more points to relevant work experience and language skills, fewer points to young workers, and requiring more points overall to qualify under the points-based system. Young applicants with limited work experience would be less likely to qualify for a permit under the new rules, unless they have considerable language skills. The draft law is expected to be passed by parliament without significant changes. Affected applicants should consult an immigration professional to discuss their eligibility under the new system and explore alternatives. 

To view entire article, click here.


India, December 12, 2018

Late Filing Fines Significantly Increased for In-Country Registration

The Foreigners' Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) and Foreigners' Registration Offices (FRO) in India have increased the government fee for residence registration applications filed beyond the 14-day deadline. Applicants should ensure they gather their documents for their service provider to complete registration on their behalf, if applicable, in due time.

To view entire article, click here.


China, December 12, 2018

Transit Visa Exemption to be Expanded

The visa exemption that allows travelers to pass through China for less than 144 hours will be expanded to the cities of Chengdu, Kunming, Qingdao, Wuhan and Xiamen starting January 1, 2019. The policy requires that travelers hold valid travel documents and a connecting flight to a third country.

To view entire article, click here.


Australia, December 11, 2018

Publication of Sanctioned Employers, Expanded Data Access Effective December 13

Starting December 13, 2018, the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) can publish information on Australian employers who have been sanctioned for breaching sponsorship obligations on or after March 18, 2015. Additionally, the Department's ability to access the data of many foreign nationals through the collection of tax file numbers will allow for enhanced identification of visa holders who have breached their visa conditions, and will facilitate other immigration compliance checks.

To view entire article, click here.


Canada, December 11, 2018

Quebec’s 2019 Immigration Plan Includes Reduced Number of Immigrants

The Quebec government has confirmed its goal of welcoming 40,000 immigrants in 2019, down 24 percent from 2018's goal. This reduction is attributed to the commitment of the Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion to integrate immigrants into Quebec's culture. It is not yet clear how the Quebec government will restrict immigration numbers based on this proposed plan. Foreign nationals in one of the categories with projected goals should take the reduced numbers into account when deciding to apply for immigration status in Quebec as opposed to applying for immigration status based on federal rules or in other provinces that increased immigration projections for 2019.

To view entire article, click here.


United Kingdom, December 11, 2018

Tier 1 Investor Visa Category Remains Open Despite Recent Suspension Announcement

The UK Home Office has confirmed that the Tier 1 (Investor) Visa category is currently open for new applications despite last week's announcement by the Immigration Minister that the category would be temporarily suspended as of midnight December 6, 2018. 

To view entire article, click here.


Singapore, December 11, 2018

Higher Government Fees for Work Pass-Related Applications Forthcoming

The Ministry of Manpower in Singapore announced that effective April 1, 2019, it will increase administrative fees for Employment Passes, S Passes, Work Permits and other work passes, including derivative applications such as Dependant's Passes and Long-Term Visit Passes.

To view entire article, click here.


Worldwide, December 10, 2018

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 2019 should contact their immigration service provider to discuss the impact of holiday closures on their specific circumstances.

To view entire article, click here.


European Union/United Kingdom, December 10, 2018

Court Finds United Kingdom Can Remain in European Union

In a ruling published December 10, 2018, the European Court of Justice decided that the United Kingdom may unilaterally revoke its March 29, 2017 notification to leave the European Union. The ruling comes ahead of the UK Parliament's vote on the draft Withdrawal Agreement, initially scheduled for December 11, 2018 but currently postponed to an unknown date.

To view entire article, click here.


Weekly News Briefs

United States: OIG Report on CBP Search of Electronic Devices – The DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) searches of electronic devices at ports of entry between April 2016 and July 2017. OIG identified issues with CBP's adherence to its own standard operating procedures (SOPs), including inadequate search supervision and documentation, failure to disconnect a device during a search, and insufficient management of technology to ensure data security in advanced device searches.   

OIG provided five recommendations to improve CBP's device search practices. CBP has concurred on all, and has begun implementation of one, the procedures to ensure devices are disabled from data connections during a search. CBP must submit evidence of its compliance with all recommendations in a formal submission to the OIG.

A CBP officer may search a traveler's electronic device during secondary inspection to determine admissibility and identify any violations of law.

  • In FY2017, CBP searched the electronic devices of .007 percent of inbound travelers (more than 29,000 out of 397 million travelers).
  • In FY2016, CBP searched the devices of an estimated .005 percent of inbound travelers (18,400 out of 390 million travelers).

This device search audit was the first of three annual OIG audits required by the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015.

United States: H-2B Cap Reached for First Half of FY 2018 – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reports that as of December 6, 2018, the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the first half of fiscal year (FY) 2019 has been reached.

December 6, 2018 was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before April 1, 2019. The number of beneficiaries USCIS had received petitions for surpassed the total number of H-2B visas available for the H-2B cap for the first half of FY 2019. Therefore, on December 11, 2018, USCIS conducted a lottery to randomly select petitions received on December 6. As a result, USCIS assigned all petitions selected in the lottery the receipt date of December 11. Premium processing service for petitions selected in the lottery also began on that date.

USCIS continues to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap.

The cap for each half-year is 33,000, but USCIS accepts filings in excess of the cap because some cases will be denied or withdrawn and because employers may ultimately employ fewer H-2B beneficiaries than reflected in their petitions.

Australia: Reminder on Obligation to Notify Government of Failure to Commence Employment – As a reminder, on March 18, 2018, a new obligation came into effect requiring sponsors in Australia to notify the Department of Home Affairs within 28 days when a Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa holder fails to commence employment with the sponsor on the agreed commencement date. This obligation is linked to prescribed refund provisions allowing sponsors to request a refund of the Skilling Australians Fund levy where a TSS visa holder has failed to commence employment in the nominated position. This refund is only available where the sponsor has made the appropriate notification to the Department.

Costa Rica: Same-Sex Marriage to be Legalized – Due to a resolution issued by the Constitutional Chamber of the Costa Rican Supreme Court, the Costa Rican Congress now has until mid-year in 2020 to pass a law legalizing same sex marriage, at which time all impacted government entities are expected to implement related regulations. In preparation for the new law, the Costa Rican Immigration Department – DGME – issued a new related ruling for public consultation that may impact married same-sex spouses or unmarried same-sex partners whose relationship is considered legal in their country of origin. Fragomen will issue an update as the effective date of the law approaches.

Equatorial Guinea: Delays Expected for Work Permit Issuance – Further to an order that required companies to re-apply for work permits for all foreign nationals in their employ by December 14, 2018, the authorities in Equatorial Guinea have announced that there will be delays in issuing work permits. The extent of the delays is unclear. Employers should ensure that foreign nationals awaiting the outcome of their work permit extend the validity of their business visas so that they are legal in the country.

European Union: Schengen Information System Amendments Formally Adopted – The amendments to the Schengen Information System (SIS) are now formally adopted by the European Union. The SIS is an electronic database supporting external border control and law enforcement by registering persons refused entry or stay; persons wanted for arrest or to assist with a judicial procedure; and objects wanted for checks or seizure, among others. The amendments include more types of alerts to authorities (on persons who must return to their home country, children at risk of abduction, and suspects of serious crimes and terrorism, among others) and would allow Europol and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency to access the database going forward. The amendments can take effect after a three-year transition period ending on December 28, 2021, provided that further legal and technical changes are completed by that time. Fragomen will monitor and report on developments.

Indonesia: More Cities Designated as Official Locations for Filing Limited Stay Visa Applications – The Directorate General of Immigration (DGI) announced recently that Limited Stay Visa (VITAS) applications may be now be filed in 65 designated cities worldwide. This is a significant increase from the previous 22 cities designated by the DGI last August. The additional locations give more flexibility to applicants, minimizing the need to travel and reducing the overall cost of obtaining work authorization in Indonesia. More cities are expected to be added in the future. For now, Work Permit applicants can file their VITAS applications in the following designated cities: Ankara, Athens, Bandar Seri Begawan, Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Bern, Budapest, Cairo, Canberra, Chicago, Colombo, Darwin, Davao City, Den Haag, Dili, Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Helsinki, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Houston, Jeddah, Johor Bahru, Khartoum, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Kuwait, Los Angeles, Manama, Manila, Marseille, Melbourne, Mexico City, Mumbai, Muscat, Nairobi, New York, Osaka, Oslo, Ottawa, Paris, Penang, Perth, Phnom Penh, Praha, Rabat, Riyadh, Rome, San Francisco, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei, Tawau, Tokyo, Toronto, Tunis, Vancouver, Washington, Wellington and Yangon.

Ireland: Eligibility for Online Passport Renewal Expanded – Due to a recent change of policy, effectively all applicants can now apply for renewal of Irish passports online, where this was not possible before. Specifically, passport renewals for children are now possible online, and geographical limitations in filing passport renewal applications for adults have been eliminated. Online renewal offers faster processing and lower fees than other application methods.

Ireland: Employment Permit Processing Times Decrease - Government processing times for employment permits in Ireland have decreased slightly. Processing times are now five to six weeks for Trusted Partner Initiative applications and 12-13 weeks for standard applications, down from seven and 14 weeks, respectively. Additionally, officials from the Department of Business and Immigration (DBEI) – the government department responsible for processing employment permit applications in Ireland – has confirmed that new measures were implemented to reduce current waiting times. These measures will stay in place until processing times reduce further. Foreign workers should be able to start working in Ireland more quickly. Note however that the above-mentioned times are averages, and that individual cases may still take longer to process.

Government processing times for employment permit applications first increased in June this year, and have worsened further since August. DBEI responded to employers’ concerns by taking steps to remedy the issue. Fragomen will continue to monitor processing times and will report on relevant developments as they occur.

Kuwait: Mandatory Health Insurance Forthcoming for Employees and Visitors – The National Assembly of Kuwait approved a draft law mandating that health insurance coverage must be provided to all foreign residents and visitors in the country. Once the new law is ratified, proof of insurance is expected to be compulsory for the issuance of employment and residence permits as well as for the approval of visitor visas; however, it is not clear when the ratification process will be complete.

Netherlands: Inspections on Recognized Sponsors Continue As announced in February, in a joint effort with the Dutch labour authorities, the Dutch Immigration Authority (IND) continues to conduct immigration inspections at recognized sponsor companies. The IND schedules appointments for the inspections ahead of time and selects locations at random. During the inspection, the focus is on compliance with the core duties of recognized sponsors: timely notification of relevant changes, detailed and updated record keeping and responsible recruitment. The IND may impose sanctions if it finds significant issues during inspections. For serious breaches, the IND may withdraw recognized sponsor status. Recognized sponsors are advised to ensure that their employment records are compliant.

Panama: Permanent Residence to be Available for SEM Employees – As of January 1, 2019, foreign nationals who have held a SEM visa in Panama for at least five years will be eligible to apply for  permanent residence while continuing to work for an employer under an SEM visa, as long as they can prove an investment in in real estate in the amount of at least USD 150,000 or a fixed-term deposit in Panama. Currently, foreign nationals seeking permanent residence must stop working for the company that hired them under an SEM visa.

Spain: Delays Due to Limited Appointment Availability in Barcelona – Due to limited appointment availability at the Barcelona Police Station, all processes requiring an in-person police appointment are delayed by several weeks. Affected processes include creation of residence cards for all permit types and re-entry permits for applicants seeking to travel while renewal applications are in progress. Residence card applications under the Entrepreneurs Act can exceptionally be filed in Madrid to remedy the delays, for which the applicant must present proof of entry to Spain. Applicants may face travel restrictions due to the delays in residence cards and re-entry permits. Fragomen advises affected foreign nationals to schedule appointments as soon as possible, and to consult an immigration professional in case of travel needs.

Trinidad and Tobago: Increasing Work Permit Renewal Application Delays – The processing time for work permit renewals by the Ministry of National Security continues to increase. Renewal processes are now taking approximately 11 weeks or more to be approved. Foreign nationals should begin their renewal process at least 120 days before their work permit expires to allow enough time to gather all documents and process the application.

Additionally, processes at the Trinidadian immigration department that usually take two to three hours are now taking up to five hours. Applicants should be prepared to either spend the entire morning at the immigration department, or to return another day if the immigration officer postpones the appointment. This impacts extension of stay and passport endorsement applicants.

United Arab Emirates: Immigration Amnesty Extended – The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship announced that amnesty for illegal residents in the United Arab Emirates will be further extended until December 31, 2018. Previously, after an extension of the initial end date, the program was set to conclude at the beginning of December. The amnesty initiative, called “Protect Yourself by Modifying Your Status”, allows foreign nationals to regularize their status by either leaving the United Arab Emirates without paying fines or by changing their sponsorship in the country.

United Kingdom: Immigration Health Surcharge Could Double by End of 2018As an update, the immigration health surcharge is scheduled to double to GBP 400 per foreign national applicant per year by the end of the year. The new rate for students or Youth Mobility Scheme applicants will be GBP 300. Applicants must pay the surcharge for stays over six months. Payment allows applicants to access UK public healthcare with the same rights as UK nationals.

United Kingdom: Seasonal Worker Pilot in Effect, Among Other Changes – A recent update to UK immigration rules will implement the seasonal worker permit pilot program under the Tier 5 Temporary Worker route on January 10, 2019, in spite of being  originally scheduled to start in the second quarter of 2019. This program will offer a permit option for non-EU seasonal agricultural workers, who currently have no tailored permit option in the United Kingdom. Applicants must be over 18 and must be sponsored by an authorized UK agency to be eligible for a six-month visa. Additionally, as of January 10, eligible architects will qualify for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. Eligibility for the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category was previously widened to include the fashion industry and more film and television awards in June.

In a smaller change also effective January 10, only statutory unpaid absence from work (such as maternity or paternity leave, among others) will be permitted for Tier 2 and 5 permit holders. As a result, permit holders may risk impacting their permit status when using company-specific leave policies that are more generous than the statutory minimum. Tier 2 and 5 permit holders will however be allowed to engage in lawful strike action without risking their permit status.


Global Immigration News Links

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