Feb 18 2021

Weekly Immigration Update: February 12–18, 2021

Algeria, Angola, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Canada, Chad, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, European Union, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Republic of the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, The Bahamas, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay

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. Visit Fragomen’s COVID-19 website for the latest immigration updates.
  • United States: President Biden’s immigration reform bill was formally introduced to Congress this week. Its prospects for passing Congress and becoming law remain unclear.
  • Canada: On February 13, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada invited an unprecedented number of candidates from the Canadian Experience Class pool to apply for permanent residence.
  • Seychelles: Effective immediately, the Seychelles government has revised the Gainful Occupation Permit framework to encourage local workers to access the labor market during the country’s economic recovery.
  • South Africa: South African authorities have proposed additional professions to the list of critical skills – holders of which can apply for a Critical Skills Visa, a work permit valid for up to five years. The public can participate in the consultation process, which will end on March 31.


These items and other news from Ecuador, European Union, Greece, Iraqi Kurdistan, Kenya, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, February 18, 2021

President Biden’s Immigration Reform Proposal Introduced in Congress

  • The comprehensive immigration legislation would provide a pathway to permanent residence and citizenship for certain undocumented foreign nationals who were present in the United States on January 1, 2021 as well those holding DACA, TPS or H-2A status who meet the presence requirement.
  • The bill also contains provisions aimed at clearing the employment-based and family-based green card backlogs to speed the green card process, as well as expanded benefits for certain nonimmigrants seeking permanent residence.
  • Prospects for the bill passing Congress and becoming law remain unclear. It is likely to be subject to significant debate and potential revisions.

To view entire article, click here.


South Africa, February 18, 2021

Proposed List of Critical Skills Released for Consultation

  • South African authorities have proposed adding professions to the list of critical skills.
  • Once the list is published, foreign nationals with such skills can apply for a Critical Skills Visa, a work permit valid for up to five years.
  • The public is now invited to participate in the consultation process, which will end on March 31, 2021.


To view entire article, click here.


Seychelles, February 18, 2021

Gainful Occupation Permit Framework Revised

Seychelles authorities revised the framework for the Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP) to increase local workers’ access to the labor market during unprecedented unemployment levels. Key policy changes include:

  • Enforcement of labor market testing for GOP applications;
  • A new requirement for employers to submit a list of job vacancies for which they intend to recruit foreign workers to the Department of Employment for verification; and
  • The elimination of COVID-19-related concessions, such as the automatic extension of GOPs.

The rules are effective immediately.

To view entire article, click here.


Canada, February 16, 2021

Unprecedented Express Entry Draw

  • On February 13, 2021, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada invited an unprecedented number of candidates from the Canadian Experience Class pool to apply for permanent residence.
  • The Canadian Experience Class is for skilled workers who have at least one year of Canadian work experience.
  • This draw was approximately six times as large as any other previous draw - in any category - and appears to be a first step in the federal government’s plan to meet the targets of its 2021-2023 Immigrations Level Plan (401,000 in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421, 000 in 2023).


To view entire article, click here.


Other Weekly News Briefs

Ecuador: UNASUR Visa Category No Longer Available – Foreign nationals in Ecuador can no longer apply for an UNASUR Temporary or Permanent Visa, as the category has been eliminated from the Ecuadorian Immigration and Human Mobility Law. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to process UNASUR applications that were submitted before February 5, 2021, but is no longer accepting new applications. The UNASUR visa previously allowed nationals of Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela to regularize their status in Ecuador by obtaining a two-year temporary residence based on their citizenship. Holders of UNASUR visas in Ecuador will need to obtain a Mercosur visa (if eligible) or another type of visa once their current visa expires to be able to remain in Ecuador.  

European Union: Labor Authority Now Facilitates Cross-Border Inspections – The European Labour Authority (ELA) now facilitates cross-border company inspections, after adopting standard operating procedures to guide EU countries in inspection planning and requesting ELA support; and help national social partner organizations notify ELA of relevant cases. ELA can offer conceptual, logistical and technical support with company inspections, as well as legal expertise. Prior to adopting standard operating procedures, ELA was already active in facilitating access to information for individuals and employers; facilitating cooperation and exchange between EU Member States; analysis and risk assessment on cross-border labour mobility; supporting EU Member States in capacity building and tackling undeclared work; and dispute mediation.

Greece: 2021–2022 EU Blue Card Quota Published – Greek authorities published the 2021–2022 EU Blue Card Quota at 380 spots for the Attica region, up from 280 in the previous publication. For other Greek areas, 226 further spots are available, broken down among the regions. This quota is published in two-year increments. If the quota is filled, and if the government does not issue additional quota spots, applications are suspended until the new quota is published. As before, other Greek work authorization types are quota exempt.

Iraqi Kurdistan: Notarized Employment Contract Requirement Implemented – Effective immediately, the Ministry of Labour is requiring all foreign nationals to obtain a notarized employment contract as part of their work and residence permit application for both initial and renewal applications. The notarization should be completed after the employer registers the employee with the KRG Social Security Office and the Taxation Office. The notarized employment agreement must contain the following details: Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) tax clearance letters for the employee; KRG tax clearance letter for the company; and the KRG social security clearance for the employee. Additionally, the contractual terms for the employer and the employee must be identical and must be written in Kurdish. The employee and the company representative must both be present at the notary public office for the signing of the agreement. The new regulation is expected to increase overall processing times for obtaining employment and residence status by approximately seven to 10 business days.

Kenya: Issuance of Permits and Passes Automated – The Department of Immigration Services has automated the issuance of permits and passes and added a security feature for such documents. All permits and passes are now issued through the electronic Foreign National Services (eFNS) portal and are available for download upon receipt of approval and payment of government fees. Passes and permits are not signed; instead, a QR code has been included in the document to ease the authentication process. Previously, applicants for permits and passes received the outcome of their applications and had to pay before the endorsement and the signing of the permit or pass. The measure is aimed at streamlining the immigration process and complying with COVID-19 protocols of limiting face-to-face contact.

Oman: Omanization to be Implemented for the Private Higher Education Sector – The Ministry of Manpower announced the nationalization of professions in the education sector, to apply to all private higher education institutions in Oman beginning January 1, 2022. This decision will prohibit the recruitment of foreign national workers in the following positions: administrative and financial professions; professions related to admission and registration of students; professions related to student affairs and student services; and professions related to student advisory, social counsel and career guidance. Foreign nationals currently employed in one of these professions will be able to remain employed until their work permits expire.

Qatar: Additional Online Process Required for Sponsorship Transfers to Qatar Financial Center – The Qatari Financial Centre (QFC) has announced that employees seeking to transfer sponsorship to an entity registered with the QFC will need to complete a new online process with the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (MADSLA) before the transfer can be submitted. This new process affects employees who are not currently working for a QFC-registered entity and does not affect employees who are transferring sponsorship from within the QFC. Specifically, employees will need to submit a form on the MADSLA’s online portal to notify their current employer of their request for a sponsorship transfer to a QFC-registered entity. Once the MADSLA reviews and approves the application, the employee can proceed with the sponsorship transfer to the QFC legal entity (new employer). It is therefore expected that processing times will increase for the sponsorship transfer of new employees to the QFC free zone.

Saudi Arabia: New Electronic Platform Launched for Job Seekers – The Saudi Council of Ministers approved a database called the United National Employment Platform, which will be launched for job seekers in both the public and private sectors. The platform will standardize and improve the efficiency and transparency of information and procedures for recording job opportunities, documenting job applicants’ data and qualifications and linking them with the databases of other government agencies, including the Ministry of Education and the Human Resources Development Fund, among others. Similar job portals exist in other Gulf Cooperative Council countries to connect companies with skilled workers seeking employment and to reduce the recruitment of overseas workers, including the Talent Portal in Bahrain and the Virtual Labor Market in the United Arab Emirates.

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