Virginia, US

Feb 20 2020

Weekly Immigration Update: February 14-20, 2020

Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Kuwait, Mozambique, Panama, Republic of the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, United States, Venezuela

In immigration news this week:

  • Worldwide: Jurisdictions around the world have implemented travel restrictions, closed government offices, and taken other measures to control the spread of the coronavirus. Visit Fragomen’s coronavirus-related news page for the latest immigration updates.
  • United States: Beginning February 24, employers can set up accounts in USCIS's new H-1B cap registration system. Refer to Fragomen’s answers to frequently asked questions about the H-1B cap registration system and the process for setting up registration accounts for your organization. According to the State Department's March Visa Bulletin, EB-3 worldwide retrogresses immediately while most other categories will advance modestly. USCIS has confirmed that it 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 March Visa Bulletin.
  • Saudi Arabia: Foreign nationals traveling to Saudi Arabia for business must now obtain a visa pre-approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) before they submit a Business Visit Visa application.
  • Belgium: Following a policy change, Single Permit renewal applicants no longer need approval from the Federal Immigration Office in order to continue work. These applicants can instead continue working upon approval by the Regional Employment Authority, which is an earlier stage of the renewal process.
  • Azerbaijan: Companies who intend to hire foreign workers must submit quota reports to the State Migration Service by May 1, 2020.
  • Singapore: The foreign worker quota for S Pass workers in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors will be cut in phases, the first in January 2021 from 20% to 18%, and subsequently in January 2023, to 15%. Existing S Pass holders may not be able to renew their passes if their company exceeds the quota.

 

In Brexit news this week, the UK government has published a paper outlining its plans for the new points-based immigration system, specifically for sponsored work routes, which will be phased in from August 2020 and fully operational from January 2021, when free movement from the European Union comes to an end.

These items and other news from Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Kuwait, Mozambique, Panama, Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

Germany, February 20, 2020

Reminder – New Immigration Bill to Overhaul Skilled Migration

As a reminder, the following changes to the German immigration system will take effect March 1, 2020:

  • A new departure notification requirement for early terminations, for both employers and foreign nationals;
  • Facilitated work authorization for foreign nationals with vocational training and professional experience;
  • Fast-track skilled migration immigration processing for local hires; and
  • Review of overall compliance of sponsoring companies during application processing.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Azerbaijan, February 20, 2020

Companies Must Submit Quota Reports by May 1

  • Companies intending to hire foreign workers in Azerbaijan must submit quota reports to the State Migration Service by May 1, 2020.
  • The quota reports should estimate the number of foreign workers required between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.
  • A special Commission will review each quota report and present a quota proposal to the Cabinet of Ministers by September 1, 2020.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Singapore, February 20, 2020

Foreign Worker Quota for Construction, Shipyard and Process Sectors to be Reduced

  • The foreign worker quota for S Pass workers in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors will be reduced in January 2021 from 20% to 18%, and subsequently in January 2023, to 15%.
  • Foreign nationals seeking to obtain an S Pass after these quota reductions may not be able to enter Singapore if their employer has already met the foreign worker quota.
  • Existing S Pass holders may not be able to renew their passes if their company exceeds the quota.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, February 19, 2020

March Visa Bulletin Update: USCIS to Honor Dates for Filing for Employment-Based Categories Next Month

In March, 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 March Visa Bulletin.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Saudi Arabia, February 19, 2020

Pre-Approval Now Mandatory for All Business Visit Visa Applicants

  • Foreign nationals traveling to Saudi Arabia for business must now obtain a visa pre-approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before they submit a Business Visit Visa application.
  • As the pre-approval process is expected to increase processing times for the Business Visit Visa application process, foreign nationals should take these delays into account when planning business travel.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Chile, February 19, 2020

Travel Authorization No Longer Required for International Travel During Application Processing

  • Foreign nationals in Chile with pending initial or renewed visa or temporary residence permit applications are no longer required to obtain a travel authorization from the Immigration Department to exit the country while their visa-in-process or residence-in-process certificate is pending.
  • Instead of the travel authorization, these foreign nationals can use the original courier delivery receipt of their pending application.
  • In an additional change of policy, permanent residence applicants no longer need to obtain a travel authorization from the Immigration Department in order to leave Chile while their applications are pending. Instead, they can use the residence-in-process certificate which is now being issued immediately upon the filing of their online application.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United Kingdom, February 19, 2020

Government Paper Published on Points-Based System Starting 2021

  • The UK government published a paper outlining its plans for the new immigration system which will take effect from the beginning of 2021, when free movement from the European Union comes to an end. 
  • According to the paper, there will no longer be a requirement to offer positions to the resident labour market by way of advertisement, and the skills and salary thresholds will be significantly reduced. 
  • Sponsorship of workers from Europe will become significantly more difficult due to minimum skills thresholds, minimum salary requirements, sponsorship and reporting obligations, and other administrative burdens. 

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, February 18, 2020

March 2020 Visa Bulletin: EB-3 Worldwide Retrogresses Immediately; Modest Advancement in Most Other Categories

  • As projected last month, EB-3 Worldwide, which has been current for the last several months, will retrogress immediately to January 1, 2017.  EB-3 China will advance by just under three months to March 22, 2016, and EB-3 India will advance by one week to January 15, 2009.
  • All EB-1 countries except for China and India will advance by three months to March 1, 2019. China will advance by just over one week to June 1, 2017, while India will advance by two months to March 1, 2015. 
  • EB-2 China will advance by one month to August 15, 2015, and EB-2 India will advance by three days to May 22, 2009. 
  • EB-5 China will advance by almost six months to May 15, 2015.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Belgium, February 17, 2020

Work Rights Assured During Single Permit Renewal Process

  • Following a policy change, Single Permit renewal applicants no longer require approval from the Federal Immigration Office in order to continue work.
  • As a result, Single Permit renewal applicants can continue working if the Regional Employment Authority has approved the file, which is an earlier stage of the renewal process.
  • The same expedited process applies to applicants for a Single Permit renewal due to a change of employer.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, February 14, 2020

H-1B Cap Registration Update: How to Create and Manage an Employer Registration Account

  • Beginning February 24, 2020, employers can set up accounts in USCIS’s new H-1B cap registration system.
  • If your organization wishes to sponsor H-1B workers for employment in FY 2021, it must set up a registration account.
  • H-1B cap registration opens at noon ET on March 1, 2020 and closes at noon ET on March 20, 2020.  All beneficiaries must be registered during this period to be entered in the annual H-1B cap selection lotteries.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Weekly News Briefs

Australia: Working Holiday Rules Relaxed for Bushfire Recovery Workers – New policy initiatives have been implemented for foreign workers in Australia holding Working Holiday subclass 417 or Work and Holiday subclass 462 visas who are supporting the bushfire recovery efforts. Such workers can now be employed under one employer for 12 months (up from six months). Additionally, the definition of “specified work” was revised for the Subclass 462 visa to ensure construction work in a disaster declared area is captured. Lastly, paid and volunteer disaster recovery work in areas impacted by the bushfires now counts toward the “specified work” needed to apply for a second or third year subclass 417 or 462 visa. MARN 0004980.

Chile: Permanent Residence Process Streamlined – Foreign nationals applying for permanent residence are no longer required to obtain a Travel Certificate from the International Police, which was previously required to prove that the applicant has not been absent from Chile for more than 180 days during the validity of their temporary visa. Although the 180-day absence rule remains in place, the International Police is now sharing this information with the Immigration Department internally as part of their interoperability agreement. This procedural change removes an administrative step from the document-gathering stage and should expedite the overall permanent residence process by approximately 60 days. ​

Greece: In-country Application Processing Delayed – In-country residence permit processing for all permit types is delayed by several months following immigration administration changes. Following the 2019 election, the Ministry of Migration was initially abolished and later reinstated. Authority to approve residence permits was fixed exclusively on the Minister of Migration as part of this reorganization. Delegation of this authority to immigration officials is in progress but not yet approved. As a result, in-country permit processing is delayed beyond the current one-year processing time. Foreign nationals can continue to work and stay in Greece despite the delay, however their travel in the Schengen area may be restricted until they obtain a residence permit. Note that this delay does not affect initial entry and work start dates in Greece since foreign nationals entering Greece for work obtain an in-country filing receipt, for which processing is not delayed.

Latin AmericaGovernment Closures During Carnival Holiday – Due to the carnival holiday, government offices in the following countries will be closed according to the below schedule:

  • Brazil: closed February 21-26, noon local time.
  • Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela: closed February 24-25.
  • Panama: closed February 24-26.



Kuwait/Philippines: Most Philippine Citizens Can Again Work in Kuwait – The Philippine government has partially lifted the ban on its citizens from working in Kuwait. Employers in Kuwait can again hire Filipino nationals in all positions except domestic workers or household service workers, for whom the ban remains in effect.

Mozambique: Policy for Short-Term Work Permits for Rovuma Basin Project Clarified – The Ministry of Labor confirmed that short-term work permit applications submitted online for the Rovuma Basin project (a large oil and gas sector project in the country) take up a quota position, which is automatically deducted from the total quota number for foreign workers allocated to the company. Already used quota positions cannot be re-used after the end or cancelation of an assignment, or departure of a foreign national. Short-term work permit applications do not count against the quota system when submitted manually. The Immigration Services (SENAMI) confirmed that foreign nationals working in the Rovuma Basin project under a short-term work permit, valid for 180 days, are able to apply for a Work Visa on Arrival valid for 180 days at half the cost of a 12-month work visa. This visa will allow the foreign national to stay in country for the entire period, without having to exit the country every 30 days.

Philippines: New Form Required for Agents – The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Foreign National Unit (FNU) is requiring authorized agents such as consultancy and law firms to present a Special Power of Attorney (SPA) for the processing of Special Non-Immigrant or 47(a)(2) Visa application and related transactions.  The SPA should be signed by the authorized signatory of the PEZA-registered entity and the original should be provided to PEZA FNU. Fragomen will prepare this document as part of the application process.

South Africa: E-Visa System Pilot Program Extended (Updated) – The Department of Home Affairs announced that the e-visa pilot program, previously piloted for New Zealand and Kenya, has now been extended to Indian nationals. Indian nationals can visit the e-visa portal to create a profile, submit their application with the required documentation and pay the fee in order to obtain their e-visa. Processing times and availability of the full system are still  not known. Fragomen will provide an update with further details once the information is available.

Sweden: EU Intracompany Transferee Permit Applications can be Filed Online – EU Intracompany Transferee (ICT) Permit applications can now be filed online. Online filing was initially scheduled to be available in April 2018 but was delayed due to technical issues with expanding the scope of the online filing system. Although processing times remain longer than for other Swedish permit types for which applicants could already submit online applications, with current processing times at approximately 90 days (the maximum allowable processing time under EU law), Fragomen expects processing times to decrease once the online application process has been operational for a few months. Employers and foreign nationals are expected to benefit from an easier application process and expedited processing.

Switzerland: Assignment-Related Expenses Coverage Limited to 12 Months – Per a new regulation, employers hiring foreign workers need to cover assignment-related costs such as those for housing, meals and travel for only up to 12 months. Previously, employers were required to cover these costs for the entire duration of the assignment​.

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