Feb 25 2021

Weekly Immigration Update: February 19–25, 2021

Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Cyprus, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal , Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of the Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Taiwan, Togo, Tunisia , United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam

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.
  • Brexit: Authorities in Austria, Italy and France published further 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. Check this consolidated information page for more information.
  • United States: President Biden has revoked a Trump-era presidential proclamation that suspended the entry of certain immigrants into the United States. . The nonimmigrant proclamation suspending the entry of foreign nationals in the H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and certain J-1 visa categories remains in effect and is set to expire on March 31. The H-1B cap registration period will open at noon ET on March 9  and close at noon on March 25.  Employers who do not have online registration accounts that can be used during this period will be able to create new accounts starting at noon ET on March 2.  Separately, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has made premium processing available for Australian E-3 nonimmigrant extensions and changes of status. 
  • Ecuador: The National Assembly approved immigration law reforms that significantly change many immigration category eligibility requirements and other factors of the country’s immigration system.
  • Saudi Arabia: Under a new short-term work visa called the Temporary Work Visit Visa (TWVV), holders will be able to work for their sponsoring entity for up to 90 days in a one-year period. Separately, international businesses without regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia will not be able to contract with agencies, institutions and funds owned by the Saudi government, under a law slated to take effect on January 1, 2024.
  • United Kingdom: On February 23, the UK government launched a smartphone app to enable applicants for the British Nationals (Overseas) Route (BN(O)) to scan their passport, rather than attend an appointment at a visa application centre.
  • Singapore: The foreign worker quota for S Pass workers in the manufacturing sector will be cut in a phased approach, the first in January 2022, from 20% to 18%, and subsequently in January 2023, from 18% to 15%.


These items and other news from Canada, Costa Rica, France, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

Important updates in immigration this week

Costa Rica, February 25, 2021

Visa Waiver Forthcoming for Certain Chinese Nationals

  • Effective March 1, 2021, nationals of China who are 18 years of age or older and with passports issued in Beijing or Shanghai, will no longer require a consular visa to enter Costa Rica for tourism or business for up to 30 days.
  • In addition to the above requirements, according to the Minister of Tourism, it is expected that eligible travelers will need to purchase a tourism package from a tour agency registered in Costa Rica. Additional details are expected to be released by the government.
  • Other Chinese nationals will still require a consular-issued visa to enter Costa Rica for tourism or business (the issuance of which is currently suspended until at least April 30, 2021 due to COVID-19).

To view entire article, click here.


United States, February 25, 2021

President Biden Revokes Immigrant Visa Ban Effective Immediately, But Hurdles Remain

  • President Biden has revoked the Trump-era ban on certain immigrant entries, effective immediately. The ban was set to expire on March 31, 2021.
  • The nonimmigrant ban affecting certain H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and J-1 visa categories remains in effect and is set to expire on March 31.
  • COVID-19 regional public health bans remain in effect for several countries and areas. Even if foreign nationals are no longer subject to the IV ban, they may need to apply for national interest exceptions to the regional COVID bans before they can be issued an immigrant visa.
  • Despite the lifting of the immigrant ban, U.S. consulates worldwide are likely to continue to experience backlogs in appointments and adjudications due to pent up demand and reduced consular operations in connection with COVID-19 public health measures.

To view entire article, click here.



United States, February 24, 2021

FY 2021 H-2B Cap Is Reached

  • On February 12, 2021, USCIS received enough H-2B petitions to exhaust the FY 2021 cap. The agency conducted a lottery for petitions received on that date.
  • USCIS will reject H-2B petitions not selected in the lottery and H-2B petitions received after February 12, 2021 that request a start date before October 1, 2021, unless the petition is exempt from the H-2B cap.
  • It is not yet known whether DHS and DOL will exercise the limited H-2B cap relief authorized by the recently passed DHS FY 2021 appropriations bill.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, February 24, 2021

H-1B Cap Update: Employers May Create New Cap Registration Accounts Beginning March 2

  • Employers can set up new accounts in USCIS’s online H-1B cap registration system beginning at noon ET March 2.
  • If your organization wishes to sponsor foreign workers for H-1B cap employment in FY 2022, it must have a registration account. Existing registration accounts may continue to be used for the FY 2022 registration period.
  • H-1B cap registration opens at noon ET on March 9, 2021 and closes at noon ET on March 25, 2021.  All beneficiaries must be registered during this period to be entered in the FY 2022 H-1B cap selection lotteries.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, February 24, 2021

USCIS Expands Premium Processing to E-3 Nonimmigrant Petitions

  • Beginning February 24, employers will be able to request 15-day processing for Australian E-3 extensions of stay and changes of status filed at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for a $2,500 premium processing fee.
  • Under legislation passed in late 2020, USCIS has the authority to further expand premium processing to other case types, but the agency has not yet indicated whether or when it will do so.

To view entire article, click here.


Saudi Arabia, February 24, 2021

Restrictions for Government Contracts and Other Legislative Reforms Forthcoming

  • Effective January 1, 2024, international businesses without regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia will not be able to contract with agencies, institutions and funds owned by the Saudi government.
  • The proposed law does not aim to restrict companies already in Saudi Arabia nor those seeking to establish their presence in the Kingdom from doing business with the private sector.
  • Under the new law, companies that choose to set up or relocate their headquarters in Saudi Arabia will be exempt from Saudization requirements.
  • As many industries in Saudi Arabia are government-owned and operated, this law could have a significant impact on company operations within the country.

To view entire article, click here.


United Kingdom, February 24, 2021

Digital British Nationals (Overseas) Applications Now Available

  • On February 23, 2021, the UK government launched a smartphone app to enable applicants for the British Nationals (Overseas) Route (BN(O)) to scan their passport, rather than attend an appointment at a visa application centre.
  • Open since January 31, 2021, the BN(O) route allows BN(O) status holders to live, work and study in the United Kingdom, with the opportunity to obtain permanent residence after five years.

To view entire article, click here.


Ecuador, February 24, 2021

Significant Immigration Reforms Implemented

The National Assembly has approved an immigration reform bill that implements the following key changes in Ecuador:

  • Replaces the Visa de Excepción de Corta Duración with a new Acts of Commerce Visa for foreign nationals seeking to conduct business and technical activities in Ecuador, among other activities, for up to 180 days;
  • Eliminates travel restrictions for temporary residents in Ecuador;
  • Creates stricter eligibility rules for permanent residents; and
  • Eliminates the UNASUR Temporary Visa.

To view entire article, click here.


Singapore, February 24, 2021

S Pass Quota for Manufacturing Sector to be Reduced in 2022

  • The foreign worker quota for S Pass workers in the manufacturing sector will be reduced in January 2022 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.


Saudi Arabia, February 24, 2021

Temporary Work Visit Visa for Short-Term Work Introduced

  • The Saudi Arabian government has introduced a short-term work visa, the Temporary Work Visit Visa, for foreign nationals conducting work. It is expected that successful applicants will receive a multiple-entry visa valid for one year, which permits the holder to conduct work for a visa sponsoring entity for up to 90 days in a one-year period.
  • This visa type fills the void in short-term work authorization options in Saudi Arabia that was created when the Work Visit and Commercial Visit Visas were eliminated as separate visa categories in 2019.
  • As a result, employers can again send foreign nationals for short-term work assignments to Saudi Arabia.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, February 23, 2021

March 2021 Visa Bulletin: Strong Advancement Across Employment-Based Categories, Rapid Movement Continues for EB-1 India and China; USCIS to Honor Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Categories

  • EB-1 China and EB-1 India Final Action dates will advance by seven months to August 1, 2020. 
  • EB-2 China will advance by one month to July 15, 2016, and EB-2 India will advance by three months to January 15, 2010.
  • EB-3 China will advance by five weeks to February 8, 2018, and EB-3 India will advance by three months to July 1, 2010.
  • EB-5 China will remain at August 15, 2015, and EB-5 Vietnam will advance by three weeks to October 22, 2017.
  • USCIS has announced that it will honor Final Action dates for employment-based adjustment of status applications.

To view entire article, click here.

Ireland, February 22, 2021

2021 Immigration Plan Actions Published

The Department of Justice has published the actions it will take in 2021 to continue pursuing its strategy of improving Ireland’s immigration system. Key actions include:

  • A roadmap for the transition of all immigration services to online processes;
  • A new website with content in plain (and multiple) languages;
  • An emphasis on quality and how service levels are measured;
  • A committee to support consistency in decision making.

These are initial intentions and do not have any policy impact at this time. The Department is expected to publish updates on the progress of the strategy in mid-2021 and again at the end of the year.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, February 19, 2021

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

  • CBP border restrictions permitting only essential travel across the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico land borders will be extended through March 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.

Other weekly news briefs

Canada: Quebec Releases Details of Upcoming Pilot Programs – The Quebec Government has released details of new immigration pilot programs that are expected to be implemented early this year. The pilot program for artificial intelligence information technology and visual effects sectors will have two streams – one for French-speakers and one for non-French speakers, providing an additional pathway to permanent residence for non-French speakers in Quebec. The pilot program for orderlies will grant permanent residence and allow foreign nationals to work as nurses’ aides and beneficiary attendants. Each program will allow principals to include their immediate family members on their application. These programs were added largely in response to labor shortages in the region and will be reviewed in 2026 to determine whether they will continue as permanent programs.


Costa Rica: Proposed Law Seeks to Create Visa for Remote Workers - A proposed law currently under legislative review seeks to create a Short-term Visa for Remote Workers or Service Providers, which would allow foreign nationals who are employed outside Costa Rica or who provide services to persons or entities outside Costa Rica to reside and work remotely from Costa Rica for up to one year (renewable for one additional year) without local employer sponsorship. Key elements of the proposed law include that the foreign national must prove a stable average income of at least USD 3,000 (or USD 4,000 if accompanied by dependents) and hold private medical insurance; a streamlined digital application process; and tax incentives. The law is expected to be approved within the next few months. Fragomen will send an alert when it is approved.


France: Entry for UK Nationals Requires Proof of Residence – UK nationals who started their assignment before the end of the Brexit transition period who are entitled to register under the Withdrawal Agreement may face difficulties entering France if they have not filed their application but plan to do so online before June 30, 2021 and if they cannot show that they established residence in France before the end of the transition period. The border authorities are requesting copies of residence permits. Proof of filing of the Article 50 permit and Posted Worker notifications alone may be subject to inquiry by the border authorities. Therefore, UK nationals who are eligible to apply for residence permits in France under the Withdrawal Agreement should submit their applications online and obtain a registration number to demonstrate they are covered under the Withdrawal Agreement as soon as possible, and should avoid traveling outside France and re-entering until they obtain the final residence permit to avoid re-entry issues.


Saudi Arabia: Saudization to Apply to Remote Customer Service Sector – The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) announced that effective August 2021, employers will have to hire Saudi Arabian nationals for the following job positions in entities based in Saudi Arabia that use offshore companies (and foreign nationals outside Saudi Arabia) to provide customer service assistance to their customers: management positions, supervisory positions; and all positions related to the delivery of services via phone, e-mails, chat, social media and direct interactions. Once this policy is effective, employers in Saudi Arabia will no longer be able to hire foreign nationals for these positions and foreign nationals in these positions will only be able to continue working until the expiry of their work permits. Employers will also be able to utilize training and employment support programs to be offered by the Human Resources Development Fund to facilitate the nationalization of the remote customer service sector.


United Arab Emirates: “Thrive in Abu Dhabi” Campaign Launched – The Government of Abu Dhabi has launched the “Thrive in Abu Dhabi” campaign, which aims to attract investment and retain best talent by promoting the long-term residence permit program (Golden Visa) in the emirate. The UAE Golden Visas are available to the following groups of foreign nationals: general business investors and property owners (for investor visas); entrepreneurs (for entrepreneur visas); high-school students and university graduates (for student visas); doctors, scientists, creative individuals in art and culture; executive directors; PhD holders; and engineers (for special talent visas). Depending on the category, qualifying foreign nationals may be eligible for five- or 10-year visas. The campaign also provides a path to citizenship for highly-qualified and talented individuals who require a nomination from the highest government authorities in the country to receive the citizenship. This is in line with the recent announcement of the UAE Cabinet, though the eligibility criteria for obtaining Emirati citizenship are expected to be released in the coming months.


United States: USCIS Reverts to 2008 Version of the Naturalization Civics Test – Beginning March 1, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced it is reverting to the 2008 version of the naturalization civics test. On December 1, 2020, USCIS implemented a revised naturalization civics test (2020 civics test) as part of a decennial test review and update process. However, the agency determined the 2020 civics test development process and implementation schedule may inadvertently create potential barriers to the naturalization process. The agency deems this action consistent with the framework of the Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems, which directs a comprehensive agency review of the naturalization process to eliminate barriers and make the process more accessible to all eligible individuals. Accordingly, USCIS will:

  • administer the 2008 civics test to applicants who filed for naturalization before December 1, 2020, or who will file on or after March 1, 2021;
  • give applicants the choice to either take the 2008 civics test or the 2020 civics test in cases where applicants filed their naturalization application on or after December 1, 2020 and before March 1, 2021, and where the initial examination (interview) is scheduled to occur before April 19, 2021.
  • administer the 2008 civics test to all applicants whose initial examination (interview) is scheduled to occur on or after April 19, 2021 (regardless of filing date).
  • only ask civics test questions until the applicant passes or fails either the 2008 civics test or the 2020 civics test.

The naturalization test items and study guides can be found on the Citizenship Resource Center on the USCIS website.


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