Mar 04 2021

Weekly Immigration Update: February 26–March 4, 2021

Angola, Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mauritius, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of the Philippines, Russia, Seychelles, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

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: USCIS will begin accepting registrations for the FY 2022 H-1B cap lottery at noon ET on March 9. Employers and their immigration counsel will have until noon ET on March 25 to draft, review, e-sign and submit their registrations. The State Department has imposed a new policy that will make it more challenging for nonimmigrant workers and business travelers to obtain national interest exceptions under the regional COVID-19 travel bans in effect for the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. USCIS is extending some flexibilities to F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) who have been negatively affected by agency delays in issuing receipt notices for Form I-765 work authorization applications.
  • Netherlands: The Netherlands now allows UK national business visitors to conduct activities directly based on the EU-UK Free Trade Agreement, which includes more activities than those generally permitted for business visitors.
  • China: In line with the Chinese government’s goal to attract more high-level foreign nationals, the Expert Bureau in Shanghai has relaxed Work Permit requirements for foreign nationals in scientific and technological occupations, foreign innovative entrepreneurial occupations, and special experts.
  • United Kingdom: The 2021 Budget Report includes several proposals for the United Kingdom’s immigration regime, with a focus on attracting highly-skilled talent.
  • Minimum salary requirements: Estonia updated its 2021 minimum salary level. Check this consolidated information page for more information.



These items and other news from Benin, Iraq, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important updates in immigration this week



United States, March 4, 2021

FY 2022 H-1B Cap Registration Begins Tuesday, March 9

  • Employers and their immigration counsel may register foreign nationals for the FY 2022 H-1B cap lottery between Tuesday, March 9 at noon ET and Thursday, March 25 at noon ET.
  • USCIS is expected to receive a very large number of online registrations during this period. Technical slowdowns are possible as a result.
  • Before an H-1B cap registration can be submitted by immigration counsel, employers must promptly review, approve and e-sign the registration.



To view entire article, click here.

 

China, March 4, 2021

Work Permit Requirements Relaxed in Shanghai

  • The Chinese government introduced relaxed eligibility requirements and other beneficial rules for Work Permit applications for Shanghai, focusing on foreign nationals in scientific and technological occupations; foreign nationals in innovative entrepreneurial occupations; and special experts.
  • The changes are in line with the Chinese government’s goal to attract more high-level foreign nationals, especially in scientific and innovative fields.
  • Separately, the Chinese government has announced that it will increase enforcement measures for Work Permit applications part of the Employer Trust Program.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United Kingdom, March 3, 2021

Budget Report for 2021 Released; Focus on Attracting Highly-Skilled Talent

  • There are several proposals for the United Kingdom's immigration regime in the 2021 Budget Report, including:
    • The creation of a scale-up visa subcategory;
    • Reformation of the Global Talent visa category;
    • Revision of the Innovator visa category;
    • Launch of the new Global Business Mobility Visa; and
    • Provision of support to small businesses using the visa system.
  • These proposals would likely reduce the administrative burden on both employers and applicants by increasing efficiencies for users of the immigration system. However, details on most of the proposals have not been released, and ultimately each proposal would require changes to the Immigration Rules to become effective.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, March 3, 2021

State Department Limits Exceptions to European COVID Travel Bans, Adding Further Challenges for  Nonimmigrant Workers and Business Travelers

  • On March 2, the State Department announced a new policy that will make it more challenging for nonimmigrant workers and business travelers to obtain national interest exceptions (NIE) under the regional bans on travel from the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. 
  • The new policy became effective immediately and could affect B, E, H, L, O and P nonimmigrants as well those traveling for business under ESTA.
  • Eligibility for work and business travel NIEs for the affected bans has been narrowed to those “seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure.” The prior standard included broader criteria for certain business travelers deemed to be substantially contributing to the U.S. economy.
  • It is not yet known how the new standard will be applied by the State Department in practice, but it is expected to increase the difficulty in obtaining an NIE for work or business travel to the United States from the affected countries.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Netherlands, March 3, 2021

UK National Business Visitors Granted Broader Business Activity Rights

  • The Netherlands now allows UK national business visitors to conduct activities directly based on the EU-UK Free Trade Agreement, which includes more activities than those generally permitted for business visitors.
  • UK nationals can therefore now perform activities such as technical, scientific and statistical research; receiving training in techniques and work practices; and visiting for establishment purposes, among other activities under business visitor status, which means they do not require a work permit.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, March 1, 2021

USCIS Offers Some Accommodations to F-1 Optional Practical Training Applicants Affected by Receipting Delays

  • USCIS is offering some flexibilities to F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) who have been negatively affected by agency delays in issuing receipt notices for Form I-765, Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applications.
  • F-1 students whose OPT applications were received between October 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021, will be permitted to complete their 12-month practical training period within 14 months of the date of their Form I-765 approval, instead of 14 months from the date of their F-1 program completion, which is the requirement under current rules.
  • F-1 students who timely filed Form I-765 but had their applications rejected due to the lengthy USCIS delays may re-file outside of the standard filing window by May 31, 2021, as long as USCIS received the initial filing between October 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021.
  • USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence instead of denying F-1 OPT applications that are accepted by the agency with missing or deficient signatures. USCIS may still reject an application for missing or deficient signatures, however.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Other weekly news briefs



Benin: ePassport to be Launched – The Council of Ministers of Benin has authorized the country’s passport-issuing authorities to commence the process to select service providers for the implementation of electronic passports. The project will include the acquisition of equipment to capture applicants’ information and issue ePassports. This project is expected to ease the identification of passport holders at ports of entry, speed up the clearance of travelers and prevent fraudulent passports. Benin is the latest country in West Africa to issue ePassport to its citizens, following countries like Gambia, Guinea-Conakry, Liberia and Mali.

Iraq: New Rule for Employment Visa Processing in Oil and Gas Sector – The Ministry of Interior in Iraq is reinstating the process where employers in the oil and gas sector must process employment visa invitation letters (LOI) for their workers through the respective concession-holding company (also referred to as FOD) and the Ministry of Oil. The new rule is expected to take effect March 10, 2021. Upon receiving approvals from these two agencies, the file will be sent to the Ministry of Interior which will issue the LOI, enabling the foreign national to obtain an entry visa upon arrival in Iraq or through an Iraqi consular post abroad, depending on their nationality. Since November 2019, all visa invitation letter requests have been processed directly by the Ministry of Interior, with limited involvement of other government agencies or FODs.

South Africa: Task Team Established to Review Issued Visas from 2004 – The Minister of Home Affairs has established a ministerial committee to review certain visas/permits issued by the department from 2004 to date. The committee will also identify loopholes in the visa issuing process and recommend improvements. The committee is expected to present its interim report within three months. The ministerial committee will review visas/permits falling under the following categories: permanent Residence Permits (PRP), corporate visas (especially in the mining sector), business visas, critical skills visas, retired persons visas and naturalizations. The decision to establish a ministerial task committee to review issued visas/permits follows the identification by the government of a trend where 66 percent of reported cases to the Counter Corruption Unit involved visas/permits. The practical impact of this review is unclear at this time, but by South African law, visas or permits issued irregularly can be withdrawn and the holder may be deported. Employers are advised to ensure their foreign workforce's visas and permits are up to date.

United Arab Emirates: Paper Medical Test Results No Longer Accepted for Visa Processing in Dubai – Foreign nationals who apply for a new residence permit or to renew an existing residence permit in the Emirate of Dubai must have their medical examination results issued electronically by a Dubai Health Authority clinic, who will then automatically forward the results to the relevant immigration department. Paper reports are no longer accepted for visa application purposes and medical test results obtained from clinics and hospitals that are not linked with the immigration authorities in Dubai, including those located in other emirates, are no longer accepted. These applicants will be required to redo their test in Dubai. The new requirement stems from the Dubai Paperless Strategy campaign launched by the government of Dubai in 2018, which aims to eliminate the use of paper in all government transactions.

 

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