US

Feb 13 2020

Weekly Immigration Update: February 7-13, 2020

Bahrain, Belarus, Colombia, European Union, Hong Kong, Lithuania, Nigeria, Oman, Portugal, Russia, United Arab Emirates, United States, Zambia

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: The State Department is seeking to request expedited review of its public charge questionnaire, to be used by consular officers in determining the admissibility of visa applicants under the agency’s new public charge rule. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to remain barred from implementing its 2018 unlawful presence policy that would have penalized students in F, J and M status for status violations starting on the day after the violation occurred.
  • Nigeria: As part of its initiative to modernize the immigration system, Nigeria has implemented a new visa policy that includes new categories for visa types, visas-on-arrival for all African Union members, biometrics tracking, investor visa options, and a new visa for Nigerian nationals using dual passports.
  • United Arab Emirates: The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization has implemented new rules concerning the amendment of job titles for work permit renewals; job title discrepancies and requirements for education certificates.
  • Portugal: The minimum monthly salary for highly-qualified Residence Visa applicants increased 1.5 times the average gross national salary, calculated over 14 payments, and up 17.7 percent from 2019.
  • Belarus: Significant immigration law amendments will take effect July 1, 2020, including changes to temporary stay registration deadlines; broader eligibility for obtaining permanent residence permits; amendment to periods of absence rules affecting permanent residence; and entry and exit bans.

 

These items and other news from Colombia, the European Union, Lithuania, Oman, Russia, Schengen Area, the United States, and Zambia follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

Colombia, February 13, 2020

M-5 Migrant Visa Applications Subject to Stricter Educational and Experience Requirements

  • At their discretion, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is requesting additional documentation from some employers and foreign nationals applying for initial or renewed M-5 Migrant Visas, to verify the applicant’s educational qualifications and experience.
  • Previously, employers were only required to submit an offer letter and/or employment contract to prove the foreign national’s suitability for the position.
  • Affected foreign nationals with pending applications generally have up to 30 days to submit the additional documents.
  • This will add an administrative hurdle and may delay the document-gathering time for new applications, since it may take a significant amount of time to apostille or legalize documents in some countries.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Portugal, February 13, 2020

Minimum Salary for Highly-Qualified Applicants Increased

  • Effective February 10, 2020, the minimum monthly salary for highly-qualified Residence Visa applicants in Portugal increased to EUR 1,914 calculated over 14 payments, up 17.7 percent from 2019. Based on this increase, Fragomen advises employers to guarantee employees a salary of EUR 27,000 per year in 14 payments, up 17.4 percent from 2019.
  • The high percentage increase follows the rise in average national wages.
  • Employers should adjust salaries of pending and new applications to ensure prompt application processing.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United Arab Emirates, February 12, 2020

New Rules Imposed for Work Permit Renewals and Job Title Amendments

  • Effective immediately, applicants renewing their work permits in mainland United Arab Emirates will be required to amend their job title if it is not on the new list of occupations for foreign nationals used by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization.
  • Furthermore, due to a discrepancy between occupation lists used by different government authorities, the job title printed on a foreign national’s work permit may not match the one printed on the visa sticker endorsed in their passport; in these cases, foreign nationals will be required to amend their job title in the immigration system.
  • Additionally, applicants renewing their work permits or amending their salary information or job title in the mainland must submit an attested education certificate if required by the occupation list for their job title.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, February 12, 2020

State Department to Request Expedited Review of Public Charge Questionnaire, Aims to Implement Rule Starting February 24

  • The State Department will request the Office of Management and Budget to make an emergency review of its public charge questionnaire in an effort to begin implementing its public charge rule on February 24.
  • If expedited review is granted and completed before February 24, State Department implementation would coincide with the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement of its public charge rule on that date.
  • There is no immediate impact to visa applicants. Once the State Department begins applying its public charge rule, nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applicants will be subject to increased scrutiny as to whether they might become a public charge of the U.S. government.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Belarus, February 11, 2020

Significant Amendments to Immigration and Labor Laws

  • Significant amendments to Belarus' immigration laws will take effect July 1, 2020, including changes to temporary stay registration deadlines; broader eligibility for obtaining permanent residence permits; amendment to periods of absence rules affecting permanent residence; and entry and exit bans.
  • Additionally, following numerous labor code amendments, local and foreign employees now have more possibilities to work off the premises of the sponsoring employer.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Nigeria, February 10, 2020

New Visa Policy Implemented

  • Key changes of the policy include new categories for visa types, visas-on-arrival for all African Union members, biometrics tracking, investor visa options, and a new visa for Nigerian nationals using dual passports.
  • These changes are part of a greater initiative to modernize the Nigerian immigration system between 2019 and 2023.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, February 7, 2020

Federal District Court Enjoins USCIS from Enforcing Unlawful Presence Rules for Students and Exchange Visitors

  • A federal district judge has issued a permanent injunction to prevent USCIS from implementing a policy that would have penalized students in F, J and M status for status violations starting on the day after the violation occurred.
  • The agency must continue to follow its previous, longstanding guidance related to unlawful presence, under which F, J and M nonimmigrants are penalized only after USCIS or an immigration judge makes a specific finding of a status violation.
  • The government is expected to appeal the court’s decision.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Weekly News Briefs

European Union: Update on Mobility-Related Legislation – As an update, a new EU database called the Entry-Exit System is now expected to be operational in 2021, as opposed to 2020. The Entry-Exit System would track entries and exits; key information listed on travel documents; and fingerprints and photographs of all non-EU nationals staying in the Schengen area for less than 90 days. Similarly, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is now expected to be operational in 2022, instead of 2021. Under ETIAS, visa-exempt nationals would be required to register online before travelling to the European Union, similar to the U.S. ESTA and Canadian eTA systems. Proposals to upgrade the Visa Information System (the database storing Schengen visa applicants' information) and Schengen Information System (an information sharing system for security and border management), and to limit temporary border checks within the Schengen area, are still undergoing legislative review, which could take several years.

Lithuania: Quarterly Increase of EU Blue Card Salary Level – The minimum gross monthly salary level for EU Blue Card applicants increased to EUR 1,959.45, up 1.34 percent from November 2019, following the quarterly increase of the national average monthly wage. The exchange rate at the time of publication is 1 EUR to 1.1 USD. The change does not affect current permit holders or applications filed before February 6, 2020. Employers are advised to regularly check the applicable salary threshold and maintain a safe margin when determining EU Blue Card applicants' salaries. As a reminder, EU Intracompany Transferee Permit applicants must receive a salary in line with the local average for the position.

Oman: Foreign Nationals Barred from Holding Sales and Procurement Representative Positions – The Ministry of Manpower announced that foreign nationals are now permanently barred from holding Sales and Procurement Representative positions. Previously, the bar was temporary and expired in November 2019. As a result, employers can now only fill these positions with Omani nationals. Foreign nationals currently holding valid work visas in these positions can continue to work in the positions until their visa expires; however, upon expiry, they must either amend their job titles or find alternative job opportunities as the visa will not be renewed.

Russia: Students to Become Eligible for Work Permit Exemption – On August 5, 2020, foreign students who receive a secondary professional or higher education in a Russian educational institution that has been state-accredited will become eligible to work in Russia without a work permit if they have a signed labour or services contract. Their work contract will be subject to termination once their studies are completed or if they stop attending the program. The work activities of foreign students studying in Russia will not be restricted to a particular Russian region. Currently, foreign students studying in Russia must obtain a work permit restricted to their region to work after their studies are completed.

Schengen Area: Higher Schengen Visa Fees in Effect – Consular authorities in most Schengen countries are now applying increased short-stay visa fees of EUR 80, up from EUR 60. Only Luxembourg and Malta still apply the EUR 60 fee. Fees for children increased to EUR 40, from EUR 35, although policies on these fees vary considerably, with most countries waiving fees for certain ages. As a reminder, nationals of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine still benefit from the lower EUR 35 fee based on visa facilitation agreements with the European Union.

United States: Latest PERM and PWD Processing Times – As of January 31, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) was conducting analyst review for PERM applications filed in October 2019 or earlier, and processing audited cases filed in May 2019 or earlier. DOL is working on standard reconsideration requests submitted in August 2019 or earlier.

DOL is issuing prevailing wage determinations for PERM requests filed in September 2019 and H-1B requests filed in October 2019. The agency has been processing PERM and H-1B redeterminations requested in December 2019. There are no pending PERM and H-1B center director reviews. These reports are available on the iCERT page.

Zambia: Appeals Process Enforced – The Immigration Department issued a directive enforcing the appeals process for immigration decisions, for which foreign nationals must submit an appeal to the Director of Immigration, followed by another appeal to the Director should the decision remain – usually within seven days. If the unfavorable decision is upheld, the applicant can then appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs within 48 hours. All appeals must be made using the online portal. Previously, applicants who received unfavorable decisions made written submissions to the Director or the Minister of Home Affairs rather than use the online portal, a practice which does not conform to the standard procedure.

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