US

Feb 14 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: February 8-14, 2019

Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: Starting March 11, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will require biometrics for certain foreign nationals seeking a change or extension of nonimmigrant status on USCIS Form I-539.
  • Romania: The government has released its 2019 work authorization quota numbers, offering 5,000 more spots to foreign workers than in 2018.
  • Latin America/Venezuela: Policies implemented by many Latin American countries in September 2018 to handle the influx of Venezuelan nationals remain in place while some new rules have been added.
  • Costa Rica: Same-sex spouses and qualifying partners are now eligible for dependent status. Foreign nationals are also able to amend their immigration identification card (DIMEX) to reflect gender identity changes.
  • Saudi Arabia: Select employers will be eligible for reimbursement of or exemption from the monthly fee paid for each foreign worker under their sponsorship.



In Brexit news this week:

  • United Kingdom: Further guidance is forthcoming for European Economic Area (EEA) applicants in case of a no-deal Brexit, and the Immigration Skills Charge and Immigration Health Surcharge will not apply to such applicants.
  • Lithuania, Portugal: Plans have been published on the treatment of UK nationals after March 29, 2019 in case of a no-deal Brexit.



These items and other news from Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, North Macedonia, Norway, Republic of Congo, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, February 13, 2019

USCIS to Require Biometrics for Certain Foreign Nationals Seeking a Change or Extension of Nonimmigrant Status

  • Starting March 11, dependents of employment-based nonimmigrants, as well as B-1/B-2 visitors, some F-1 students and certain other nonimmigrants, will be required to appear in person for fingerprinting and photographs when applying for a change or extension of status on USCIS Form I-539.
  • A new edition of Form I-539, dated 02/04/19, will become mandatory on March 11.
  • The new biometrics requirement is expected to increase processing times for I-539 changes and extensions of stay and related employment authorization applications.  
  • The new biometrics policy does not affect cases filed on Form I-129, including H-1B and L-1 petitions.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Saudi Arabia, February 13, 2019

Reimbursement of and Exclusion from Foreign Worker Fee Announced for Select Employers

  • The Ministry of Labor and Social Development announced that select employers will be eligible for the reimbursement of a monthly fee paid for each foreign worker under their sponsorship.
  • Additionally, employers who maintain Nitaqat ratings of green or above will not be subject to the sponsorship fees, which may allow employers to reallocate the funds and potentially improve their Saudization ratios. Employers classified as yellow and red will be eligible for the refund only if they improve their Nitaqat rating to at least low-green within 12 months of the start date of the initiative, presumed to be February 7, 2019.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Costa Rica, February 12, 2019

Same-Sex Spouses and Qualifying Partners Now Eligible for Dependent Status and Gender Identity Recognized

In preparation for a law to be passed in 2020 that will legalize same-sex marriage, the Costa Rican government has issued two temporary decrees that are effective immediately:

  • The Costa Rican immigration authorities now recognize same-sex spouses and unmarried same-sex partners as dependents, provided their relationship is considered legal in their country of origin.
  • Foreign nationals are now able to have their immigration identification card (DIMEX) amended to reflect changes in their name, picture or gender, if they can provide a document from their country of origin recognizing the change.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Latin America/Venezuela, February 12, 2019

Update on Immigration Effects of Situation in Venezuela

  • The policies implemented by many Latin American countries in September 2018 to handle the influx of Venezuelan nationals remain in place and some new rules have been added.
  • Document procurement issues continue in Venezuela and some Venezuelan consulates are experiencing delays.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Romania, February 11, 2019

2019 Quota Levels Increased Since 2018

  • The Romanian government has released the 2019 work authorization quota numbers, offering 5,000 more spots to foreign workers than in 2018.
  • Notably, the quota has not been divided among various categories of workers as it was in past years, demonstrating the government’s continued efforts to streamline the work authorization process.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United Arab Emirates, February 8, 2019

Residence Permit Process Change in Abu Dhabi May Impact International Travel

  • Foreign nationals in Abu Dhabi are now required to obtain their Emirates Identity Card before their residence permit can be stamped in their passport.
  • The change in process – which has been observed in practice, as no official announcement has been made – means it will take longer for foreign nationals arriving in Abu Dhabi to obtain their residence permits.
  • Since a permit stamp is required to re-enter the United Arab Emirates when a foreign national travels internationally, the longer process could delay international travel plans for affected individuals.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Brexit News and Related News Briefs This Week

Portugal, February 13, 2019

No-Deal Brexit Plans for UK Nationals Published

The Portuguese government has published plans for the treatment of UK nationals residing in Portugal after March 29, 2019 in case of a no-deal Brexit scenario. Central details of the plan include:

  • A 21-month grace period, commencing on March 29, 2019, during which time UK nationals holding an EU Registration Certificate in Portugal would be able to apply for a national residence permit.
  • Non-EU family members of UK nationals holding a corresponding residence permit as of March 29, 2019, would be able to stay in Portugal until December 31, 2020. After this date, affected individuals would have to obtain a different permit type.
  • UK nationals residing in Portugal for five years or longer as of March 29, 2019 would be able to apply for a permanent residence permit if eligible. Eligibility criteria would be the same as for EU applicants.
  • UK nationals residing in Portugal for a period shorter than five years as of March 29, 2019 would be required to apply for a local residence permit type if eligible. A separate, facilitated permit type will be created, but details on this permit have not yet been published.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United Kingdom, February 12, 2019

Guidance on Fees for European Economic Area Applicants in Case of No-Deal Brexit

  • The UK Minister of State for Immigration confirmed that further guidance is forthcoming for European Economic Area (EEA) applicants in case of a no-deal Brexit which will include instructions on how to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain, the permit required for stays between three and 36 months.
  • The Minister confirmed that an application fee will apply, but the Immigration Skills Charge and, subject to parliamentary approval, the Immigration Health Surcharge will not apply to these applicants



To view entire article, click here.

 

Lithuania, February 12, 2019

No-Deal Brexit Plans for UK Nationals Published

The Lithuanian government has published plans for the treatment of UK nationals residing in Lithuania after March 29, 2019 in case of a no-deal Brexit scenario. Central details of the plan include:

  • A nine-month grace period, commencing on March 30, 2019, during which time UK nationals already residing in Lithuania would have to apply for a national residence permit under favorable requirements.
  • Non-EU family members of UK nationals holding a corresponding residence permit would be able to stay in Lithuania until December 31, 2019. However, non-EU family members of UK nationals who seek to stay in Lithuania after this date would have to obtain a different national permit type during the nine-month grace period.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Latvia: Parliament Announces No-Deal Brexit Plans – The Latvian parliament announced that in case of a no-deal Brexit, UK national residents and their non-EU family members can continue to stay and work in Latvia. The parliament has requested that the government draft the necessary legislative amendments, which would include a 21-month grace period up to December 31, 2020 and other provisions relevant to the rights of UK nationals in Latvia in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Switzerland/United Kingdom: Special 3,500 No-Deal Quota for UK Nationals – Swiss authorities announced that they plan to introduce a special quota of 3,500 spots for UK national applicants in case of a no-deal Brexit. If a withdrawal agreement is reached, current arrangements will continue to apply until the end of 2020. The new quota would apply to UK nationals on local Swiss employment contracts seeking entry between March 30, 2019 and December 31, 2019. The quota would be divided into 2,100 long-term B permits and 1,400 short-term L permits, and would be released on a quarterly basis. By comparison, EU and European Economic Area (EEA) nationals are subject to a 3,500 quota, divided over 500 long-term B permits and 3,000 short-term L permits, and released on a quarterly basis. This quota is typically exhausted within six to seven weeks of each release. Croatian, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals are subject to a separate quota. Corresponding legislation is expected to be submitted before the end of March.

United Kingdom/Iceland/Liechtenstein/Norway: Agreement to Protect Citizen’s Rights in No-Deal Scenario – Further to the Separation Agreement between the United Kingdom and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, concluded in December 2018, these countries have now reached a similar agreement protecting citizen’s rights in case of a no-deal scenario. Both agreements must still be formally concluded and then ratified by the responsible national authorities. Fragomen does not, however, expect changes to the agreement to be made during the conclusion and ratification process. The draft agreements would ensure that nationals resident in the host state by March 29, 2019 generally continue to benefit from the same rights as they currently do regarding residence rights; access to healthcare, pensions and education; social security coordination; and mutual recognition of professional qualifications. In the meantime, the current rules governing the relationship between the United Kingdom and European Economic Area (EEA) countries will continue to apply. This agreement only covers UK nationals living in an EEA country by March 29, 2019. UK nationals entering after this date would be considered as third country nationals and covered by the standard immigration rules of the country visited. Once formalised, EEA nationals residing in the United Kingdom will be able to register under the EU Settlement Scheme in the same way as EU citizens. The EEA/EFTA Member States have a choice as to whether to require UK nationals and their family members to apply for a residence status. As set out in the EEA/EFTA citizens’ rights agreement and in line with the EU Settlement Scheme, any application process adopted by EEA/EFTA states for UK nationals must be short, simple and user-friendly.

 

Other Weekly News Briefs

Greece/North Macedonia: Name Change Takes Effect – The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has now officially changed its name to Republic of North Macedonia, as a controversial agreement between North Macedonia and Greece was ratified by both parliaments and has now taken effect. North Macedonia has already applied for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), supported by Greece. North Macedonian citizens seeking to amend their passports and legal documents (birth and marriage certificates, among others) are advised to contact the responsible local authorities to confirm whether these changes can already be made.

Republic of Congo: Extended Processing Times and New Requirements Introduced – The Direction Generale de la Surveillance du Territoire (DGST) has announced new requirements for foreign nationals applying for a work permit. Firstly, the processing time for a certificate of accommodation – required for all work permit types – has been extended from three days to 10 days due to an increased number of applications. Secondly, foreign nationals traveling under a short-term work permit (AET) must obtain the actual permit before travelling (which takes up to three months) and they can no longer travel with the proof of submission and filing receipt. Those who do not obtain the permit may face deportation. Lastly, foreign nationals applying for a long stay visa or residence card must obtain a short-term work permit and a duly signed ONEMO contract, which can take up to six months. Previously, foreign nationals were able to apply without having first obtained these documents. Employers should consider the longer processing times before foreign nationals are allowed to travel to the Republic of Congo.

United Arab Emirates: National Identity Document Required for Select Applicants – Effective immediately, nationals of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan must submit their national identity document issued by the respective authority in their home country in order to obtain a new employment residence permit in the United Arab Emirates, according to an announcement by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship. Additionally, based on observed practice, Pakistani nationals applying for mission work permits (short-term work permits) in Abu Dhabi are also subject to this requirement. It is expected that affected nationals will be exempt from submitting their national identity document for the renewal of employment residence permits and residence without employment processes, including applying for an initial or renewed dependent residence permit; however, no official announcement has been made to this effect.

United States: Latest PERM and PWD Processing Times – As of January 31, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) was conducting analyst review for PERM applications filed in October 2018 or earlier, and processing audited cases filed in June 2018 or earlier. DOL is working on standard reconsideration requests submitted in October 2018 or earlier. There is no update on the government error queue, though these cases appear to be current.  

DOL is issuing prevailing wage determinations for PERM and H-1B requests filed in September 2018. The agency has been processing PERM and H-1B redeterminations requested in November 2018, and PERM center director reviews requested in December 2018. There are no pending H-1B center director reviews. 



These reports are available on the iCERT home page. 

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