Jan 21 2021

Weekly Immigration Update: January 15–21, 2021

Albania, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chad, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal , Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Guinea, Republic of the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis , Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela

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, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Norway, Romania and Switzerland 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.
  • Minimum salary requirements: Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia updated their 2021 minimum salary level. Check this consolidated information page for more information.
  • United States: In his first days in office, President Biden has initiated numerous actions affecting immigration. He revoked two nationality-based travel bans issued in the Trump-era that affect primarily Muslim-majority and African countries and announced his intention to send an immigration reform bill to Congress. President Biden also requested a freeze on federal agency regulatory activity so that the new Administration may review Trump Administration agency rules and guidance documents either not yet in effect or not yet finalized.   
  • Vietnam: The Ministry of Labor issued a decree clarifying certain provisions of a new Labor Code, which will impact the issuance of Work Permits, Work Permit Exemption Certificates, Work Permit Extensions and Cancellations.
  • Middle East: Weeks after Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize their relations with Qatar following the latest Gulf Cooperation Council's summit in Saudi Arabia, several entry and travel restrictions remain that impact mobility in the region
  • Canada: Beginning January 26, all applications for the Quebec Experience Program and the Foreign Student Program must be submitted online through the Arrima platform.

These items and other news from Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Oman, Peru, Qatar, Romania, South Sudan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, January 21, 2021

President Biden Plans to Send Immigration Reform Bill to Congress

  • The planned legislation would provide a pathway to permanent residence and citizenship for undocumented foreign nationals who were present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021 as well those holding DACA, TPS or H-2A status who meet the presence requirement.
  • The forthcoming bill is also expected to contain provisions aimed at clearing the employment-based and family-based green card backlogs to speed the green card process and keep families together during the application process.
  • The reform plan is in preliminary stages only. Its prospects for passing Congress and becoming law remain unclear.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, January 21, 2021

Biden Administration Announces Regulatory Freeze and Review

  • The White House has requested that all federal agencies pause the regulatory process on any Trump-era rule that has either not yet taken effect or not yet been finalized.
  • For rules and policies that have been formally published, but have not yet taken effect, the White House asks federal agencies to consider postponing the effective date to March 21, 2021 or longer. Agencies are not required to postpone, however.
  • Rules that have been sent for federal review but have not yet been published must be withdrawn and submitted for further consultation.
  • Agencies must not propose or issue a new rule in any manner until a Biden designee reviews and approves it.

To view entire article, click here.


Middle East, January 21, 2021

Regional Update on Normalization of Diplomatic Relations with Qatar

  • Two weeks after Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize their relations with Qatar following the latest Gulf Cooperation Council's summit in Saudi Arabia, several entry and travel restrictions remain that impact mobility in the region.
  • This alert summarizes the restrictions and the expected road ahead.


To view entire article, click here.


United States, January 21, 2021

President Biden Revokes Travel Bans Affecting Primarily Muslim-Majority and African Countries

  • President Joseph R. Biden has issued a presidential proclamation that lifts two nationality-based travel bans issued by the Trump administration.
  • Nationals of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen will no longer be subject to the restrictions on nonimmigrant and/or immigrant visa issuance imposed by a 2017 Trump administration travel ban.
  • Nationals of Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania will no longer be subject to the immigrant visa restrictions under a January 2020 Trump Administration presidential proclamation. 
  • The State Department is charged with creating a plan for immigrant visas denied under the ban to be reconsidered, and to ensure that no visa applicants are prejudiced by prior denials under the bans if they re-apply for a visa.

To view entire article, click here.


Canada, January 21, 2021

Online System Expanded to Include Quebec Experience Program Applications

  • Foreign nationals applying for permanent residence under the Quebec Experience Program can now submit their applications online through the Arrima platform; previously, only paper applications were accepted for this program.
  • Beginning January 26, 2021, all applications submitted for the Quebec Experience Program and for the Foreign Student Program (which has accepted online applications since 2020), must be submitted through the Arrima platform; paper applications will no longer be accepted.
  • The online platform will decrease document gathering times and allow foreign nationals in Quebec to avoid in-person contact during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.


To view entire article, click here.


United States, January 19, 2021

White House Lifts Regional COVID-19 Bans for Europe and Brazil Starting Jan. 26, But Biden Team Says Bans Will Remain in Place

  • President Trump has issued a presidential proclamation that lifts the regional COVID-19 public health bans in place for Brazil, the European Schengen countries, Ireland and the United Kingdom starting January 26. The bans affect foreign nationals who have been physically present in one of these countries within 14 days of travel to the United States.
  • January 26 is also the effective date of a new CDC testing requirement for all international travel to the United States from any foreign country, including travel by U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
  • The Biden Administration has stated that President-elect Biden will reverse the new proclamation and retain all existing regional COVID-19 public health travel bans.  If so, starting January 26, affected foreign nationals would be subject to both the regional bans and the CDC testing requirements.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, January 15, 2021

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

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


Vietnam, January 15, 2021

Decree Implements Labor Code Affecting Foreign Workers

  • By way of a new Decree, the Vietnamese government has clarified certain provisions of the new Labor Code, which will impact the issuance of Work Permits, Work Permit Exemption Certificates, Work Permit Extensions and Cancellations. The following changes, among others, will come into effect on February 15, 2021:
    • Experts and specialists applying for Work Permits will need to have at least five years’ work experience and meet other requirements if they do not have at least a bachelor’s degree and at least three years’ work experience in a field relevant to the job position;
    • Foreign nationals entering Vietnam for short-term assignments will not require a Work Permit if the assignment is less than 30 days per trip and does not exceed three times per year;
    • Spouses of Vietnamese nationals will no longer require either a Work Permit or Work Permit Exemption Certificate to work in Vietnam; and
    • Employers/host entities will need to report all foreign nationals who are exempt from work authorization to the government.

To view entire article, click here.


Other Weekly News Briefs

Bahrain: Online Submission Process Introduced for Residence Permit Applications for Foreign Investors, Retirees and Property Owners – The Nationality, Passport and Residence Affairs Authority (NPRA) announced that foreign investors, property owners and retirees can now apply for their Bahraini residence permit online through the NPRA’s website. Previously, applicants were required to submit their application in person at a NPRA branch. It is expected that this move will allow for a more streamlined process and will improve the overall turnaround time for immigration applications.

Bahrain: Labour Market Testing Period Extended – The Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) announced the extension of the mandatory labour market testing period for the recruitment of employees from overseas to 21 days, from 14 days. According to the new rule, following the submission of a new work permit application, it will be put on hold for 21 days or less if alternative candidates have been identified among the existing pool of job seekers in Bahrain. If no alternative candidate is found, the application process will resume for the foreign candidate.

Kazakhstan: 2021 Quotas, Fees Published – Kazakh authorities set the 2021 work authorization quota at 28,305 spots, down 2.5% from 29,000 spots in 2020. As before, the quota is allocated among Kazakhstani cities and administrative districts. Additionally, the Monthly Calculation Index (MCI) for 2021 is set at KZT 2,917, up 5% from KZT 2,778. The MCI impacts government filing fees and fines for immigration law violations, among others.

Oman: Entry-Visa-Exempt Nationals Benefit from Longer Allowable Stay – The Royal Oman Police announced that nationals of 103 countries who are exempt from an entry visa requirement for tourism can now benefit from stays of up to 14 days in Oman, instead of the previous 10-day allowance.

Oman: After Delays, Wage Protection System to Take Effect February 28 – The Ministry of Manpower and the Central Bank of Oman announced that starting February 28, 2021, all private sector companies will be required to disburse their employees’ salaries electronically through the Wages Protection System. This follows the postponement of the implementation of the system since 2017. The Wages Protection System is designed to control the payment of salaries to ensure their timely delivery according to the terms and conditions agreed between the parties in the employment contract. Employers that violate Wage Protection System rules may face suspension of immigration- and labor-related transactions. Employers should contact their respective banks for specific guidance and instructions.

Peru: Working Holiday Visa for French Nationals Forthcoming – A reciprocal working holiday program between France and Peru will take effect in Peru on February 1, 2021. Under the program, a limited number of French nationals (determined by the government of Peru each year) ages 18-30 can vacation in Peru for up to one year and carry out incidental paid work during this time to financially support their stay. Interested applicants will need to apply for a working holiday visa (Visa de Intercambio) with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Peru and provide proof of health insurance, economic means to cover repatriation expenses, a clean criminal record and a medical health certificate, among other requirements. Implementation of the agreement has been delayed in France until further notice due to COVID-19. Fragomen will provide updates once the program takes effect in France.  

Qatar: Proof of Private Health Insurance Now Mandatory for Work and Residence Permit Applicants Above 60 – Effective immediately, foreign nationals above the age of 60 must provide proof of private health insurance valid in Qatar when applying for a new work residence permit or when renewing their existing permit. Specifically, new applicants will be able to enroll in a private health insurance scheme upon entry in Qatar based on their work entry visa, while renewal applicants will have to obtain private insurance and provide proof during the renewal process. Affected foreign nationals who currently hold residence permits do not have to obtain private health insurance until they renew their permits. Previously, these foreign nationals were able to enroll in a government health insurance scheme, private health insurance scheme, or choose both options.

Romania: 2021 Quota Published – Effective January 1, 2021, the Romanian work authorization quota decreased to 25,000 spots, down 16.7% from 30,000 in 2020. The reduction is based on limited quota use over 2020 due to the pandemic; and introduction of a work authorization waiver in September 2020 for locally employed Moldovan, Serbian and Ukrainian nationals (valid for a nine-month stay), who previously made up a significant segment of the quota.

South Sudan: Visa-on-Arrival Discontinued for Kenyans – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that effective immediately, Kenyan travelers visiting South Sudan will no longer be eligible for a visa-on-arrival. Kenyans will have to apply for an e-visa online or for a visa in person at the Embassy in Nairobi. The move is intended to generate revenue for the authorities and to prevent long waiting times for travelers from Kenya upon arrival in South Sudan.     

Thailand: Reduced Work Permit Booklet Renewal Period – The Thai Labour Office has reduced the period for the submission of Work Permit (Non-BOI) Booklet renewal applications to 30 calendar days. Previously, applicants could file their renewal 45 calendar days before the expiry of their Work Permit Booklet at the One Stop-Service Center. As a reminder, the Work Permit Booklet renewal process requires foreign nationals to be physically present in Thailand during the time of the processing. The change does not affect the Long-Term Visa (Non-BOI) renewal process, which still has the 45-day submission period for filing visa extensions.

United Kingdom: Reminder on Immigration Route for British Nationals (Overseas) in Hong KongAs a reminder, the immigration route for British Nationals (Overseas) in Hong Kong will take effect January 31, 2021. Eligible applicants can apply online, and successful applicants will have unrestricted right to work and study in the United Kingdom.

United States: Presidential Memorandum to Preserve and Fortify DACA – On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued a memorandum entitled, “Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA).” Specifically, the memorandum directs the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take actions as they deem appropriate, consistent with applicable law, to preserve and fortify DACA. The memorandum signals the Biden Administration’s support of the DACA program, referencing the 2012 Obama-era DHS guidance that deferred the removal of certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, obeyed the law, and stayed in school or enlisted in the military. DACA is currently being implemented in its 2012 form as mandated by a New York federal court order in ongoing litigation. However, the program remains the subject of a Texas lawsuit that could result in its termination. The Biden Administration has included legislative relief for “Dreamers” in a proposed bill for comprehensive immigration reform. The proposal has been sent to Congress, but has not yet been taken up by the legislative body; the fate of the proposed bill is unclear.

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