Connecticut, US

Jan 23 2020

Weekly Immigration Update: January 16-23, 2020

Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, European Union, France, Guatemala, Guyana, Iraq, Ireland, Kuwait, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, United States

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: A new State Department regulation requires a consular officer to deny a B-1/B-2 visitor visa to a pregnant woman if the officer determines that the primary purpose of her trip is to obtain U.S. citizenship for the child by giving birth in the United States. The rule, slated to take effect January 24, 2020, also codifies a longstanding State Department policy that requires foreign visitors entering the United States for medical treatment to document their treatment plans and show ability to pay for all treatment costs.
  • Belarus / Serbia: Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum salary level for foreign workers increased.
  • Portugal: Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly wage increased by 5.8 percent from 2019.
  • Romania: Effective January 9, 2020, the minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card applicants increased by 5.2 percent from 2019.
  • Azerbaijan: Employers seeking to hire foreign workers for oil and gas sector employment are now subject to a labor market test.
  • Ireland: In its first review of the Occupations Lists for 2020, the Irish authorities are inviting comment submissions on the Critical Skills Occupations List and the Ineligible List of Occupations for Employment Permits. Interested employers can submit comments via email by March 2, 2020. Fragomen can assist with comment drafting and submission.



In Brexit news this week:

  • European Union: In preparation for Brexit, UK nationals in EU countries should complete any requisite national registration requirements to demonstrate their legal stay—voluntary in some EU countries and mandatory in others—before Brexit (January 31, 2020), if possible. Though the Withdrawal Agreement will likely be ratified by all parties, and any registrations not completed before Brexit should not negatively affect UK nationals in the European Union or their employers, registering prior to Brexit should make it easier for UK nationals to claim their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.



These items and other news from Australia, China, France, Guatemala, Guyana, Iraq, Kuwait, Serbia, Spain, and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, January 23, 2020

New State Department Rule Addresses B Visa Travel for Childbirth, Medical Treatment

  • The rule requires a consular officer to deny a visitor visa to a pregnant woman if the officer determines that the primary purpose of her trip is to obtain U.S. citizenship for the child by giving birth in the United States.
  • The rule also codifies a longstanding State Department policy that requires foreign visitors entering the United States for medical treatment to document their treatment plans and show ability to pay for all treatment costs.
  • The regulation takes effect on Friday, January 24, 2020.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Portugal, January 23, 2020

Minimum Wage Increased

  • Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly wage increased to EUR 635, calculated over 14 payments, up 5.8 percent from 2019.
  • Foreign nationals travelling with family members must receive an additional EUR 317.50/month for an accompanying spouse or child over 18 and additional EUR 190.50/month per accompanying child under 18, both calculated over 14 payments.
  • Although foreign workers typically receive salaries well above this threshold, employers are advised to check foreign workers’ salaries to ensure compliance.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 23, 2020

February Visa Bulletin Update: USCIS to Honor Dates for Filing for Most Categories Next Month

  • In February, USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Dates for Filing listed in the State Department's February Visa Bulletin, with some exceptions.
  • For all EB-3 countries except India, China and the Philippines, the agency will accept applications according to the Final Action Date chart, which lists most EB-3 countries as current in February. 



To view entire article, click here.

 

Guyana, January 22, 2020

Documentary Requirements Expanded to Oil and Gas Industry Applicants

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana has expanded the requirement for foreign nationals to submit a copy of their employment agreement with the sponsoring entity when applying for initial and renewed visas-on-arrival, permits to land and work permits to applicants in the oil and gas industry, effective immediately.
  • Furthermore, oil and gas industry applicants who will not be directly employed by an entity in Guyana can still provide a copy of their home employment contract; however, they must now ensure that their sponsor letter specifies the qualifying relationship between the entity in Guyana and the entity abroad.
  • Previously, applicants in the oil and gas industry were exempt from these documentary requirements.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Belarus, January 22, 2020

Minimum Salary Level Increased

  • Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum salary level in Belarus has increased to BYN 375, up 13.6 percent from 2019. As a result, the minimum salary requirement for highly-qualified foreign employees should now exceed BYN 5,625 per month (15 times the minimum salary level).
  • Employers should check highly-qualified foreign employees’ salaries to ensure compliance with the increased minimum salary level.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Serbia, January 22, 2020

Minimum Salary Level Increased

  • Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum salary for foreign workers in Serbia has increased to RSD 172.54 net/hour, up 11.1 percent from 2019.
  • Salary levels for locally-hired foreign workers increased to RSD 27,606.40 – 31,747.36 net/month, depending on the amount of applicable working hours per month.
  • Foreign workers typically receive salaries well above this threshold.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Ireland, January 21, 2020

Calls for Submissions on Critical Skills Occupations List and Ineligible List of Occupations for Employment Permits

  • The Irish authorities are inviting comment submissions on the Critical Skills Occupations List and the Ineligible List of Occupations for Employment Permits.
  • Employers interested in submitting comments can do so via email by March 2, 2020. Fragomen can assist with comment drafting and submission.
  • Following the review period, the government may add occupations to the Critical Skills Employment Permit and General Employment Categories, which would expand hiring options for employers and prospective employees.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Azerbaijan, January 21, 2020

Oil and Gas Sector Employers Must Now Conduct Labor Market Test

  • Employers seeking to send foreign workers to Azerbaijan for oil and gas sector employment must now register on an online system in order to conduct a labor market test where one did not previously apply.
  • This will be the first requirement for a labor market test for any work authorization category in Azerbaijan.
  • The new step will significantly prolong the work authorization process for workers in this sector and will add administrative burdens for the employer.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 17, 2020

February 2020 Visa Bulletin: Modest Movement Continues for Most Countries; EB-3 Worldwide Still Likely to Retrogress in March

  • All EB-1 countries except for China and India will advance by two months to December 1, 2018. China will remain at May 22, 2017, while India will remain at January 1, 2015.
  • EB-2 China will advance by two weeks, to July 15, 2015, and EB-2 India will advance by one day, to May 19, 2009.
  • EB-3 China will advance by one month, to January 1, 2016, EB-3 India will advance by one week to January 8, 2009, and EB-3 Philippines will advance by two and a half months, to June 1, 2018. 
  • Consistent with last month’s State Department projections, EB-3 Worldwide is expected to retrogress in March 2020.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Romania, January 17, 2020

EU Blue Card Salary Level Increased

  • Effective January 9, 2020, the minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card applicants in Romania has increased to RON 10,858, up 5.2 percent from 2019.
  • Employers should ensure their current EU Blue Card holders' salaries comply with the new rule.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Spain, January 17, 2020

Processing Times Now Over Four Months

  • Government processing times for all major work authorization types under the Entrepreneur’s Act in Spain are now approximately four months, up from the statutory processing time of 20 business days, due to a continued backlog.
  • Employers seeking to send employees to Spain are advised to initiate transfers and assignments well in advance, and to account for the delays in planning work start dates.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Brexit News and Related News Briefs This Week

European Union, January 23, 2020

Local Registration Requirement Reminder for UK Nationals as Brexit Approaches  

  • UK nationals in EU countries should complete any requisite national registration requirements to demonstrate their legal stay (which are voluntary in some EU countries and mandatory in others) before Brexit (January 31, 2020), if possible.
  • Although the Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified by the UK Parliament, and under the terms of that deal any registrations not complete before Brexit would not negatively affect UK nationals in the European Union or their employers, completed registrations should make it easier for UK nationals to claim their rights protected by the Withdrawal Agreement. Registrations also ensure compliance with national no-deal provisions, in the event that circumstances change.
  • This proactive approach is suggested since the Withdrawal Agreement is not yet through its final stages of approval and because registration appointments are difficult to obtain in most EU countries.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Many other EU countries have published contingency plans for UK nationals in case of a no-deal Brexit, with more expected soon. Fragomen will provide updates on the situation as they become available.

Please contact a Fragomen immigration professional for assistance in planning contingency arrangements in a single project. For more information, please visit Fragomen's dedicated Brexit site, which contains news, FAQs, and analysis/commentary in the form of blogs, videos, webcasts and events.

 

Other Weekly News Briefs

Australia: Submissions Period Now Open for Government Review of Skills Lists – Following the Australian Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business' release of the bulletin identifying the list of occupations under consideration for a change in status on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and Regional Occupation List (ROL), the Department has announced that the public commentary submission period is now open until February 12, 2020. Fragomen can help guide or prepare formal submissions supporting efforts to advocate on specific occupations. After review of the submissions, the Department will prepare recommendations to the Minister. The new Skilled Migration Occupation Lists are expected to be announced in March 2020. The addition, removal or movement of occupations between these lists impact business and employers’ ability to utilise the employer-based temporary and permanent visa programs. Specifically, as it relates to the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa program, occupations that are moved to the STSOL are subject to more restrictive grant periods, and importantly, do not provide visa holders with a pathway to permanent residency. Those interested in learning more about the review of the Skilled Migration Occupation Lists and how Fragomen can advocate for outcomes to support your business needs, please reach out to your Fragomen immigration contact, or directly to Justin Gibbs, Director of Government Relations APAC, at GovernmentRelationsAU@fragomen.com. MARN: 1798314

China: Government Offices Closed for Chinese New Year – All government entities in China will be closed during the Chinese New Year holiday from January 24-30, and will reopen January 31. Pending immigration applications will not be adjudicated and new applications will not be accepted during this time.

France: Residence Permit Fees Consolidated – Effective January 1, 2020, residence permit fees across many permit types were consolidated at EUR 200. Fees have therefore decreased for residence permits valid for multiple years, such as the EU Intracompany Transfer (ICT) Permit, EU Blue Card, Talent Passport permits and long-stay visas validation, where previous fees were EUR 250-269, depending on the permit duration. Fees have increased for temporary residence permits, such as ICT trainees, where previous fees were EUR 60-120, depending on the application type. Certain categories of applicants, including minors and students, are now subject to a EUR 50 fee – previously the fee was EUR 45 for minors and EUR 60 for students. Separately, fees for the authorities to create a residence card increased to EUR 25 from EUR 19 for all applicants; these fees are in addition to an existing fee of more than EUR 200 / EUR 50. Long Stay Visa fees remain unchanged at EUR 99, applicable to all nationalities and also added to the residence permit fee. The new fees apply to applications filed after January 1, 2020. Employers and foreign nationals are advised to budget for the new fees.

Guatemala: Delays Expected in Immigration Processes for Venezuelan Nationals  – Due to Guatemala's termination of diplomatic ties with Venezuela, and the imminent closure of the Venezuelan embassy in the country, Venezuelan nationals applying for Temporary Residence in Guatemala will no longer be able to obtain Certificates of Passport Validity (issued by the consulate of the applicant's nationality in Guatemala) and instead must obtain and apostille their birth certificate. Foreign nationals with expiring Venezuelan documents (such as birth, marriage or police clearance certificates) will no longer be able to obtain consular-issued Certificates of Document Validity, and may instead need to obtain and apostille new documents in Venezuela, which can delay the document-gathering time for immigration processes in Guatemala. It is unclear at this time whether Venezuela will take any reciprocal measures. Fragomen will continue to monitor the situation and report on any relevant developments or additional impact on employers or foreign nationals. ​​

Iraq: Delays Expected in Oil and Gas Sector Immigration Process – In a reversal of a previous rule that allowed employers in the oil and gas sector in Iraq to work directly with the Ministry of Interior (MOI) during the employment visa application process without prior approval from the respective concession-holding company (also referred to as the Field Office Division or FOD), employers in the industry are again required to work with the respective FODs to obtain employment visa pre-approvals. As a result, foreign nationals and employers should account for delays when planning start dates for all foreign nationals whose applications require a pre-approval from FOD, which may take between one and five weeks, depending on the FOD.

Kuwait: Ban on Employment of Filipino Workers in Effect – Effective January 15, 2020, the Philippine government has banned its nationals from working in Kuwait. Employers in Kuwait will therefore not be able to hire Filipino nationals until the ban is lifted. Filipino nationals who were already in Kuwait on or before January 15 can remain and continue to work in Kuwait. It is unclear at this time how long the ban will last.

Serbia: Streamlined Application Process in Effect – The streamlined application process for Work and Residence Permits announced in October 2019 is now partially in effect. Under the new process, visa-exempt nationals and visa nationals can apply for a long-term D visa (a temporary residence visa) abroad. Employers can then apply for a work permit using the D-visa filing confirmation, where previously a work permit application required the temporary residence permit to be approved first. Upon approval of the D visa, the consulate automatically notifies the Labor Agency, allowing the latter to process and approve the work permit. Once the foreign national enters Serbia with the D visa and upon work permit approval, the foreign national can start working. Previously, foreign nationals were in country without work authorization for most of the application process. As required previously, to continue the process, foreign nationals will need to apply for a temporary residence permit within the D-visa validity and for Work permit renewal upon residence permit issuance.

United States: DHS Further Extends Deadline for Public Comments on Proposed USCIS Fee Changes – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is reopening and extending the public comment period for the proposed USCIS fee rule for an additional 15 days upon official publication of the reopening. The reopening notice is slated for publication in Friday’s Federal Register. DHS originally published the fee rule on November 14, 2019, with a comment period ending December 16, 2019. On December 9, 2019, the comment period was extended to December 30, 2019. In reopening the comment period, DHS states that it will also consider comments received after the close of the most recent comment period – those received since December 30, 2019.

As originally proposed, the fee rule would increase costs for most petitioners and applicants, and impose new filing and fee requirements for many case types. The proposal would also require employers with a high proportion of H-1B and L-1 employees to make additional border security fee payments. Affected employers would pay this fee with each H-1B or L-1 extension of stay, in addition to initial filings and changes of employer. In addition to fee increases, the proposal seeks to increase the premium processing timeline to almost three weeks, from 15 calendar days, and to impose new fees on asylum and DACA applicants.

United States: Iranian Nationals No Longer Eligible for E-1/E-2 Status – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that nationals of Iran are no longer eligible to change or to extend their stay in the U.S. in E-1 treaty trader or E-2 treaty investor status, following the October 3, 2018 termination of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights with Iran. Iranian nationals currently in valid E-1 or E-2 status, including their family members who are in valid E status, will be required to depart from the United States upon expiration of their authorized period of stay in the United States, unless otherwise authorized to remain in the United States. On October 3, 2018, the U.S. Department of State notified Iran of the termination of the Treaty of Amity. More than a year later, on October 23, 2019, the U.S. Department of State provided DHS with formal notice of the termination of the treaty. There are no other qualifying treaties with Iran currently in force or other Iran-specific bases for granting or extending E-1 or E-2 status to Iranian nationals.

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