US

Jan 30 2020

Weekly Immigration Update: January 24-30, 2020

Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Croatia, Estonia, Hong Kong, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Republic of the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States

In immigration news this week:

  • Asia-Pacific/World: Jurisdictions around the world, particularly those in the Asia-Pacific region, have implemented travel restrictions, closed government offices, and taken other measures to control the spread of the coronavirus. Visit Fragomen’s updated coronavirus-related news page for the latest immigration updates.
  • United States: The Supreme Court has ruled that the Department of Homeland Security can implement its public charge rule—which broadens the agency’s authority to determine whether certain foreign nationals will become a public charge of the United states—in all states except Illinois while litigation challenging the rule continues. Details related to implementation are expected shortly. USCIS is expected to publish a revised Form I-9 (10/21/2019 edition) on Friday, though employers can continue to use the prior version (07/17/17 edition) for another 90 days. President Trump has signed legislation to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA); however, it will not take effect until it is ratified by Canada and all three signatory countries complete preparatory steps toward implementation.
  • Kazakhstan: In line with recent improvements to immigration rules, the government has implemented several changes that reduce administrative entry processes and redefine the passport registration process.
  • Bulgaria / Croatia / Hungary / Ukraine: Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly wages have increased.

     

In Brexit news this week:

  • United Kingdom: The UK Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published a report advising on a post-Brexit immigration system for the United Kingdom. The report could serve as indication on what the UK immigration system will look like in 2021. Key recommendations include introducing a points-based system for those without a job offer, and reducing the salary threshold for the Tier 2 (General) visa category.

 

These items and other news from Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Estonia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, January 30, 2020

Latest USCIS Data Show RFE and Denial Rates Remained High for Key Employer-Sponsored Nonimmigrant Categories in the First Quarter of FY 2020

  • In the first quarter of FY 2020, the rate of requests for evidence and petition denials remained high for H-1B petitions, though there was a modest improvement in H-1B approval and RFE rates in comparison to Q1 of FY 2019.
  • L-1 petitions filed at USCIS Service Centers saw a drop in approvals, as RFEs increased 5.5% over Q1 of FY 2019.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 30, 2020

New I-9 Form Coming with Grace Period for Prior Version

  • Though a new Form I-9 (10/21/2019 edition) takes effect upon Federal Register publication, employers will have another 90 days to use the prior version (07/17/17 edition), according to USCIS.
  • Employers should not complete new Forms I-9 for employees already verified unless reverification is required.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Ukraine, January 30, 2020

Minimum Salary Level Increased

  • Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly salary for foreign workers in Ukraine increased to UAH 47,230, up 13.2 percent from 2019.
  • Employers are advised to review foreign workers’ salaries to ensure compliance with the new rule.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 29, 2020

President Trump Signs Legislation to Ratify U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement

  • The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will not take effect until it is ratified by Canada and all three signatory countries complete preparatory steps toward implementation.
  • Until the USMCA is implemented, NAFTA will remain in effect, including its labor mobility provisions.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Croatia, January 29, 2020

Minimum Wage Increased

  • Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly wage in Croatia has increased to HRK 4,062.51, up 8.3 percent from 2019.
  • Although foreign workers typically receive salaries well above this threshold, employers are advised to check foreign workers’ salaries to ensure compliance with the new rules.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Hong Kong, January 28, 2020

Rail and Ferry Service to Mainland China Closed; Flight Service to Mainland China Reduced

  • As part of Hong Kong's efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Hong Kong government has announced the temporary closure of six of its border control points with Mainland China effective January 30 until further notice.
  • All rail and ferry service to and from Mainland China will be suspended. In addition, frequencies of cross-border buses will be decreased and flights to and from Hong Kong and Mainland China will be reduced.
  • The Chinese government has also suspended the issuance of individual travel permits for travelers from Mainland China to Hong Kong. This suspension does not apply to business visits, work and trips for visiting relatives.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Singapore, January 28, 2020

Travel Ban Due to Coronavirus

  • In an effort to contain the coronavirus, effective January 29, 2020, visitors with passports issued in Hubei Province, Mainland China, and those who have traveled to Hubei Province in the last 14 calendar days are banned from entry into or transit through Singapore.
  • Returning Singapore nationals and permanent residents and Singapore long-term pass holders who have either traveled to Hubei Province in the last 14 calendar days or who have Mainland Chinese passports issued in Hubei Province will be quarantined on their return to Singapore.
  • Lastly, effective immediately, all Singaporean visas of those with Hubei-issued passports are suspended.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Kazakhstan, January 28, 2020

New Entry and Stay Rules Implemented

The Kazakhstan government has implemented several policy changes that reduce administrative entry processes. Key changes include:

  • Redefining passport registration as a temporary residence permit process for certain visa-exempt nationals seeking to stay for more than 30 days;
  • Implementing an online process for the mandatory notification of arrival notification; and
  • Eliminating the requirement for host companies to submit monthly reports to regional labor authorities for review and tracking.

 

Separately, the Kazakh government clarified the maximum allowable stay for visa-exempt short-term travelers as 90 days in a 180-day period, limited to 30 days per trip, where previously no cumulative limit was set.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Mainland China/Taiwan/Hong Kong, January 28, 2020

Departure and Entry Bans Implemented to Contain Coronavirus

Due to the spread of the coronavirus, there has been a departure ban in Wuhan City, Mainland China, and entry bans have been implemented in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Details include:

  • Wuhan City, Mainland China departure ban. As of January 23, 2020, departure from Wuhan City, Mainland China has been temporarily banned via airports and railways due to the spread of the coronavirus. This particularly impacts foreign nationals in Wuhan City who need to renew their temporary residence permits in order to remain compliant with Mainland Chinese immigration laws during this departure ban.
  • Taiwan entry ban. Effective January 27, 2020, the National Immigration Agency in Taiwan is barring Chinese nationals who are residents of or whose household is in Hubei Province, Mainland China, from entering Taiwan, even if they hold a valid Entry Permit for Taiwan. 
  • Hong Kong entry ban. Effective January 27, 2020, residents from Hubei Province in Mainland China and persons who visited the Hubei Province in the past 14 calendar days cannot enter Hong Kong until further notice. This ban does not affect Hong Kong residents. 

 

Many countries have issued travel warnings to the Asia-Pacific region since the coronavirus was first detected in late December 2019 in Mainland China. Fragomen is tracking this situation and will report on other relevant travel impacts.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 27, 2020

Supreme Court Allows Public Charge Rule to Be Enforced While Legal Challenges Continue

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that DHS may implement its public charge rule in all states except Illinois while litigation challenging the rule continues.
  • DHS is expected to begin implementation shortly, requiring new forms and evidence from adjustment applicants, and from some nonimmigrants seeking to change or extend status in the United States.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Bulgaria, January 27, 2020

Minimum Wage Increased

  • Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly wage in Bulgaria has increased to BGN 610, up 8.9 percent from 2019.
  • Foreign nationals typically receive salaries well above this threshold, since their salaries must also be in line with market rates and collective bargaining agreements.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Hungary, January 24, 2020

Minimum Salary Level Increased

  • Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly wage in Hungary has increased to HUF 161,000, or HUF 210,600 for positions requiring at least secondary education, up eight percent from 2019.
  • Foreign workers typically receive salaries well above this level, since they are required to receive at least 80 percent of the national average salary for the relevant position. Employers are nevertheless advised to check foreign workers’ salaries to ensure compliance.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Republic of Congo, January 24, 2020

Closure of Labor Department Causes Work Permit Suspension

  • The Labor Department in the Republic of Congo has closed the office responsible for issuing work permits to foreign nationals and plans to replace it with a new agency.
  • Work permit applications will not be accepted and pending work permit applications will not be adjudicated until the new agency is operational, which is expected to be in February.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Brexit News and Related News Briefs This Week

United Kingdom, January 28, 2020

Migration Advisory Committee Publishes Report on Post-Brexit Immigration System

  • The UK Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published a report advising on a post-Brexit immigration system for the United Kingdom, specifically on an ‘Australian points-based system’ and salary thresholds.
  • Among the key points were a recommendation to maintain the current system for applicants with a job offer and introduce a points-based system only for those without a job offer; and reduce the salary threshold for the Tier 2 (General) visa category from GBP 30,000 to GBP 25,600.
  • The new immigration system is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2021, provided that legal changes can be completed in time.

 

To view entire article, click here.

 

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

Brazil/Qatar: Update on Visa Waiver Agreement Signed Between Qatar and Brazil – The bilateral agreement signed by the governments of Brazil and Qatar in October 2019 has been published in Brazil's official gazette, confirming visa-free entry for citizens of each other's countries traveling for tourism, business and transiting purposes. According to the agreement and effective immediately, citizens of Qatar can enter Brazil for up to 90 continuous days, and up to 180 cumulative days, in a 12-month period, counted from the first day of entry (instead of the 30 day limit, extendable for an additional 30 days, as initially announced by Brazilian newspapers and verbally informed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Qatari embassy). Qatari nationals must hold a passport valid for at least six months at the time of entry. Fragomen is monitoring the implementation of the agreement in Qatar and will report on relevant changes. Currently, citizens of Brazil are eligible for visa-free entry for stays of up to 30 days in Qatar with the possibility of a 30-day extension.

Colombia: Two New Special Permits for Venezuelans Released – The Colombian government has introduced two special permits allowing Venezuelan nationals to work in Colombia and provide access to health care services and public education. A second Special Stay Permit (PEP) that is valid for two year was introduced for Venezuelan nationals who: legally entered Colombia before November 29, 2019; were in Colombia on November 29, 2019; have a clean criminal record; have no open deportation or expulsion cases; and no valid Colombian visa or special permit or pending visa or permit application. Eligible Venezuelans can apply for the PEP on Migración Colombia’s website until May 29, 2020. The second permit, the Special Stay Permit with Job Offer (PEPFF - Permiso Especial de Permanencia para el Fomento de la Formalización), is available to Venezuelan nationals over the age of 18 who: are in irregular immigration status in Colombia; have a job offer from a Colombian company (under a fixed-term employment or services contract); have a Venezuelan passport or Identity Card (even if expired); have a clean criminal record; and have no open deportation or expulsion cases. Employers must file the PEPFF application with the Ministry of Labor on the Venezuelan national’s behalf. The permit may be initially granted from two months to two years depending on the contract’s duration, renewable for up to a total of four continuous or cumulative years.

Croatia: Tourist Visa Waiver for Russian Nationals – Russian nationals can now enter, transit and reside in Croatia for tourism purposes for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. Business activities are not allowed under this visa waiver.

Croatia: 2020 Work Authorization Quota Published – The Croatian government has set the 2020 work authorization quota at 103,470 permits, up 55.36 percent from 2019. The quota is broken down by transfer type, industry and job category. As before, more than 30 permit and transfer types are not limited by the quota, including highly-skilled professionals, key personnel, employees providing services on behalf of non-EU employers, self-employed foreign nationals and foreign nationals with long-term residence in other EU Member States. Notably, the Croatian government is submitting draft legislation to parliament which, if passed, would replace the current quota with a labor market test, implement stricter employer sponsorship criteria, and require applicants to submit a police clearance certificate, among other changes. The legislation will be amended based on the results of public debate, and is scheduled to be submitted to parliament in the first quarter of 2020. Fragomen expects parliament to change the legislation as part of its review and will report on related developments accordingly.

Estonia: Minimum Wage Increased – Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly wage has increased to EUR 584, up 8.1 percent from 2019. Increases between six and 10 percent are common in Estonia. The change only affects EU nationals, since all other foreign workers are subject to separate higher salary requirements tied to the average gross monthly salary in Estonia. The national average gross monthly salary is expected to be updated late February, with the new amount scheduled to take effect March 1, 2020. The minimum monthly legal income, a separate requirement applicable to foreign nationals sponsoring family members, was increased to EUR 360 per family member, up 20 percent from 2019.

Qatar: Online Address Registration Required by July 26, 2020 – The Qatar Ministry of Interior (MOI) has formally advised all Qatari nationals and foreign nationals residing in Qatar under a Residence Permit and locally-registered companies to register their local address in Qatar through the Metrash2 mobile application or the MOI website by July 26, 2020. Those who fail to register by this date may face fines. Certain immigration processes such as Work and Family Residence Permit renewals may be delayed if the applicant does not have a registered national address. Spouses sponsored under Family Residence Permits will need to obtain their own online portal access prior to registering their address, while children can be registered through the online portal access of the sponsoring parent.

Saudi Arabia: Deadline Approaching for Self-Evaluation Compliance Program – Employers in Saudi Arabia who received a notification from the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD) to register for a self-evaluation compliance review program must complete the assessment by January 30, 2020 or risk not being able to complete labor-related transactions with the MLSD, such as new work permit approvals, work permit renewals, and work visa-related transactions. The self-assessment is focused on compliance with standards related to obtaining employment permits, disbursement of wages, employment contracts and regulations for the employment of specific categories of workers, including women, minors and persons with disabilities, among others. The MLSD launched the review program in 2019 and applies to companies who employ 50 or more workers. Affected employers must register for the program through the designated website and evaluate their current compliance with employment regulations. Upon completion of the evaluation, the MLSD will prepare a report and determine a deadline for the employer to rectify any issues identified during the assessment. The final step of the process will involve an on-site inspection by the MLSD.

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