Virginia, US

Jan 31 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: January 25-31, 2019

Belarus, Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: With the government reopened, border security and budget negotiations have resumed, though another partial government shutdown could occur if an agreement between Congress and the White House is not reached by February 15. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized its rule to put in place an online H-1B cap registration system, but will postpone implementation of the registration  requirement for at least one year. DHS could publish its long-anticipated proposed rule to rescind the H-4 employment authorization document program by March 18.
  • United States/Venezuela: Routine visa services at the U.S. mission in Caracas, Venezuela – including nonimmigrant visa processing – are suspended indefinitely. Limited emergency services remain available for U.S. citizens.
  • Mexico: Significant immigration application processing delays continue in several large cities. Delays may impact start dates and are not likely to subside for several weeks until the new government finalizes the transition to new officials.
  • United Kingdom: UK employers are now able to check online to determine whether a foreign national is eligible to work.
  • Saudi Arabia: Starting February 2, certain companies’ Nitaqat ratings will be instantly impacted when employers hire new Saudi or foreign employees and when other employees depart.
  • Finland/Slovenia: The minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card applicants and the minimum monthly gross salary for foreign workers increased on January 1, respectively, for each country.



In Brexit news this week:

  • United Kingdom: A new policy paper sets out the rights of European Economic Area and Swiss nationals in the United Kingdom after March 29, 2019, in case of a no-deal Brexit.
  • Belgium: Draft 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 Belarus, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, North Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, and Saudi Arabia follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United Kingdom, January 31, 2019

Home Office Introduces Online Right to Work Checks

The UK Home Office has introduced an online right to work checking service. Employers can now use the online service to check the immigration status of foreign nationals who hold Biometric Residence Permits or Biometric Residence Cards, or foreign nationals who registered their status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Saudi Arabia, January 31, 2019

Nitaqat Rating to Impact Employers Immediately and Block Visa Eligibility Relaxed

  • Starting February 2, 2019, companies’ Saudization levels will be calculated immediately when employers hire new Saudi and foreign employees and when other employees depart, which will instantly affect companies’ Nitaqat ratings, instead of the current system in which it takes 26 weeks for such changes to affect the Nitaqat rating.
  • Also, effective immediately, companies classified under medium-green rating in the Nitaqat system can now apply for block visa approval, a prerequisite for the employment of foreign nationals. Previously, only employers with high-green and platinum ratings could benefit from the block visa process.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 30, 2019

Proposal to Rescind H-4 EAD Program Could Come Soon

  • DHS could publish its long-anticipated proposed rule to rescind the H-4 employment authorization document (EAD) program by March 18, which is the agency’s deadline to submit a legal brief in a lawsuit challenging the work authorization program.
  • The proposal would not be implemented until finalized by DHS, which could occur as soon as mid-year. Eligible H-4 spouses should be able to apply for and renew employment authorization documents under current rules until further notice.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 30, 2019

H-1B Cap Update: DHS to Postpone Online Cap Registration But Will Implement Lottery Change This Year

  • The long-awaited final H-1B cap registration rule has been issued and is expected to be published in the Federal Register on January 31.
  • DHS will establish an online cap registration system as anticipated, but will postpone implementation until the FY 2021 H-1B cap season, which begins in early 2020.
  • DHS will reverse the order of the regular and advanced-degree cap lotteries for the upcoming cap season as proposed.
  • Employers should continue to prepare as usual for the FY 2020 H-1B cap filing season, which begins April 1.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Mexico, January 28, 2019

Corporate Registration Process Now Longer; May Delay Visa Approvals

The new government in Mexico has implemented a policy that may require an employer’s legal representative to appear at the local immigration office nearest to the company’s registered domicile to renew the corporate registration certificate each year. Employers are advised to renew their corporate registration certificate as early as possible under the new process to avoid gaps in holding a valid registration certificate, which could prevent the company from being able to hire foreign workers.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 28, 2019

Post-Shutdown Update: E-Verify Back Online; Suspended Immigration Operations Expected to Resume

  • E-Verify operations have resumed, but some system services may be delayed. Employers have until February 11, 2019 to create new E-Verify cases for employees hired during the shutdown.  
  • Further information is expected soon on the reopening of the expired EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center program, as well as other expired USCIS immigration programs.
  • Local CBP offices that suspended or limited I-94 correction services during the shutdown should begin resuming normal operations, but delays are expected.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Mexico, January 28, 2019

Immigration Process Adjudication Delays Continue Nationwide

Due to the transition to a new government, there are significant immigration application processing delays in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Queretaro and several other large cities in Mexico. Delays may impact start dates and are not likely to subside for several weeks until the new government finalizes the transition to new officials.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Colombia, January 28, 2019

In-Country Visa Applicants Now Subject to Longer Application Process

  • Foreign nationals applying for or renewing a Business Visa, Visitor Visa, Migrant Visa or Resident Visa in Colombia can no longer obtain their visas on the same day as they appear at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and must now apply on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website at least seven days prior to arrival.
  • This prolongs the in-country visa application process by five to eight business days and delays the receipt of the national identification card.
  • This change does not affect those who must file their visa applications at a Colombian consulate based on their nationality.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Slovenia, January 28, 2019

Minimum Salary Level Increased

Effective January 1, 2019, the minimum monthly gross salary for foreign workers in Slovenia has increased to EUR 886.63, up 5.2 percent from last year. Although employers must increase foreign workers’ salaries if required, foreign workers typically receive salaries well above this threshold.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States/Venezuela, January 25, 2019

U.S. State Department Suspends Routine Visa Services in Caracas, Venezuela

  • Routine visa services at the U.S. mission in Caracas, Venezuela – including nonimmigrant visa processing – have been suspended indefinitely as tensions increase between the United States and Venezuela.
  • Limited emergency services remain available for U.S. citizens.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 25, 2019

Congress Passes Short-Term Measure to Lift Partial Shutdown Through February 15

  • Border security and budget negotiations will continue through February 15, but another partial shutdown could occur if Congress and the White House do not reach agreement.
  • Affected government agencies, including some immigration functions, are expected to resume shortly after the President signs the bill.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 25, 2019

Premium Processing for FY 2019 H-1B Cap Cases Opens on January 28

  • Beginning Monday, January 28, employers can request premium processing services for pending FY 2019 H-1B cap cases.
  • Premium processing will remain suspended for most other H-1B filings until further notice.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Finland, January 25, 2019

EU Blue Card Salary Level and Paper Application Filing Fees Increased

  • Effective January 1, 2019, the minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card applicants in Finland has increased to EUR 4,732, up 1.5 percent from last year. The Residence Permit for a Specialist minimum salary level remains unchanged.
  • Separately, government filing fees have decreased by 12.5 percent for online applications and increased by 17 percent for paper applications for all permit types. Applicants are advised to review online application options to benefit from the decrease.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Brexit News and Related News Briefs This Week

Belgium, January 29, 2019

Draft Legislation Proposes Rights of UK Nationals in No-Deal Brexit

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

  • A grace period would apply from March 30, 2019 to December 31, 2020 during which UK nationals and their family members with resident status in Belgium on March 29, 2019 would be allowed to keep their status under the same requirements as for qualifying EU nationals.
  • Labour market rights are expected to be granted under the same requirements as for qualifying EU nationals during the transition period, though the draft legislation does not provide specifics.
  • The draft legislation does not provide further details on residency rights and labour market access for UK nationals arriving in Belgium post Brexit. There are indications that they would be granted residency and labour rights under the same requirements as for qualifying EU nationals during the transition period. After the transition period, Belgium would most likely apply a regime based on reciprocity with the United Kingdom.



This draft legislation must still receive final approval from the Belgian parliament to be finalized.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United Kingdom, January 28, 2019

Policy Paper Proposes Rights of European Economic Area and Swiss Nationals in No-Deal Brexit

A new policy paper published by the UK government sets out the rights of European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals if the United Kingdom and European Union do not reach a Withdrawal Agreement on or before March 29, 2019. If the UK government accepts the guidelines, the following would occur:

  • EU Settlement Scheme. EEA and Swiss nationals who arrive in the United Kingdom prior to Brexit, and those who arrive in the United Kingdom after Brexit but who were previously living in the United Kingdom before Brexit, would be able to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.
  • Short-term stays. Between March 30, 2019 and January 1, 2021, EEA and Swiss nationals seeking to stay in the United Kingdom for under three months will not need to apply for any immigration status or visa.
  • Long-term stays. Those seeking to stay in the United Kingdom for over three months will need to apply for a status called European Temporary Leave to Remain, which will allow a stay of up to 36 months but will not lead to indefinite leave to remain, status under the EU Settlement Scheme or allow eligibility for an indefinite stay for EEA nationals. This status would require a fee, the amount of which has not yet been announced.
  • Application under new immigration system. EEA nationals who would intend to stay in the United Kingdom for more than 36 months would need to apply for immigration status under the new immigration system, which will come into effect by January 1, 2021. Those who do not qualify will need to leave the United Kingdom when their European Temporary Leave to Remain expires. 



To view entire article, click here.

 

Czech Republic: Parliament Approves No-Deal Law – The Czech parliament approved the government’s proposed law detailing plans for the treatment of UK nationals residing in the Czech Republic, to take effect after March 29, 2019 in case of a no-deal Brexit scenario. No changes were made to the proposal.

Denmark: Government Announces No-Deal Brexit Plans – The Danish government 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 Denmark. The government has prepared a draft legislative proposal to this effect, which it plans to submit to parliament in the second half of February to ensure it takes effect by March 30, 2019. The current plans envisage to maintain the status quo during an open-ended grace period until a permanent solution is implemented. The government urges UK national residents and their non-EU family members to check whether they hold a Registration Certificate and apply for a Registration Certificate or dependent residence permit, respectively, if not yet in place. Eligible UK residents and their non-EU family members can apply for permanent residence during the grace period.

Finland: Authorities Advise UK Nationals to Register – Finnish authorities have advised UK nationals residing in Finland to register their stay with the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri - the standard current registration process for EU nationals in Finland), if not yet completed, to maximize their rights after Brexit. Registration is valid indefinitely and does not have to be renewed. The government has proposed a grace period that would allow UK nationals until the end of 2020 to complete a special residence registration process in Finland after Brexit, though details on this process have not yet been announced. 

Malta: Prime Minister Announces No-Deal Brexit Plans – The Maltese prime minister announced that in case of a no-deal Brexit, UK national residents can continue to stay and work in Malta. UK national residents would be eligible for a special 10-year residence permit – a longer validity than any current national permit type – which would be waived from government filing fees. The plans thus far do not mention a grace period during which UK nationals would have to apply for this permit. UK nationals entering Malta after March 29, 2019 would also be eligible for a 10-year permit, but they would have to pay government filing fees, and they would require work authorization to perform work activities. UK nationals residing in Malta are advised to apply for an e-residence card, if possible, to maximize their rights after Brexit. The e-residence card allows EU/European Economic Area nationals to prove their right to reside in Malta and receive national healthcare.

Slovakia: Government Announces No-Deal Brexit Plans – The Slovak government 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 Slovakia. The government stated its intention to submit legislation to parliament at a future, unannounced date, but did not provide further details of the proposal. The government highlighted that any Slovak arrangements would be subject to reciprocal protection of Slovak nationals in the United Kingdom.

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

Belarus: New, Free Method of Registering Stay – Foreign nationals residing in Belarus for any reason (business or tourism) for more than five business days who arrive through international check points (except Russia) on or after January 2, 2019 can now register their temporary stay through a free, online portal. The registration can be completed by the applicant or a representative. The option to personally visit the local department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs remains available and is still mandatory for those arriving from Russia and those seeking to extend their stay period in Belarus. 

Canada: Work Permit Pilot Extended Again for Spouses and Common-law Partners – The Canadian government has again extended the work permit pilot for spouses and common-law partners who are applying for permanent residence under the Spouse or Common-law Partner in Canada (SCLPC) class until July 31, 2020. The program has been extended twice before. To be eligible for a work permit under this program, a foreign national must live in Canada; be sponsored under the SCLPC class by their spouse or partner; have a valid temporary resident status; and live at the same address as their spouse or partner. The program allows eligible spouses and common-law partners to be able to begin working in Canada earlier in the permanent residence application process, instead of waiting for the first phase of their application to be approved.

China: Fingerprint Registration Now Mandatory for Visa Applicants in Canada, Norway and the United Kingdom – Based on a recent change in practice, applicants filing any Chinese visa applications in Canada, Norway and the United Kingdom must now appear in person at a Chinese consular post for fingerprint registration. The following categories of applicants are exempt from this requirement: those under 14 or over 70 years old; those exempt based on a bilateral reciprocal arrangement, i.e., diplomatic passport holders or individuals eligible for diplomatic, service or courtesy visas (except when required under the principle of reciprocity); those who already had their fingerprints registered for a previous visa application within the last five years who are using the same passport; and applicants who suffer from mutilation of all ten fingers or whose fingerprints cannot be collected. Applicants may need to make an appointment at the consulate prior to appearing for registration, though this practice as well as the documentary requirements for the registration varies by consulate. The new process will prolong the visa application process for affected applicants as previously, an in-person appearance at this point in the application process was not required.

Croatia: Applications Delayed in Zagreb – Stay and Work Permit applications filed at the Police Administration (immigration authority in Croatia) in Zagreb are currently being processed in approximately 60 calendar days, up from 45 calendar days. There are no possible solutions available to remedy this delay since applicants residing in Zagreb must file their applications at Zagreb Police Administration. Zagreb Police Administration is working to resolve the issue, but Fragomen expects the delays to persist for at least several months. The delays result from an increased volume of applications following a quota increase in 2018.

France: Visa Validation Issues Resolved in Montrouge, Persist in Paris – The visa validation issues reported in November for Montrouge and Paris are now resolved for Montrouge but persist in Paris. Due to a technical issue, French immigration authorities in Paris remain unable to print a stamp required to validate foreign nationals' visas, causing foreign nationals assigned to this office to experience delays with the confirmation of appointments for validation of their visa. Foreign nationals with previously confirmed appointments have had their appointment cancelled or rescheduled. This issue is expected to last several more weeks. Affected foreign nationals may face travel restrictions until the visa validation is completed.

Greece/North Macedonia: Name Change Agreement Ratified by Parliament – The Greek and North Macedonian parliaments have both ratified an agreement that would change former Macedonia’s name from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to Republic of North Macedonia. The name change allows North Macedonia to reopen negotiations to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union. Greece vetoed such negotiations until the name dispute was resolved. North Macedonian citizens will need to amend their passports and legal documents (birth and marriage certificates, among others) once the name change is finalized.

Hong Kong: Immigration Fees to Increase – The Hong Kong Immigration Department (HKID) has announced that immigration fees and charges will increase by 9 to 21 percent starting March 25, 2019. Key increases include the cost to apply for an Ordinary Visa (Employment, Dependent, Training, Student, etc.) (HKD 230), transit visa (HKD 120), single entry permit (HKD 230), one-year multiple-entry permit (HKD 470), three-year multiple-entry permit (HKD 935), change of conditions of stay or extension of limit of stay (HKD 230), three-year travel pass (HKD 760), five-year APEC Business Travel Card (HKD 540) and the cost to endorse a travel document (HKD 240). The full list of new fees and charges can be found on the HKID website. The HKID regularly reviews these fees. The fees were last adjusted in 2015.

Kazakhstan: Update to Invitation Letter Restriction Issue – As an update to the January 24 restriction set by Kazakh migration authorities whereby invitation letters for business visas from branches and representative offices were no longer accepted, authorities in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau have started accepting invitation letters and applications for visa renewals on behalf of branches and representative offices. Other regions are still awaiting an Order from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, providing permission to start issuing these documents to branches and representative offices. As background, invitation letters are required to obtain an entry visa as part of most work authorization processes for visa nationals in Kazakhstan. Fragomen will continue to report updates of this evolving situation.

Netherlands: Visa Appointment Delay at Moscow Embassy – The Dutch embassy in Moscow is currently facing a two-month appointment delay (up from a few business days) to apply for an entry visa, which is required to travel to the Netherlands to collect a residence permit. Affected applicants can request the immigration authorities to forward their approval to the Dutch consulate general in St. Petersburg, where appointment waiting times are limited to several business days. Fragomen will monitor the delays and will report on relevant developments when they occur.

Oman: Dependent Sponsorship by Foreign Investors Expanded – All foreign investors in Oman can now sponsor residence visas for dependents directly (instead of through a third-party sponsor) and are exempt from the dependent age limit requirement. Previously, only foreign investors in real estate could sponsor visas for their immediate relatives and there was a maximum age limit of 21 for dependents. Dependents in Oman include spouses and children, who are usually sponsored by the principal assignee's employer instead of the foreign national directly.

Pakistan: Upcoming Changes to Entry Visa Policies – The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting announced changes to Pakistan’s entry visa policies. Firstly, a new e-visa system that will facilitate the visa application process is expected to be open to nationals of 175 countries. Secondly, nationals of 98 countries will be eligible for a business visa category (up from 68 countries currently). Thirdly, work visa applicants will be subject to a revised process, though details are not yet available. Lastly, the visa-on-arrival program will be expanded to nationals of 50 countries (presumably only for tourism), with a possible relaxation of supporting document requirements and relaxation of the available travel areas in Pakistan. Additionally, it is expected that the visa-on-arrival will be available to British and U.S. citizens of Indian origin whereas currently, obtaining visas to Pakistan by such nationals is restricted. 

Peru: New Online System for Document Requests for Mercosur Visas – A new online system known as "PIDE - Plataforma de Interoperabilidad del Estado Peruano", has been implemented for foreign nationals to request Peruvian police, criminal and judicial records for Mercosur Visa applications to Peru. This system will replace the in-person request process and is likely a result of the recently-increased volume of Venezuelan nationals into Peru. Fragomen can provide assistance with the use of this system and will inform affected clients of this process at the start of their document request process. Fragomen will confirm the effectiveness of the system and will report on any delays or issues.

Saudi Arabia: Replacement Block Visa Reinstated for Select Employers – The process known as “a replacement block visa” has been reinstated, allowing select employers in Saudi Arabia to replace a departing employee with a new employee without having to obtain a separate block visa approval. Only companies in specific industries, including engineering, medicine and pharmaceuticals, information and technology, and accounting and financing, which are classified under platinum, high-green, medium-green and low-green ratings in the Nitaqat system can benefit from the process. Additional criteria for the use of the process include: the departing employee must have left Saudi Arabia under a final exit visa; the new employee’s gender and profession must be the same as the departed worker; the employer can only replace one worker at a time and in the order of departure; and the new position must be filled within six months of the employee’s departure from Saudi Arabia. The replacement block visa process has been suspended since 2015.

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