Virginia, US

Jan 09 2020

Weekly Immigration Update: January 3-9, 2020

Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Iraq, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Qatar, Republic of the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia , Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam

In immigration news this week:

  • Iraq: Due to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq and the surrounding region, several countries have issued travel warnings to their nationals regarding all travel to Iraq.
  • United States: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has formally announced details related to its H-1B cap registration process for FY 2021, though important details remain unknown, including how and when employers and their counsel can create online registration accounts.
  • Philippines: Foreign nationals holding a valid Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card (ACR I-Card), such as long-term work visa holders, must appear at a Bureau of Immigration office by February 29 to file their Annual Report (AR). Alternatively, they can authorize their Fragomen immigration professional to file the AR on their behalf.
  • France: The Ministry of Home Affairs has implemented improvements to the Talent Passport program, including expedited processing and the expansion of the Temporary Residence Permit and change of status programs to include intracompany transferees.
  • Austria: Effective January 1, the minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card applicants has increased by 2.2 percent from 2019.
  • Denmark: Effective January 1, the minimum annual salary for foreign workers under the Pay Limit Scheme, the primary Danish work authorization type, has increased by 2.1 percent from 2019.



These items and other news from Bahrain, Colombia, Ecuador, Ireland, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

France, January 9, 2020

Talent Passport Improvements Implemented

The Ministry of Home Affairs has implemented the following key improvements to the Talent Passport program to streamline and ease the application process:

  • Expedited application processing;
  • Expansion of the Temporary Residence Permit to intracompany transferees; and
  • Expansion of the change of status program.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Iraq, January 8, 2020

Immigration Impacts of Current Situation

  • Due to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq and the surrounding region, governments of several countries have issued travel warnings for their nationals regarding all travel to Iraq.
  • Employers with pending invitation letters at U.S. consulates in Iraq should expect delays in the process due to the suspension of operations at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
  • Fragomen is currently assisting clients with regional and global crisis management plans, including evacuation of personnel from Iraq and identifying alternative deployment options and countries.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 8, 2020

USCIS Announces Preliminary Details on H-1B Cap Registration for FY 2021, Though Questions Remain

  • USCIS has provided some additional information about its online H-1B cap registration for FY 2021, but important details remain unknown, including how and when employers and their counsel can set up online accounts in preparation for the cap registration period.  
  • The registration filing period remains March 1 to March 20, 2020, barring any unexpected circumstances.
  • Before March 1, USCIS is expected to release detailed instructions on how to file H-1B cap registrations and other requirements of the new process.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Austria, January 8, 2020

EU Blue Card Salary Level Increased

  • Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card applicants in Austria has increased to EUR 4,548, up 2.2 percent from 2019.
  • Employers are advised to budget for the new thresholds when sponsoring new EU Blue Card applications.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Ireland, January 7, 2020

Work Authorization Processing Delayed by Several Weeks

  • Due to an influx of applications in the last weeks of December and holiday delays, application processing for all Irish work authorization types is now delayed by several weeks.
  • Applications sponsored by Trusted Partner companies increased from three to four weeks to six to seven weeks; other applications increased from approximately 10 weeks to 13 weeks.
  • The Irish immigration authority has allocated additional resources to address the processing backlog and expects the delays to be resolved in a few weeks’ time.
  • Employers and foreign nationals are advised to account for the delays in their travel and work start planning.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Denmark, January 6, 2020

Updated Eligibility Requirements for Key Work Authorization Types

  • Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum annual salary for foreign workers under the Pay Limit Scheme, the primary Danish work authorization type, has increased to DKK 436,000, up 2.1 percent from 2019.
  • Employers must update salaries for pending and new applications, if required.
  • Also effective January 1, 2020, a new list of shortage occupations applies to Danish Positive List applications. Notably, finance and information technology managers, information technology engineers and legal officers, among others, no longer qualify for this permit type while research and development managers and web developers, among others, now qualify for the permit type.
  • Permit holders with job titles removed from the 2020 list can continue to work and stay in Denmark, and can renew their permits upon expiry. Pending applications for removed job titles will be processed based on the shortage occupation list available at the time of filing.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Philippines, January 6, 2020

Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card Registration Due February 29, 2020

  • Foreign nationals holding a valid Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card (ACR I-Card), such as long-term work visa holders in the Philippines, must appear at a Bureau of Immigration (BI) office by February 29, 2020 to file their Annual Report (AR).
  • They can also authorize their Fragomen immigration professional to file the AR on their behalf, which would dispense with the foreign national’s personal appearance requirement.
  • A new Bureau of Immigration advisory states that employees who fail to comply with the AR requirement may risk having their ACR I-Cards cancelled by the BI.
  • A cancelled ACR I-Card could result in foreign nationals being flagged at the port of entry or departure and told that they must comply with the annual reporting requirement.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Weekly News Briefs

Bahrain: Nationals of Serbia and Ukraine Now Eligible for Pre-Approved Visitor Visa Through Electronic Portal – Nationals of Serbia and Ukraine are now eligible to apply for a pre-approved visitor visa through the electronic portal before arrival to Bahrain. Previously, Serbian nationals had to apply for a visa through a Bahraini consular post abroad.  Though Ukrainian nationals have been able to obtain a visa-on-arrival since January 2019, they have been unable until now to apply for a pre-approved visa through the electronic portal (e-visa). Nationals of 69 countries currently benefit from the visa-on-arrival program and nationals of 121 countries can obtain a pre-approved e-visa.

Colombia: Update on Proposed Immigration Law and Recent Administrative Changes – The proposed immigration law released for public comment in February 2019, which would overhaul the Colombian immigration system, is still under legislative review, with no expected implementation time frame. Further delays to its implementation are likely considering the recent appointments of a new Minister of Foreign Affairs in November 2019 and a new Director of Migración Colombia in January 2020. As such, the impact of the new law on immigration processes and rules is not yet known. While the legislation is still under review, foreign nationals and employers should follow current immigration policy. In the interim, Fragomen will provide updates when the law is passed and on any relevant changes to immigration policy.

Ecuador: Longer Processing Times for Permanent Resident Visas – Permanent resident visas are now taking up to 30 business days to be adjudicated from the date of filing, due to a reduction in staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility. Previously, permanent resident visas were adjudicated in up to five business days in Quito and in approximately three weeks in Guyaquil. Foreign nationals applying for permanent residence may not be able to travel abroad until their permanent residence visa is issued, which will now take longer.

Kazakhstan: Ministry Decreases Work Authorization Quota for 2020 – The Kazakh Ministry of Labor and Social Protection published the 2020 work authorization quota, which offers less work permit spots than 2019, particularly for categories 3 (Specialists) and 4 (Qualified workers). Employers are advised to file applications early in the year as quota numbers are expected to run out more quickly than in 2019.

Netherlands: Government Filing Fees Slightly Increased – Government filing fees for most work authorization types increased to EUR 290, up 1.8 percent from 2019. Fees for companies to register as a recognised sponsor with the immigration authority increased to EUR 4,017, or EUR 2,008 for small companies, up 2.2 percent from 2019. Spouse/partner fees are now EUR 174 and fees for children are EUR 58 per child, up 1.8 percent from 2019. The exchange rate at the time of the publication of this update is 1.1 EUR = 1 USD.

NetherlandsPublic Consultation on Labor Law Changes – Dutch authorities have opened the public consultation period on proposed labor law changes which are expected to improve the attractiveness of non-highly skilled work authorizations. The proposed changes include allowing a case-by-case review of work authorization applications where no labor market test was performed (as opposed to denying such applications as is the current practice); and increasing the validity period for non-highly skilled work authorizations to three years (or two years if a labor market test is required), up from the current one year. Separately, the new law seeks to safeguard foreign workers’ salary payment by requiring salary payments via monthly bank transfer with certain conditions; and by requiring host employers to prove that they are economically active, where previously there was less scrutiny on employers' activities. Interested stakeholders can submit their feedback to the Dutch government before February 9, 2020. Fragomen expects the law to be passed over the course of 2020 and will issue updates on relevant developments.

Qatar/Russia: Forthcoming Mutual Abolition of Entry Visa Requirement – The Russian and Qatari governments have signed a memorandum of understanding abolishing the entry visa requirement for nationals of the other country. Currently, Russian nationals already benefit from visa-free entry to Qatar for tourism for up to 30 days, while Qatari nationals are currently required to obtain a visa before they travel to Russia for all purposes. It is not yet clear whether the memorandum will impact existing conditions of stay (including permissible activities and the maximum duration of stay), or if these conditions will remain unchanged. The agreement will likely come into effect once it has been ratified by both governments. Fragomen will report on related developments as they become available.

Russia: Fourth Quarter Salary Notifications for Highly Qualified Specialists Due January 31, 2020 – Employers have until January 31, 2020 to file fourth quarter notifications for salaries paid to Highly-Qualified Specialists (HQS). The notification must state the salary paid to HQS from October 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. The reported HQS salary should be no less than RUB 167,000 per calendar month or RUB 501,000 per quarter (if there was a break in work during the reported period). Employers will incur administrative fines for violations of the established notification procedures, including the failure to notify.

Russia: Standard Work Permit Quota Significantly Decreased for 2020 – Russian authorities have published the work permit quota for 2020, which allows 104,993 standard work permits to be granted for 2020, down 27.4 percent from 2019. The quota does not apply to Highly-Qualified Specialist (HQS) work permit applications, the main Russian work authorization type, or to certain professions such as dispatcher or regime planning engineer, among others.

Saudi Arabia: Visa-on-Arrival Now Available to Holders of Visas Issued by Select Third-Countries – Airline passengers with eligible visas issued by a Schengen Member State, the United Kingdom or the United States traveling to Saudi Arabia for tourism can board their flight to Saudi Arabia as they are now eligible to obtain a visa-upon-arrival per an expanded policy, and no longer require a visa prior to travel. The visa must be valid, must have been used at least once and the foreign national must have an entry stamp of the visa-issuing country endorsed on their passport. This policy expansion comes after Saudi Arabia opened an online portal in September 2019 for nationals of 49 countries who were able to apply for a one-year multiple entry visa for tourism (e-visa). In October 2019, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage issued more detailed regulations and included holders of visas issued by select third countries to be eligible for a visa-on-arrival, but the law was not fully implemented until now.

South Africa/Tunisia: Visa-Free Agreement Implemented – The South African Minister of Home Affairs announced that Tunisian nationals have been added to the list of those countries eligible for visa-free travel to South Africa. The agreement is reciprocal, allowing South Africans to travel to Tunisia without requiring a visa. This includes entering for transit, and business and tourist visits for up to 90 days in both countries. Currently, 83 countries’ nationals are eligible for visa-free travel to South Africa, of which 27 countries’ nationals are granted an exemption for up to 30 days, and 56 countries’ nationals are granted exemption for up to 90 days. Currently, 97 countries’ nationals are eligible for visa-free travel to Tunisia for up to 90 days.

Switzerland: Reminder: Stricter Language Certificate Requirement in EffectAs a reminder, starting January 1, 2020, applicants who need to demonstrate language skills for their residence permit application must submit standardized and certified language certificates from an accredited institution. Previously, document requirements to demonstrate language skills varied per canton and were typically less restrictive. The policy change only affects the documents required to demonstrate language skills; the language requirements themselves remain unchanged.

Ukraine/Russia: Entry Restrictions on Russian Men Continue – As an update, the entry restrictions on Russian men aged 16-60 seeking to enter Ukraine – introduced in November 2018 following the temporary introduction of martial law – remain in place. As a reminder, applicants with pending applications are advised to stay in Ukraine until they collect their residence permit card. 

UkraineNew Document Requirement Increases Dependent Travel Delay – In a change of policy, the Ukrainian State Migration Service now requires dependent in-country residence permit applications to include the certificate of the principal applicant's residence registration. Previously, dependent applications could be filed before the principal applicant registered their residence. Since residence registration must be personally completed by a landlord and can take between a few days and several weeks depending on the landlord's availability, dependents face a corresponding delay in their residence permit processing, which may affect their ability to stay in Ukraine.

United Kingdom: Withdrawal Agreement Passes House of Commons – The Withdrawal Agreement Bill for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union on January 31, 2020 passed the House of Commons on January 9, 2020. The Bill will now go to the House of Lords, the second stage of the Parliamentary track. The Bill is likely to obtain Royal Assent (the last stage of legislation) by January 31, 2020. Fragomen will issue an alert when Royal Assent occurs.

Vietnam: Limits in Hanoi for Chinese Nationals Holding E-Passports – The Labor Department in Hanoi no longer accepts Work Permit applications for Chinese nationals holding a Chinese e-passport. In addition, the Justice Department in Hanoi is no longer accepting applications for police clearance certificates for Chinese nationals holding Chinese e-passports. Other areas in Vietnam are currently accepting both applications. It is not clear how long these restrictions will last or if they will expand to other locations. Fragomen will provide an update if they expand to other locations.

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