Virginia, US

Jun 13 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: June 7-13, 2019

Croatia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Panama, Peru, Qatar, Republic of the Philippines, Russia, Slovak Republic, Sri Lanka, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: USCIS is now accepting 15-day premium processing requests for all pending FY 2020 H-1B cap cases. The State Department announced it will recognize the acting Venezuelan government’s degree to automatically extend all Venezuelan passports for five years beyond their expiration date. The agency’s July Visa Bulletin projects more EB-1 worldwide backlogs as the end to the fiscal year nears. Also in the United States, employers see continued high rates of nonimmigrant denials and requests for evidence, according to latest USCIS data.
  • Kazakhstan: Employers seeking to sponsor foreign workers in 2020 must submit their quota applications by July 31, 2019.
  • Peru: Starting June 15, Venezuelan nationals can no longer enter Peru under prior visa rules and will require either a consular Tourist Visa, Business Visa or Humanitarian Visa.
  • Ireland: The Irish authorities are accepting comment submissions via e-mail through July 12, 2019 on the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List and the Ineligible Categories of Employment List.
  • Philippines: All foreign nationals, including work visa applicants and those engaged in a trade or business or the practice of a regulated profession, must now have a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) from the Bureau of Internal Revenue in order to work.

These items and other news from Croatia, Czech Republic, European Union, Kazakhstan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Slovak Republic, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Venezuela follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, June 13, 2019

July 2019 Visa Bulletin: No Movement for EB-1 Worldwide, More Backlogs Projected in Worldwide Categories as End to Fiscal Year Nears 

  • EB-1 Worldwide will remain at April 22, 2018, and further retrogression may occur as early as August 2019.  
  • EB-1 India will remain at January 1, 2015, but is expected to return to February 22, 2017 on October 1, 2019, the start of FY 2020.  
  • EB-2 and EB-3 Worldwide categories could retrogress as early as August 2019. 
  • EB-5 India, which has been current for filing, will retrogress to May 1, 2017.

To view entire article, click here.


Kazakhstan, June 12, 2019

Election-Related Protests Causing Government Office Closures

  • Amid protests of the presidential election in Kazakhstan, government offices in Almaty and Nur-Sultan are closing or altering their office hours to ensure the safety of their personnel.
  • The closures may prevent foreign nationals and employers from completing post-arrival processes such as applications to the labour department and notifications to the migration police.
  • Fragomen will contact affected clients with case-by-case advice.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, June 11, 2019

State Department Announces U.S. Will Recognize Five-Year Extensions of Venezuelan Passports

  • The U.S. State Department will recognize five-year validity extensions for Venezuelan passports pursuant to a new passport policy being implemented by the interim Venezuelan government.
  • Other immigration agencies have yet to issue similar announcements. DHS implementation of the policy will be critical to enable Venezuelans relying on the extension to enter the United States.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, June 11, 2019

Employers See Continued High Rates of Nonimmigrant Denials and RFEs, USCIS Data Confirm

  • In the first half of FY 2019, the rate of petition denials and requests for evidence rose for H-1B and L-1 petitions filed at USCIS Service Centers.
  • RFE and denial rates appear to be on track to reach or exceed last year’s highs.
  • Overall approval rates declined, especially after an evidence request.

To view entire article, click here.


Kazakhstan, June 11, 2019

2020 Quota Applications Due July 31

Employers must submit their applications for quota numbers to sponsor foreign workers in 2020 by July 31, 2019. Employers should start preparing supporting quota application documents.

To view entire article, click here.


Philippines, June 11, 2019

Foreign Workers Must Have Taxpayer Identification Numbers

  • Following the latest joint guidelines from the Philippine government, all foreign nationals must have a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) from the Bureau of Internal Revenue in order to work in the Philippines.
  • This rule applies to all work visa applicants (short-term and long-term), and foreign nationals engaged in a trade or business, or in the practice of a regulated profession.
  • Obtaining a TIN prior to the AEP or work visa application adds an additional step to the work authorization process and can lead to delays in work ready dates. Employers should plan to file their applications ahead of time to avoid potential issues in the deployment of their foreign employees.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, Updated June 10, 2019

E-1/E-2 Treaty Trader and Investor Visas Available for New Zealand Nationals Starting June 10

Starting June 10, E-1 treaty trader and E-2 treaty investor visa status will be available to qualifying New Zealand employers and nationals.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, June 10, 2019

Cap for Additional FY 2019 H-2B Visas Reached on June 5

  • USCIS reached the numerical limit for additional FY 2019 H-2B visas on June 5, and will return any petitions received after that date.
  • The 30,000 additional H-2B visas were depleted one month after employers were authorized to begin filing petitions.
  • No further H-2B visas will be available for FY 2019, which ends on September 30, 2019.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, June 7, 2019

Starting June 10, USCIS to Begin Premium Processing for Remaining H-1B Cap Petitions

  • USCIS will accept 15-day premium processing requests for all remaining FY 2020 H-1B cap cases starting on June 10.
  • From June 10 to June 24, USCIS will not honor petitioners’ requests to use pre-paid mailers to send H-1B cap approvals and other final notices for new premium processing cases.

To view entire article, click here.


Peru, June 7, 2019

Venezuelan Nationals Can No Longer Enter Peru Under Previous Visa Rules

Starting June 15, 2019, Venezuelan nationals seeking to enter Peru will need to obtain a consular Tourist Visa, Business Visa or Humanitarian Visa prior to entry. Entry under a Visa-on-Arrival or with only Venezuelan identification documents will no longer be allowed.

To view entire article, click here.


Ireland, June 7, 2019

Call for Submissions on Highly Skilled Occupations List and Ineligible Categories of Employment List

The Irish authorities are again inviting comment submissions on the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List and the Ineligible Categories of Employment List. Employers interested in submitting comments can do so via email by July 12, 2019.

To view entire article, click here.


Other Weekly News Briefs

Croatia: In-Quota Applications Now Possible via Email – In a change of policy, stay and work permit applications that fall under Croatia’s work authorization quotas can now be filed via email, with supporting documents included as scanned copies. Because over 30 categories of applicants, including highly-skilled professionals and key personnel, are excluded from the quotas, only a limited number of applicants will benefit from the availability of email applications. Fragomen expects that immigration authorities may consider broadening the scope of email applications if the current policy generates positive feedback by officials and applicants. The policy change fits a broader global trend of allowing online applications.

Croatia: Worksite Inspections Rise – Fragomen reports an increase in unannounced worksite inspections in Croatia that focus on offices that have their mailing address in one country (for tax or other benefits) and conduct commercial activities in another country. Employers in Croatia should work with their immigration provider to ensure they comply with all immigration laws and that they are prepared for inspections.

Czech Republic/Vietnam: Long-Term Visas and Residence Permit Ban in Hanoi Lifted The restriction that has existed since July 2018 by which the Czech government suspended the issuance of long-term work visas and some D visa types in Hanoi has been lifted. Applicants in Hanoi can now schedule an appointment to obtain such visas to the Czech Republic. The Czech government is expected to publish the appointment procedures on its website soon. Interested applicants are advised to check the website periodically for information.

European Union: European Parliament Election Results Do Not Foreshadow Significant Immigration Changes – The European Parliament elections were held May 23-26. Although the Euroskeptic and right-wing populist parties were expected to gain more seats in Parliament, the mainstream parties (the European People's Party, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Greens) makeup the majority of new seats. Since the new makeup of the European Parliament is not profoundly different from the previous one, significant immigration-related changes are not expected, and the focus will remain on enforcing the current rules and identifying gaps. However, this will also depend on the future leadership of the European Commission, which will be decided in the coming months. The United Kingdom also elected their Members in the European Parliament. If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union during this legislature, 27 out of their 73 seats will be allocated to EU countries that are currently under-represented, and the remaining 46 will be allocated to countries who will join the European Union in the future. This new legislature will last until 2024.

Panama: Additional Immigration Reforms Published – Panama’s government has published a new decree modifying the permanent residence eligibility criteria for foreign nationals who have held a SEM visa in Panama for at least five years, providing two options: foreign nationals who continue to work in the SEM company will require proof of social security affiliation; and foreign nationals who are not employed by a SEM company must prove an investment in Panama of at least USD $150,000 in real estate, a fixed-term deposit or in a combined investment of both. Previously, the investment requirement applied whether the foreign national was working for a SEM company or not. Additionally, another decree opens eligibility for foreign employees of aviation companies to a six-year temporary residence permit, with the possibility to apply for permanent residence at the end of the six-year period. The decree reinstitutes eligibility for non-married partners of aviation employees to apply for dependent status if an apostilled or legalized sworn declaration of partnership exists. The last decree change affects foreign nationals under extraordinary regularization programs (Crisol de Razas).

Papua New Guinea: Maintenance Guarantee Bond No Longer Required for Visa Applications – Effective immediately, the Immigration and Citizenship Authority no longer requires foreign nationals to obtain a Maintenance Guarantee Bond (MGB) with local insurers to support their work visa or dependent visa applications. The bond was issued by recognized insurance companies upon payment of a fee of around PGK 1,000 (approximately USD 405). In lieu of the bond, the visa sponsor or employer must now submit a Maintenance Guarantee form that makes them responsible over any expenses incurred by the visa applicant and their dependents for the following:

  • Accommodation;
  • Medical or dental expenses;
  • Repatriation to country of origin or initial point of employment, including dependents (if applicable);
  • Court-related expenses;
  • Employee's final entitlement pay outs; and
  • Employee tax.

MGBs applied for or submitted before June 1, 2019 will still be accepted by the Authority. This change is part of the Authority’s effort to streamline various services, including entry requirements for work visa applicants.

Qatar: Further Details Announced for Visa-free Entry During Summer in Qatar Festival – Qatar’s Ministry of Interior, in cooperation with the National Tourism Council, will allow eligible applicants to utilize a new e-notification system to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) instead of a visa to travel to Qatar as part of the Summer in Qatar Festival. Eligible applicants include those traveling as a family, family members of Qatari citizens and residents and former residents of Qatar. To obtain the ETA, applicants should submit their requests through the Ministry of Interior’s electronic portal no later than four days before their date of travel, along with supporting documents such as a copy of their passport, their airline reservation and proof of accommodation in Qatar, among other information. The processing fee for the ETA is USD 14 and must be paid with a credit or debit card. Upon presenting a copy of their confirmed ETA, foreign nationals will receive an entry stamp upon arrival.

Russia: State Fee Payment Changes – Effective immediately, inviting companies applying for letters of invitation (LOI) in the Moscow office must now pay their state fee from the inviting company's bank account, which could take days or even weeks to arrange. This requirement already existed for certain procedures such as work permit applications. Initial visa and renewal payments can still be paid by individuals as opposed to inviting companies, in which case the inviting company's bank account is not involved. An Internal Affairs Ministry Moscow office publication also specifies that an original payment certificate showing payment directly from the inviting company bank account must be included, preferably with a verification by the issuing bank. In some cases, a certificate with the original inviting company stamp is acceptable. Due to these new requirements, inviting companies should allow for more time to prepare their letters of invitation to ensure timely start dates.

Slovak Republic: Update on Technological Center Work Permits – The Ministry of Economy has released further information about Residence Permits for employees in Technological Centers. This program was created in January 2019, though application and further details have just been released. The benefit of this type of Residence Permit is that it is processed in 30 days, as opposed to the 30-90 day processing time for other types of Residence Permits in the Slovak Republic. To benefit from this shorter processing time, the company needs to be added to the list of Technological Centers with the Ministry of Economy, and to do so the employer must meet two of the following criteria:

  • provide services in the agriculture, information and communication technologies, transport or health industries;
  • carry out research and development activities in agriculture, information and communication technologies, transport or health industries; or
  • employ or work with highly qualified workers on a contractual basis. A highly qualified worker is a worker whose performance requires higher professional qualifications proven by a university degree or evidence of more than five years' professional experience in the relevant field.

Interested applicants should contact their immigration professional for more information and case-by-case advice.

Sri Lanka: Health Check-Up and Health Coverage Plan Now Mandatory for Resident Visa Applicants – Foreign nationals applying for Resident Visas must now undergo a health exam and obtain a health coverage plan before they can file their new or renewal application. A fee of USD 75 will be charged for both the health exam and health coverage plan. The health exam is an additional step to the current work authorization process and may take one to two business days to complete. It also requires the applicant to appear before the Immigration Health Unit of the Ministry of Health in Colombo within seven days of their arrival in Sri Lanka to be assessed for four major diseases including tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS and filariasis. They can obtain their health coverage plan during the same visit. Employers should secure appointments for their foreign employees online as soon their Letter of Recommendation is released. Applicants who fail the health tests may be permitted to undergo treatment in a government hospital but their Resident Visa applications will not be outrightly denied.

Venezuela: Visa Requirement for Nationals of Peru – The government of Venezuela has announced that starting June 15, 2019, nationals of Peru will be required to obtain a consular visa before entering the country. Currently, they can enter Venezuela for tourism under a visa-exempt status for 90 days. The government also announced it will publish the visa requirements in the next few days via social media. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the requirement is established on the grounds on reciprocity, following a recent rule published by the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also effective June 15, 2019, requiring Venezuelan nationals to obtain a consular visa prior to entering Peru. Fragomen will issue a full alert when the requirements are published.

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