Mar 07 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: March 1-7, 2019

Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Qatar, Republic of the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela

In immigration news this week:

  • Venezuela/Colombia: All Colombian consulates in Venezuela and Venezuelan consulates in Colombia are closed until further notice.
  • United Kingdom: The EU Settlement Scheme will open to all European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss applicants on March 30. Also in the United Kingdom, the government has proposed the introduction of new Start-up and Innovator visa categories to replace the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) routes, together with restricted rules for the Tier 1 (Investor) route.
  • United States: The Department of Homeland Security will preserve Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, while a lawsuit challenging the termination of TPS for these countries continues.
  • Ireland: Eligible spouses of Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) holders no longer need to obtain a separate employment permit and can now start working with a Stamp 1 Irish Residence Permit (IRP).
  • Colombia: According to an observed change in practice, Chilean nationals are no longer able to apply for Mercosur visas to Colombia.
  • Qatar: Select immigration processes are suspended for Egyptian nationals in Qatar, due to ongoing tensions between Middle Eastern countries and Qatar.
  • Poland: Effective February 11, the minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card applicants increased by 7.3 percent from last quarter.

In Brexit news this week:

  • Spain: Plans have been published on the treatment of UK nationals and their non-EU family members currently residing in Spain after March 29, 2019 in case of a no-deal Brexit.

These items and other news from Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United Kingdom, March 7, 2019

EU Settlement Scheme Available to All Applicants on March 30, 2019

  • The UK government has announced that the EU Settlement Scheme will open to all European Economic Area (EEA) (which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) and Swiss applicants and their family members starting March 30, 2019.
  • Starting April 9, 2019, EEA/Swiss citizens and certain family members will be able to apply for the Scheme from overseas, based on their previous residence in the United Kingdom.
  • Starting March 30, 2019, third-country national family members of EEA/Swiss citizens will be able to apply from overseas for entry clearance to the United Kingdom to join or accompany an EEA/Swiss national who has been granted status under the Scheme.

To view entire article, click here.


United Kingdom, March 7, 2019

New Visa Categories to Replace Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and (Entrepreneur); Changes to Tier 1 (Investor) Route

The UK Government has proposed fundamental changes to the Tier 1 visa category through a Statement of Changes released today. Changes include:

  • Introduction of new Start-up and Innovator visa categories to replace the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) routes, with applicants in these categories assessed by trusted endorsement bodies vetted by the UK government;
  • Investment threshold would be removed for the Start-up visa and reduced to GPB 50,000 for the Innovator category;
  • English language levels for both categories will be set at B2 (higher than B1 for the current categories);
  • Increased scrutiny over the source of funds for Tier 1 Investor applicants by extending the requirement to hold the investment funds from 90 days to two years, and by restricting rules to make it explicit that banks must carry out all due diligence checks before opening accounts for potential applicants; and
  • Investment in UK government bonds would be excluded for all new Tier 1 Investor applicants to encourage investment in alternative forms.

The proposed changes are scheduled to take effect on March 29, 2019. Applications under the existing Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route can be made until July 5, 2019.

To view entire article, click here.


South Africa, March 7, 2019

Leaked Critical Skills List May Reduce Work Permit Options for Foreign Nationals

A draft version of a new critical skills list has been leaked, with reports suggesting that there are already South African missions that are rejecting work permit applications based on the new list. The Department of Home Affairs has not confirmed the authenticity of the draft, which contains a much shorter list of categories for which a foreign national can apply for a Critical Skills Visa.

To view entire article, click here.


Japan, March 7, 2019

Golden Week Closures to Cause Delays

Japan’s government offices, including the Immigration Bureau, will be closed during the Golden Week holiday from April 27 to May 6, 2019. Those seeking services at Japanese consular posts abroad should check with the consulate as closure periods may vary. Work visa applicants should expect processing delays as all in-country immigration processing and other government services will be suspended during this time.

To view entire article, click here.


India, March 7, 2019

Reminder for Person of India Card Holders to Obtain Overseas Citizen of India Card by March 31, 2019

  • All Person of India (PIO) cardholders (machine and non-machine-readable) must obtain an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card by March 31, 2019 to avoid being denied entry/exit while traveling to and from India.
  • This policy is intended to align India’s entry/exit rules with the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization, which encourages the use of machine-readable travel documents to prevent fraud and to streamline immigration clearance processes at airports.

To view entire article, click here.


United Kingdom, March 6, 2019

Increase in Employer Audits

  • There has been an increase in employer audits conducted by UK Visas and Immigration over the past two weeks. Audits have been both announced with as little as two or three business days’ notice, and unannounced in some cases.
  • The UKVI is particularly focusing on Tier 2 migrants who have applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain and Tier 2 migrants who are fulfilling client contracts located at third-party client sites.

To view entire article, click here.


Ireland, March 6, 2019

Eligible Spouses of Critical Skills Employment Permit Holders Can Start Work Sooner

  • In a change of policy, eligible spouses of Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) holders can now start working in Ireland immediately upon obtaining a Stamp 1 Irish Residence Permit (IRP), rather than having to obtain a separate employment permit through a time-consuming process.
  • The change should make the CSEP category more attractive to foreign workers relocating to Ireland with their spouses.

To view entire article, click here.


Qatar, March 5, 2019

Select Immigration Processes Suspended for Egyptian Nationals

Due to ongoing tensions between Middle Eastern countries and Qatar, Egyptian nationals in Qatar may not be able to change jobs in country, and female applicants may be restricted from obtaining or renewing their labor cards. These issues, in addition to other existing restrictions, may delay and restrict work for some Egyptian nationals in Qatar.

To view entire article, click here.


Venezuela/Colombia, March 4, 2019

Colombian Consulates in Venezuela and Venezuelan Consulates in Colombia Closed

  • All Colombian consulates in Venezuela are closed until further notice. Colombian nationals in Venezuela who require consular assistance will have to wait until the Colombian government provides instructions. Venezuelan nationals and other foreign nationals requiring consular assistance in Venezuela must find alternatives or wait until the situation is resolved.
  • All Venezuelan consulates in Colombia are closed. Individuals seeking Venezuelan consular services in Colombia should contact their immigration professional for case-by-case advice.

To view entire article, click here.


Colombia, March 4, 2019

Chilean Nationals Restricted from Applying for Mercosur Visas

  • According to an observed change in practice, Chilean nationals are no longer able to apply for Mercosur visas to Colombia.
  • Chilean nationals seeking to work or reside in Colombia should contact their immigration professional to discuss alternate visa types.
  • Chilean nationals currently on Mercosur visas to Colombia will not have their visas canceled and can continue to work and reside in Colombia.

To view entire article, click here.


Norway, March 4, 2019

Streamlined In-country Registrations

Norwegian authorities recently streamlined the in-country registration process for non-EU nationals, replacing two required visits with an online process. Although applicants should ultimately benefit from the streamlined processes, Fragomen expects some delays and issues during the transition phase. The registration process for EU nationals remains unchanged.

To view entire article, click here.


New Zealand, March 4, 2019

Update on Proposed Work Visa Rule Changes

The following key proposals have been brought forth for discussion during the public consultation on proposed changes to employer-assisted temporary work visas in New Zealand:

  • A new assessment framework for employer-sponsored temporary work visas that is intended to simplify the system by reducing the number of application pathways into one enhanced framework;
  • Replacement of Essential Skills in Demand Lists with Regional Skills Shortage Lists to better reflect regional skill shortages;
  • Introduction of sector agreements to ensure specific industries continue to hire local workers; and
  • Improved alignment of the immigration, welfare and education systems in an effort to increase employment of local workers.

The consultation period ends March 18, 2019 with a decision expected by mid-2019 and implementation throughout the end of 2019 and into early 2020.

To view entire article, click here.


Poland, March 1, 2019

Minimum Salary Level for EU Blue Card Increased

Effective February 11, 2019, the minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card applicants in Poland has increased to PLN 6,877.55, up 7.3 percent from last quarter. Employers must increase salaries for pending and new applications if required to meet the new threshold.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, March 1, 2019

DHS Preserves, Extends TPS Status for Four Countries in Compliance with Court Order

  • Complying with a federal court order, DHS will preserve Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, while a legal challenge to termination of TPS for these countries continues.
  • The validity of TPS-related documentation for nationals of the four countries will be automatically extended through January 2, 2020. This includes employment authorization documents.

To view entire article, click here.


Brexit News and Related News Briefs This Week

Spain, March 7, 2019

No-Deal Brexit Plans for UK Nationals Published

The Spanish government has published plans for the treatment of UK nationals and their non-EU family members currently residing in Spain in case of a no-deal Brexit scenario after March 29, 2019. Central details of the plan include:

  • A 21-month grace period, commencing on March 29, 2019, during which time UK nationals and their non-EU family members residing in Spain would be able to continue working and staying in Spain, and would be required to apply for a different permit type allowing them to continue working and residing in Spain after December 31, 2020.
  • UK nationals and their non-EU family members residing in Spain for five years or longer would be able to apply for a standard long-term residence permit under similar eligibility criteria as EU applicants.
  • UK nationals and their non-EU family members residing in Spain for a period shorter than five years would be required to apply for a local residence permit type if eligible. Further details on the permit type, eligibility criteria and application process will be determined by ministerial decree in the coming months.

To view entire article, click here.


Netherlands: UK Nationals Should Register Under Personal Address to Avoid Issues Post-Brexit – Dutch authorities are urging UK nationals in the Netherlands who are registered under a company address as part of a temporary service offered by Expatcenters (joint immigration and municipal service centers) to change their registration to a personal address. UK nationals registered under a temporary/postal address (which can include a company or hotel address or Non-Residents Registry (RNI)) are not automatically eligible for a grace period, transition arrangements and a special residence permit after Brexit; nor will they receive related correspondence from the Dutch Immigration Authority (IND). Fragomen can assist with registration changes if needed.

As a reminder, for a list of websites with nation-specific information on Brexit, access the European Commission's website.


Other Weekly News Briefs

Azerbaijan: Work Permit Process No Longer Requires Company Representative Registration –A company representative can now submit a Work Permit/Temporary Residence Permit application on behalf of a foreign national as long as they have a signed and stamped Power of Attorney. This means that the company representative no longer needs to appear at the State Migration Service to register as a representative and no longer needs to email the State Migration Service to register prior to submitting the work permit application. This will save the company an administrative step in the work permit application process.

Azerbaijan: Dependents Must Now Obtain Personal Visit Visa – Dependents of Work Permit/Temporary Residence Permit applicants must now obtain a personal visit visa instead of a labour/business visa. The State Migration Service will reject the Temporary Residence Permit applications of dependents who enter Azerbaijan on the basis of any other type of visa. The labour/business visa takes the same amount of time to process as a personal visit visa and the application process is the same. Dependents who seek to work in Azerbaijan must still apply for a work permit. Entering under a labour/business visa does not permit work or business activities.

Bahrain: Streamlined System Forthcoming to Recruit Domestic Workers – The Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) announced plans for a new, streamlined system for recruiting domestic workers, which is expected to be implemented in the coming weeks. Employers will be able to recruit domestic workers electronically through one of the accredited manpower employment offices that will liaise with the LMRA and immigration authorities to issue entry visas and labor cards. The employer will be able to sign the application electronically if their signature is registered with the e-key system; if it is not, they will need to appear in person to sign application documents. Employers will be able to renew the domestic worker’s permit for six, 12 or 24 months. Previously, employers were required to visit various government agencies to file an application and obtain approvals at different stages of the process.

Belarus: Authorities Launch Pilot Online Entry and Exit Restrictions Checker – The Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched a pilot online tool, currently only available in Russian, allowing foreign nationals to check whether they are restricted from entering or exiting Belarus. A central method of checking this data was not previously available. Because the tool seeks to provide a preliminary indication for reference, foreign nationals should contact the responsible state authorities for formal confirmation on entry and exit bans (if necessary). Use of the tool could potentially reduce visa refusal rates due to entry bans. Additionally, foreign nationals should be able to better prevent travel issues resulting from failure to complete the necessary formalities before exiting Belarus. This is the second online service introduced in Belarus this year, following the opening of an online local registration portal in January.  

Czech Republic/India: New Appointment System Launched for New Delhi Consular Appointments – Effective March 8, 2019, nationals of Bhutan, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka must use a new appointment scheduling system for long-term visa, residence permit and employee card applications at the Czech Embassy in New Delhi. Appointments scheduled for these nationals under the prior system for March 1, 2019 and after have been cancelled; affected nationals must re-schedule appointments under the new system. There are no alternative solutions for long-term visa applicants as the New Delhi Embassy is the only available filing location in the region. Appointments scheduled for nationals of Bangladesh and Nepal under the prior system have also been cancelled, though a new appointment scheduling system has not yet been launched for these nationals. Nationals of Bhutan and Nepal can file short-term visa applications through new Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) service centers in Bhutan and Nepal, but these currently do not allow long-term visa applications. The Czech Embassy in New Delhi has faced lengthy appointment waiting times throughout 2018, with delays alleviating in October through the introduction of a strict scheduling system and appointment quota. 

Denmark: Positive List Updated – The Positive List, a shortage occupation list designating certain occupations as eligible for a Positive List work authorization in Denmark, was recently updated by Danish immigration authorities. The new list applies to applications filed between March 1 and June 30, 2019. Employers should benefit from the addition of new shortage occupations to the list, more accurately reflecting current labor market conditions.  

Egypt: Potential Restrictions on Employment of Lebanese Nationals in Egypt – Although it has not been officially announced, sources are reporting that Lebanese nationals and their employers in Egypt should expect restrictions on obtaining approvals for work permit applications. The issuance of work permit approvals for new applicants and the renewal of work permits for existing employees are expected to be affected. This may make it more difficult for Lebanese nationals to work in Egypt. The ban is believed to be related to the current political situation in the region.

Ireland: Some De Facto Partners Must Apply from AbroadEffective April 1, 2019, both visa-exempt and visa national de facto partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) holders must apply for their dependent status from abroad. Previously, visa-exempt partners could apply from Ireland. Visa-exempt de facto partners of other permit holders, including Intracompany Transfer Permits and General Employment Permits, will still be able to apply for partner status from Ireland. The changes seek to reduce processing time and improve clarity for de facto partners. Note that applications for de facto partners are decided at the discretion of the authorities on a case-by-case basis. The application process is cumbersome, requires many documents and has six- to 12-month processing times. Further details on the application process will be published on April 1, 2019.

Israel: Upcoming Government Closures – Israeli government offices will be closed on the following dates: March 21 for Purim; April 9 for the General Election; April 19-27 for Passover; May 8 for Memorial Day and May 9 for Independence Day. During these closure periods, the government will not process work permits or visa applications. Israeli consular posts abroad may also suspend their operations or conduct limited processing during this time. Additionally, visa applicants may experience processing and issuance delays following the closures. Employers should take the processing and issuance delays into consideration when setting start dates. Visa applicants should check with their local consulate for specific information on holiday operations. Fragomen worked closely with Kan-Tor & Acco Law Firm to prepare this update.

Israel: Salary Deductions Amounts Amended – Effective January 1, 2019, the maximum monthly deduction that an employer may deduct for housing expenses from the salary of a foreign expert can range from NIS 259.21 to NIS 475.31, depending on the location in Israel. An employer may also deduct a sum not exceeding NIS 93.37 for utilities. These increased ranges are indexed annually and depend on a range of factors. The maximum amount of all deductions on a monthly basis remains capped at 25% of the employee’s salary. Fragomen worked closely with Kan-Tor & Acco Law Firm to prepare this update.

Papua New Guinea: Engineers Must Complete New Assessment – The Institution of Engineers of Papua New Guinea (IEPNG) now requires foreign engineers to pass a formal equivalency test or Competency Based Assessment before they can register and practice their profession in the country. Foreign engineers who apply for or renew their professional registration must undergo the assessment process. Professional registration with IEPNG is mandatory if a Work Permit applicant intends to work as an engineer or has a job title related to engineering. The assessment process involves submitting an extensive application with details about the foreign national’s educational background and work experience. Following approval (which takes 15 business days), the approval letter must be submitted to the Labour Department for the Work Permit application. This requirement replaces the previous IEPNG registration process. As the updated process requires new forms, this may delay applications if not managed well.

Philippines: Additional Requirements for Alien Employment Permit Cancellations – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) now requires Alien Employment Permit cancellation applicants to submit an employer authorization letter and a location map of the company along with their other required documentation.  Failure to submit any of the mandatory documents will render the request void. The DOLE also clarified that AEP card cancellation requests must be submitted directly to a designated counter at the DOLE office and only from 1pm to 4pm daily. Previously, there was no designated timeframe or counter

Russia/United Arab Emirates: Visa Exemption now in EffectEffective immediately, UAE nationals are eligible for visa-free entry into Russia for up to 90 days in a 180-day period for business and tourism purposes. The mutual visa waiver was announced early February but was pending formal confirmation from the responsible Russian authorities to take effect.

Thailand: Updates on SMART Visa Program – The government has announced the following upcoming changes to the SMART Visa program, introduced February 2018, to accelerate the development of certain industries in Thailand:

  • The addition of three industries (Alternative Dispute Resolution, Human Resource Development in Science and Technology, and Environmental Management and Renewable Energy) to the list of existing industries;
  • Availability to use the fast track immigration lane for SMART visa holders in Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport; and
  • Key changes to eligibility requirements for applicants in each subcategory:
    • For the SMART “T” (Talent) visa, a lower salary requirement of THB 50,000-100,000 per month, among other changes;
    • For the SMART “I” (Investor) visa, a lower investment requirement of at least THB 5 million;
    • For the SMART “E” (Executive) visa, inclusion of more benefits in the computation of minimum salary; and
    • For the SMART “S” (Startup) visa, longer visa validity periods depending on the applicant’s occupation or job role.

As a reminder, SMART Visa holders and their dependents do not need a Work Permit to work in Thailand; they benefit from a visa valid for up to four years; and they are exempt from the 90-day reporting requirement, among other benefits.

United States: Latest PERM and PWD Processing Times – As of February 28, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) was conducting analyst review for PERM applications filed in November 2018 or earlier, and processing audited cases filed in August 2018 or earlier. DOL is working on standard reconsideration requests submitted in November 2018 or earlier. There is no update on the government error queue, though these cases appear to be current.  

DOL is issuing prevailing wage determinations for PERM and H-1B requests filed in October 2018. The agency has been processing PERM and H-1B redeterminations requested in January 2019, and PERM center director reviews requested in December 2018. There are no pending H-1B center director reviews. 

These reports are available on the iCERT home page. 

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