Connecticut, US

Mar 28 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: March 22-28, 2019

Australia, Austria, China, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, European Union, Finland, Greece, India, Kenya, Netherlands, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela

In immigration news this week:

  • Pakistan: A recently launched online portal, currently in the testing phase, allows nationals of China, Malaysia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom to apply for electronic entry visas.
  • Venezuela: Apostilled Venezuelan documents will remain unavailable through April 2 due to closures at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • China: Starting April 1, entry and exit document applicants will be able to apply at any Public Security Bureau and will no longer be limited to applying at the bureau associated with their household registration. Also on April 1, a 24-hour online immigration application services platform is scheduled to launch.

In Brexit news this week:

  • European Union/United Kingdom: The European Union has conditionally approved the United Kingdom’s request to extend its exit date from the EU.  An extension until May 22 will be granted if the UK parliament approves the Withdrawal Agreement before March 29. If not, an extension until April 12 will be granted in order to provide the UK with the opportunity to state its preferred Brexit approach (i.e. a no-deal Brexit, a longer extension, an approved exit agreement or revocation of Brexit).
  • Greece: Plans have been published on the treatment of UK nationals currently residing in Greece in case of a no-deal Brexit.

These items and other news from Australia, Austria, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Finland, Greece, India, Kenya, the Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago, and the United Kingdom follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

Singapore, March 28, 2019

Delays in Issuance of Vaccination Verifications Prolonging Visa Application Processing

  • Foreign nationals applying for a Dependent’s Pass, Long-Term Visit Pass or Student Pass on behalf of dependent children twelve years and younger are experiencing processing delays at the vaccination verification stage due to a high influx of applications received by the Health Promotion Board.
  • Since this process is a prerequisite to the filing of the child’s visa application, principal applicants who sponsor foreign national children requiring vaccination verifications should plan to file their applications earlier to avoid complications as it is not yet clear when the backlog of applications will be resolved.

To view entire article, click here.


Australia, March 28, 2019

New Population Policy to Reduce Migration Ceiling, Encourage Migration to Regional Australia

In its recently published 2019-2020 population policy, the Australian government announced plans to:

  • Reduce the overall migration ceiling by 15%, while increasing the number of spaces for employer-sponsored permanent visas for skilled workers by nearly 10%;
  • Encourage foreign nationals to settle in regional areas through the introduction of two regional skilled visa categories; and
  • Create initiatives to attract international students to regional areas.


To view entire article, click here.


China, March 28, 2019

Entry and Exit Document Application Locations for Mainland China Residents to be Expanded and New Online Platform to be Launched April 1

  • Starting April 1, 2019, applications for entry and exit documents – including ordinary passports for the People’s Republic of China and travel permits from Mainland China to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan – can be submitted nationwide at any Public Security Bureau in China.
  • Currently, exit and entry document applicants must visit the Public Security Bureau associated with their household registration, which may be inconvenient for some applicants.
  • Also on April 1, the China National Immigration Administration Government Services Platform will be launched, and will provide 24-hour online immigration application services, including the ability to make Public Security Bureau appointments for entry and exit documents. This should further increase the convenience of applying for entry and exit documents.

To view entire article, click here.


Pakistan, March 27, 2019

Online Portal for Electronic Visa Applications Open for Select Countries

  • The National Database and Registration Authority has launched the testing phase of an online portal that allows nationals of China, Malaysia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom to apply for electronic entry visas to Pakistan.
  • Once the trial period is complete, the online portal is expected to be available to nationals of 175 countries, although they may be restricted to select visa categories.
  • The new electronic entry visa system aims to streamline and simplify the process for obtaining visas to Pakistan.

To view entire article, click here.


Costa Rica, March 27, 2019

Immigration Application Approvals Delayed for Accredited Companies

  • The adjudication of initial residence permits, change of status applications and change of employer applications filed by accredited companies in Costa Rica are delayed by several weeks past normal processing times.
  • Visa renewal applications by accredited companies are still being adjudicated within standard processing times.

To view entire article, click here.


Venezuela, March 22, 2019

Apostille Process Temporarily Unavailable; May Delay Immigration Processes

Closures at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Venezuela are preventing foreign nationals from obtaining apostilled Venezuelan documents through April 2. Foreign nationals and employers should be aware that immigration processes in other countries that require apostilled Venezuelan documents may be delayed during this time.

To view entire article, click here.


Brexit News and Related News Briefs This Week

Greece, March 26, 2019

No-Deal Brexit Plans for UK Nationals Published

The Greek government has published plans for the treatment of UK nationals currently residing in Greece in case of a no-deal Brexit scenario. Central details of the plan include:

  • A grace period until December 31, 2020, during which time UK nationals already registered in Greece would be able to apply for a national residence permit.
  • Non-EU family members of UK nationals, holding a corresponding residence permit, would also be able to stay in Greece until December 31, 2020. After this date, affected individuals would have to obtain a different permit type.
  • UK nationals and their family members arriving in Greece before December 31, 2020 will still be treated as EU nationals and can continue to apply for EU registration or residence permits as dependents of an EU national, respectively.

To view entire article, click here.


European Union / United Kingdom, March 22, 2019

European Union Conditionally Approves Brexit Extension

The European Union has approved an extension of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union under the following two scenarios, both of which would require UK legislative amendment to take effect:

  • If the UK parliament approves the Withdrawal Agreement before March 29, 2019, the European Union has agreed to an extension until May 22, 2019. After this date, an approved agreement would take effect and it is expected that a Brexit transitional period would commence.
  • If the UK parliament does not approve the Withdrawal Agreement next week, the European Union has agreed to an extension until April 12, 2019 to allow the United Kingdom to indicate its preferred Brexit approach before this date. This would include a no-deal Brexit, a longer extension, approving an exit agreement or revoking Brexit. A no-deal Brexit would remain the legal default and could occur on April 12, 2019.

Employers are advised to set up contingency plans in case of a no-deal Brexit on April 12, 2019.

To view entire article, click here.


Netherlands: Government Granted Emergency Brexit Legislative PowersThrough a new law, Dutch parliament will temporarily allow the government to amend legislation without parliamentary approval if it needs to quickly address unforeseen consequences of a no-deal Brexit. The government will hold these emergency legislative powers between March 29, 2019 and September 30, 2019. In order for the initial emergency measure to take full and final effect, a standard legislative amendment proposal must be submitted to parliament within 70 days of taking the emergency measure. The emergency legislative powers are not limited to specific areas and could therefore be used to address entry, residence and other immigration issues. 

Sweden: Update on No-Deal Brexit Plans – As an update to Sweden's no-deal Brexit plans, the Swedish government has adopted a regulation stating that UK nationals who plan to travel outside Sweden during the 12-month grace period after Brexit should apply for a passport stamp issued by the Swedish Migration Agency to prove their Swedish residency status. Those who are planning to leave Sweden in April should ensure they obtain the passport stamp as soon as possible. Non-EU family members of UK nationals may not be able to travel outside Sweden, since no similar passport stamp is currently being made available for these individuals. Affected family members are therefore urged to remain in Sweden to prevent jeopardizing their immigration status under the grace period. As a reminder, UK nationals and their family members should check their residence status and ensure that their UK passports are valid before March 29, 2019.

United Kingdom: EU Settlement Scheme Refund Information Available – The UK government has confirmed that after March 30, 2019, it will refund all EU Settlement Scheme application fees submitted before the government announced that the Scheme would be free.  Refunds will be issued directly to the credit card used to pay the fees. As previously reported, starting March 30, 2019, the EU Settlement Scheme will be fully open and free for European Economic Area/Swiss nationals and their family members residing in the United Kingdom. The government had also confirmed that this will include family members of British nationals who were exercising their free movement rights under EU law before returning to 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

Australia/Greece: Reciprocal Work and Holiday Visa Forthcoming – Beginning July 1, 2019, five hundred places will become available each year for Australians and Greeks aged 18 to 30 (inclusive) to live and work in each other’s country for up to twelve months. Greek nationals on their first visa who undertake work in regional areas will become eligible for a second visa to extend their stay. A third year will become available if they undertake six months of regional work in their second year.

Austria: More Positions Eligible for Red-White-Red Card for Shortage Occupations – The Austrian government has amended the shortage occupation list for 2019. As a result, 45 occupations – including specific types of engineers, mechanics and technicians – now qualify for a Red-White-Red Card for skilled workers in a shortage occupation, up from 27 under the previous list. Additionally, seven of Austria’s nine states have added specific regional shortage occupations to the list, which was not possible before.

Dominican Republic: New Appointment Scheduling Process for Select Applications – Beginning April 1, 2019, the Dirección General de Migración (DGM) is implementing a stricter appointment system to file applications for temporary residence, renewals of temporary residence, permanent residence and duplicate residence permits and to issue identification cards, among other services. Under the new appointment system, applicants will be granted an appointment and if they do not attend, they will have to submit a request to the Director of DGM for a new appointment. Currently, if an applicant misses an appointment, they are able to schedule a new one. It is not yet known whether walk-in appointments through the VIP process will remain available. Fragomen will provide further information on the new appointment system once it is available.

Finland: Only Taxable Allowances Counted Towards Salary Requirement – In a further change of policy, Finnish immigration authorities are only allowing taxable allowances to be counted toward the minimum salary requirement. Each year, the Finnish tax authority issues guidance on allowances, rates and tax regimes. Employers should budget for the amended rules when composing foreign workers’ compensation packages.

Finland: Increased Application Volume Causes Processing Delay – Due to a steady increase in application volume, Residence Permits for a Specialist are currently taking 21 to 35 calendar days for government processing, up from 14 to 28 calendar days. Since the annual surge in seasonal workers’ applications will be starting shortly, followed by the annual June to August summer rush, Fragomen expects delays to continue for several months.

India: Further Clarifications on e-Business Visa – In addition to the new regulations in the validity of the e-business visa, the Ministry of Home Affairs introduced new registration requirements and provided further clarity on the validity. First, the Ministry confirmed that the duration of the visa is 365 days from the date of issuance of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), not from the date of arrival. Secondly, while foreign nationals in India under the e-Business visa category are generally not permitted to exceed 180 days of continuous stay, those who do stay beyond 180 days must register with the relevant Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office/Foreigners’ Registration Office within two weeks of the lapse of the 180-continuous day stay. Registration will also be required if a foreign national’s aggregate stay in India exceeds 180 days within the validity of the visa.

Kenya: Kenyan and Foreign Nationals to Register in Biometric Program – Between April 2 and May 17, 2019, all Kenyan nationals and foreign nationals with a work or residence permit in Kenya must register for a new identification number which will allow access to government services such as National Health Insurance. Affected foreign nationals must visit a designated registration center in Kenya to submit biometric information and present a Foreigner Certificate and/or proof of their residence permit. New applicants for work authorization in Kenya will be required to register after arrival. There is no associated cost for registration, and there are no known immigration-related penalties for failure to register.

Russia: First Quarter Salary Notifications for Highly Qualified Specialists Due April 30 – Employers have until April 30, 2019 to file first quarter notifications for salaries paid to highly-qualified specialists (HQS). The notification must state the salary paid to HQS from January 1, 2019 through March 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). Violations of the established notification procedures, including failure to notify, will result in administrative fines for the employer.

Saudi Arabia: New Visa Category Forthcoming for Participants of Official Events – The cabinet of Saudi Arabia announced that a new visa category will be forthcoming for foreign nationals participating in official events approved by the Saudi government. It will be issued through Saudi consular posts and accredited visa service centers abroad within 24 hours of application. The implementation date of the new law has not yet been announced.

Saudi Arabia: Families Applying for Family Visit Visa Extension Must Extend Health Insurance – The Directorate General of Passports announced that effective immediately, foreign nationals applying for a family visit visa extension in Saudi Arabia must extend their health insurance policy before initiating the visa process for each applicant. Previously, this was not required. Family visit visas are usually issued for a maximum stay of up to 90 days, which can be extended once for up to 90 days. The extension is processed through the Ministry of Interior’s electronic portal, Absher, and it must be completed between three and seven days before the visa expiry date.

Trinidad and Tobago: Work Permit Renewal Application and Other Immigration Processes Continue to Be Delayed – The processing time for work permit renewals by the Ministry of National Security continues to increase. Renewal processes are now taking approximately 12 to 16 weeks or more to be approved. Foreign nationals should begin their renewal process at least 120 days before their work permit expires to allow enough time to gather all documents and process the application. Additionally, Multiple Entry Visa and Passport Endorsement processes at the Trinidadian immigration department continue to take up to five hours to be completed, whereas previously they would take two to three hours. Applicants should be prepared to either spend the entire morning at the immigration department or to return another day if the immigration officer postpones the appointment.

Ukraine: More Filing Locations Expedite Application Filing – In a change of policy, the Ukrainian Labor Authority has opened additional Work Permit filing locations – regional service centers linked to municipal districts – where previously these applications could only be filed at the Labor Authority central office. As a result, Work Permit applications can now be filed in approximately 10 locations in Kiev rather than one. Similarly, the State Migration Service (SMS, the main immigration authority) has opened additional Temporary Residence Permit filing locations at a range of alternative locations where previously these applications could only be filed at the SMS central office. The Labor Authority and SMS continue to process applications, but applications and documents can only be submitted and approved permits can only be collected at the new locations going forward. Employers should benefit from shorter travel times, a more transparent queueing system, reduced waiting times and improved client service at the new filing 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.