Virginia, US

Mar 14 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: March 8-14, 2019

Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, European Union, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: Though USCIS has resumed premium processing service for all H-1B petitions, it has not yet announced whether this service will be available for FY 2020 H-1B cap filings. Also in the United States, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for South Sudan will be extended by 18 months, through November 2, 2020. TPS for nationals of Nepal and Honduras will be temporarily preserved while lawsuits challenging the termination of TPS for these countries continue.
  • Vietnam: The government has reinstated its requirement for employers to cancel Work Permits when a foreign national’s assignment is terminated or ends earlier than the Work Permit expiration date.
  • Canada: An additional 2,000 spaces will be available to lower-skilled foreign nationals under the Provincial Nominee Program.
  • Singapore: Starting July 2019, the qualifying salary for local employees included in calculating the quota available for hiring foreign nationals under the S Pass and Work Permit categories will increase to SGD 1,300.
  • Colombia: A forthcoming law will allow Venezuelan nationals to enter Colombia with an expired Venezuelan passport, use an expired passport as an identification document, or apply for a Colombian visa, among other benefits.


In Brexit news this week:

  • United Kingdom: Following its parliamentary vote to extend the Brexit date, the UK government has proposed to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement for a third time by March 20.


These items and other news from Australia, Azerbaijan, Denmark, European Union, Japan, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, March 14, 2019
April 2019 Visa Bulletin: Some Movement Across EB-1, Except India and China; Solid Movement for EB-2 China

  • EB-1 will advance by one month for most countries, to February 1, 2018; there will be no forward movement for EB-1 China or India. 
  • EB-2 will advance by three months for China, to April 1, 2016, and by only three days for India, to April 12, 2009. All other countries will remain current.
  • The EB-3 subcategory for Professionals and Skilled Workers will remain current for most countries. China will advance by more than three weeks to August 1, 2015, and India will advance by one month to June 22, 2009.


To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, March 13, 2019
DHS Agrees to Temporarily Continue TPS Status for Nepal and Honduras

  • The Department of Homeland Security has agreed to temporarily continue TPS status for Nepal and Honduras while lawsuits challenging the termination of TPS continue, according to court documents from a federal district court case in California.
  • The agency has 15 days to formulate a plan to ensure that TPS documents and employment authorization remain valid for beneficiaries from Nepal and Honduras.


To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, March 13, 2019
No Announcement Yet on Premium Processing for FY 2020 H-1B Cap Cases

  • In a statement to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, USCIS officials indicated that the agency has not yet announced whether it will allow petitioners to request premium processing service for FY 2020 H-1B cap cases. USCIS plans to make an announcement at a later date.
  • Premium processing is available for all non-cap H-1B petitions.


To view entire article, click here.

 

Canada, March 13, 2019
Number of Spaces for Provincial Nominee Program Increased for Lower-Skilled Workers

  • An additional 2,000 spaces will be available to lower-skilled foreign nationals under the Provincial Nominee Program, which allows foreign nationals to work in Canada and to be sponsored by employers for permanent residence.
  • As a result, additional foreign nationals who qualify under a Provincial Nominee Program scheme will be eligible for opportunities to live and work in Canada and obtain permanent residence.


To view entire article, click here.

 

Philippines, March 12, 2019
Work Authorization Rule Changes Ahead

There is an ongoing discussion among government agencies to revise the present rules and procedures on the issuance of work authorization to foreign nationals in the Philippines. A joint memorandum, which will contain details of the changes, is expected to be issued soon.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, March 11, 2019
Premium Processing to Resume for All H-1B Petitions

  • Beginning Tuesday, March 12, 2019, employers can request premium processing service for all H-1B petitions, USCIS has announced.
  • The announcement suggests that premium processing will be available for the FY 2020 H-1B cap, though USCIS could announce a separate suspension at a later date.


To view entire article, click here.

 

Vietnam, March 11, 2019
Work Permit Cancellation Requirement Reimplemented

The Vietnamese government has reimplemented the requirement for employers to cancel Work Permits if a foreign national’s assignment is terminated or ends earlier than the Work Permit expiration date. Depending on the location, employers may also need to return the original Work Permit card to the Department of Labor Invalids and Social Affairs during cancellation.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, March 8, 2019
DHS to Extend TPS for South Sudan

  • Temporary Protected Status for South Sudan will be extended by 18 months, through November 2, 2020.
  • South Sudanese TPS beneficiaries will be required to re-register to extend their benefits. DHS is expected to announce the re-registration period soon.


To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, March 8, 2019
Starting March 22, New Form and Biometrics for Some Seeking a Change or Extension of Status

  • The new version of Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status became available on the USCIS website today, and will become mandatory starting March 22.
  • The new form requires applicants and co-applicants to pay a biometrics fee and appear in person for biometrics collection.
  • Spouses and children seeking a change of status to H-4 in the FY 2020 H-1B cap must submit the new version of Form I-539 and comply with the biometrics requirement.


To view entire article, click here.

 

Colombia, March 8, 2019
Additional Concessions for Venezuelan Nationals Forthcoming

Colombia will soon be passing a law that allows Venezuelan nationals to enter Colombia with an expired Venezuelan passport, use an expired passport as an identification document in Colombia, and apply for a Colombian visa with an expired passport, among other benefits.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Singapore, March 8, 2019
Qualifying Salary of Local Employees for Quota Calculation Set to Increase

  • The Ministry of Manpower in Singapore announced that starting July 2019, the qualifying salary for local employees for the purposes of calculating the available quota for hiring foreign nationals under the S Pass and Work Permit categories will increase from SGD 1,200 to SGD 1,300.
  • This means that sponsoring companies can only include local employees earning at least SGD 1,300 in calculating their foreign worker quota allocation.
  • This change will especially affect employers in the services sector given the recent announcement on upcoming reductions of the overall quota allocation for this sector.


To view entire article, click here.

 

Brexit News and Related News Briefs This Week

United Kingdom, March 14, 2019
UK Parliament Votes to Request Brexit Extension

  • The UK parliament has voted to request the Article 50 notification to leave the European Union to be extended, and the date of the United Kingdom’s exit to be pushed back for an as-yet undetermined period of time.
  • The UK government has proposed to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement for a third time by March 20, 2019. If the agreement is approved, the UK government will seek a Brexit extension until June 30, 2019. If the agreement is voted down again, the UK government will seek an extension for a longer period of time to allow the government and parliament to determine the United Kingdom’s future course of action. This would likely require the United Kingdom to participate in the European Parliament elections between May 23-26, 2019.
  • An extension requires unanimous approval from the remaining 27 EU countries, which is not certain to be granted. The extension request will be formally discussed by the EU countries’ governments at the March 21, 2019 meeting of the European Council. If the European Union does not approve an extension, a no-deal Brexit will occur on March 29, 2019 unless parliament agrees to the existing or an amended deal before that date.


Employers are advised to set up contingency plans in case of a no-deal Brexit on March 29, 2019.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United Kingdom, March 13, 2019
UK Parliament Votes Against No-Deal Brexit

  • The UK parliament has voted against leaving the European Union without having a deal in place.
  • Parliament will vote on March 14 on whether to request the Article 50 notification to leave the European Union to be extended, and the date of the United Kingdom’s exit to be pushed back for an as-yet undetermined period of time. This would require unanimous approval from the remaining 27 EU countries, which is not certain to be granted. If approved, the extension is expected to be limited to June 30, as otherwise the United Kingdom would be required to organize European Parliament elections. If the European Union does not approve an extension, a no-deal Brexit will occur on March 29, 2019 unless Parliament agrees to the existing or an amended deal.


Employers are advised to set up contingency plans in case of a no-deal Brexit on March 29, 2019.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United Kingdom, March 12, 2019
Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Rejected by UK Parliament Again

  • The UK parliament has rejected the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement once again.
  • Parliament is now expected to vote on whether to leave the European Union with no deal on March 13.
  • If Parliament votes against leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement, there would be a vote on March 14 on whether to request Article 50 to be extended and the date of the United Kingdom’s exit to be pushed back by a short period. Employers are advised to set up contingency plans in case of a no-deal Brexit on March 29, 2019.


To view entire article, click here.

 

United Kingdom, March 11, 2019
Parliament’s Brexit Voting Schedule This Week

The UK parliament is expected to vote on three key Brexit issues this week:

  • March 12, 2019: Second Withdrawal Agreement vote.
  • March 13, 2019: If the Withdrawal Agreement is rejected, parliament would vote on whether to leave the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement at all.
  • March 14, 2019: If the vote is against leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement, there would be a vote on whether to request Article 50 to be extended and the date of the United Kingdom’s exit to be pushed back by a short period.


Fragomen will be closely monitoring the results and providing analysis throughout the week.

To view entire article, click here.

 

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: Accredited Sponsorship Program Expanded – The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has announced that the Accredited Sponsorship program will be expanded to employers that have invested at least AU 50 million into their Australian business in the past five years. Under the new eligibility ‘Category 5: Major investment in Australia’, the business must have made a major investment in Australia (of at least AU 50 million) which has directly generated Australian employment. To assess eligibility under this category, the Department of Home Affairs (Department) may consider whether the investment has made a lasting contribution to Australia based on the value of the investment, pattern of investment, jobs created, tax contribution and export outcomes generated; and whether the investment involves innovative business practices or technologies, including setting up research activities in Australia or collaborating with Australian research institutions or commercial partnerships. Additional considerations and factors will also apply. The expansion of the Accredited Sponsorship categories should allow a greater number of employers to access this program, among the benefits of which includes streamlined processing and a flexible labor market testing process. MARN: 0004980

Azerbaijan: Visa Exemptions and Visa-on-Arrival-Eligible Nationals Added – The following countries have been added to the list of visa-exempt nationals for business trips to Azerbaijan: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro for a stay of 90 days in a 12-month period; Iran for a stay of 15 days; and Serbia and Turkey for a stay of 30 days. Nationals of Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan were already visa-exempt for 90 days in a 12-month period. The following new nations have been added to the list of those eligible to obtain a visa upon arrival: EU nationals travelling for tourism or business on the New York - Baku direct flight with Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL), Iraqi nationals traveling by Baghdad/Baku direct flight, Bahrain, China, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. Nationals of Turkey, Iran and U.S. citizens travelling for tourism or business on the New York - Baku direct flight with Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) were already eligible for a visa-on-arrival.

Denmark: Different Agency to Process EU Registrations – Starting April 1, EU registration applications (the main immigration formality required for non-exempt EU/European Economic Area/Swiss nationals staying in Denmark for over 90 days) will be handled by the Danish Agency of International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI, the main immigration authority in Denmark) instead of the State Administration (RSA). Until March 15, EU online applications for Copenhagen can be filed and must be picked up in person by March 29, 2019 at the RSA. After March 15, EU applications must be submitted in person at the RSA and must be picked up in person by March 29, 2019 at RSA. Starting April 1, there will be a new procedure at SIRI for application filing and appointment scheduling, the details of which Fragomen will report when further updates become available.

European Union: Future Entry Requirements for the Schengen Area – In recent days, several press outlets published articles that incorrectly reported on future requirements for U.S. citizens entering the Schengen Area. The articles erroneously stated that U.S. citizens would soon require visas to enter the Schengen Area. In fact, what has been instituted is a pre-travel authorization system that, starting 2021, will require visa-exempt nationals to obtain advance electronic approval to travel in a new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). The ETIAS is expected to be similar to the U.S. ESTA system for Visa Waiver Program travelers and the Canadian eTA system for visa-exempt and some visa-required travelers.  ETIAS is anticipated to be in place by January 2021, but will not become mandatory until six months after it is implemented. Fragomen will continue to report on developments about ETIAS as the implementation date nears.

Japan: Updates on Forthcoming Immigration Changes – In addition to the anticipated changes to the immigration system reported September 2018, the following changes are also expected to take place when the revised immigration law takes effect this April:

  • Introduction of two new work visas, Specified Skill 1 and Specified Skill 2, which will be open to highly-skilled and knowledgeable individuals who will work in the following industries designated as experiencing severe labor shortage: nursing care, building cleaning, agriculture, fishing industry, food and drink manufacturing (includes seafood processing), restaurants (food and drink services), materials industry, industrial machinery industry, electronics and electrical equipment industry, construction, ship building or marine industry, car maintenance, aviation (airport ground handling, aircraft maintenance), and lodging or hospitality.
  • Launch of a new online system that will allow companies to file their work visa applications online, including renewal and re-entry applications. Immigration lawyers/representatives may need to register with the Immigration Bureau before they can use the new online system. Applicants should expect some processing delays, especially during the initial rollout, due to technical issues. Currently, paper-based applications are filed in person at the Immigration Bureau.


Kazakhstan: New Passport Registration Location in Almaty – In a change of policy, work permit holders, visa-exempt business travelers and tourists arriving in Almaty must now register their passport at the Migration Service Center instead of the Migration Police. Foreign nationals can also submit documents for change and renewal applications at the Center, if required. Although the Migration Service Center should offer one-stop streamlined processing, it is located remotely and applicants will likely face queues during a transitional phase. In a related change, employers should now notify the arrival of sponsored foreign nationals to their district Migration Service department, rather than the Migration Police. Employers will benefit from shorter travel to the department and access to more notification locations but will need to check which department is responsible where previously all notifications were handled centrally.

Saudi Arabia: Draft Resolution Clarifies Online Registration Process for Employment Contracts – The Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD) issued a draft resolution which would require private sector employers to upload their entire workforce’s employment contracts to the General Organization for Social Insurance’s (GOSI) electronic portal, following an announcement in November 2018. By the end of 2019, employers whose employee headcount is above a particular number will be required to have their contracts uploaded; employers will have to upload any newly-hired employees’ contracts within a deadline specified by the GOSI regulations. It is possible that employers with smaller numbers of employees will be subject to this requirement in the future as well, though this has not yet been announced. The law is meant to ensure conformity of employment contracts with private sector regulations; to reduce labor disputes between parties; and to allow employees to review their contracts online. The draft law has been sent for public consultation and it is expected to go into effect within the next few weeks.

United States: Plans to Close USCIS Offices Abroad; Longer Processing Times Anticipated – USCIS is considering closing its international offices and shifting its international office workload to domestic offices in the U.S. and to U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, according to various news outlets. USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna has reportedly said that if the State Department agrees, the agency would move to close its international field offices in the coming months.

If approved, the move is expected to significantly increase processing times for and backlog petitions generally overseen by international USCIS offices. These offices mainly process family-based I-130 petitions and I-407 abandonment of lawful permanent resident status applications. Although the State Department can adjudicate I-130 petitions on a case-by-case basis, it is likely to be only in extremely rare cases. USCIS international offices also deal with green card and traveler-related assistance (including boarding letters), as well as humanitarian parole requests, but do not handle visa applications made by foreign nationals.

Fragomen is closely monitoring the progress of the move and will provide updates accordingly.

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