Connecticut, US

May 16 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: May 10-16, 2019

Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Iraq, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Turkey, United States, Venezuela

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: President Trump presented the broad outlines of an immigration reform proposal that would include reductions in family-based immigration, replacement of the current permanent residence system with a points-based program, and greater border security measures. The Department of Homeland Security will preserve Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Nepal and Honduras, while lawsuits challenging the termination of TPS for these and other countries continue.
  • United States/Venezuela: Air travel between the two countries is indefinitely suspended due to unstable conditions in Venezuela.
  • Slovak Republic: The Slovak Foreign Police launched an online system for foreign nationals to schedule Residence Permit appointments and register their residency.
  • Chile: Permanent residence applicants now must submit their applications online, which also requires a personal appearance in Chile to obtain a code for the online system.
  • Turkey: In a change of policy, all residence permit renewal applications must now attend an appointment at the Migration Office, whereas previously renewal applications could typically also be filed by mail.

These items and other news from Belgium, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Denmark, Iraq, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Spain follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, May 16, 2019

White House Announces Immigration Reform Plan

  • President Trump presented the broad outlines of a reform proposal that would include reductions in family-based immigration, replacement of the current permanent residence system with a points-based program, and greater border security measures.  The proposal would not change the U.S. green card quota.
  • The reform plan is in the preliminary stages only.  The White House is reportedly drafting a bill that could be introduced in Congress, but the legislative path for such a measure is not clear.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, May 16, 2019

June Visa Bulletin Update: USCIS to Honor Final Action Dates Next Month

In June, USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Final Action dates listed in the State Department's June Visa Bulletin.

To view entire article, click here.


United States/Venezuela, May 15, 2019

DHS Suspends Air Travel Between the United States and Venezuela

  • Passenger and cargo flights between the United States and Venezuela have been suspended with immediate effect due to unstable conditions in the latter country. The suspension is indefinite.
  • Individuals with a need to travel between the two countries will need to make alternate plans, including possible immigration arrangements.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, May 14, 2019

June 2019 Visa Bulletin: EB-1 India Retrogression Steep, But Temporary; Modest Advancement in Other Categories

  • EB-1 India will retrogress by more than two years, to January 1, 2015, but is expected to return to at least February 22, 2017 on October 1, 2019, the start of FY 2020.
  • EB-1 China will remain at February 22, 2017. All other EB-1 countries will advance by more than six weeks to April 22, 2018.
  • EB-2 will advance by ten weeks for China, to August 1, 2016, and by only three days for India, to April 19, 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 three weeks to September 15, 2015, and India will remain at July 1, 2009.

To view entire article, click here.


Mexico, May 13, 2019

Corporate Registration Delays Worsen

  • Processing delays for annual Corporate Registration Certificate updates have worsened recently, causing extreme delays in other immigration processes. In particular, new work permit applications, residence permit renewals and other applications that require the employer to hold an updated registration are now taking several additional weeks and even months in some cases to process.
  • Employers with pending work permit applications that would be filed between now and mid-2019 will need to plan ahead for separate government-related processing delays.
  • Employers of foreign employees with residence permits expiring between now and mid-year should also work with their immigration providers to develop strategies for mitigating these delays to avoid employees losing their immigration status.

To view entire article, click here.


Costa Rica, May 13, 2019

Immigration Special Processing Window Restricted to Accredited Company Applications

  • The Costa Rican General Immigration Directorate has clarified that it will only accept accredited company applications through the special processing window, which does not include Permanent Residence, Change of Status from Temporary to Permanent Residency and Temporary Residence by Kinship with a Costa Rican, among other applications. Therefore, affected applicants will need to file other applications through the regular process, resulting in processing times of 10 to 12 months instead of three to four months.
  • Affected foreign nationals should plan to file their applications early to avoid delays and the expiration of their current status. In some cases, affected applicants will need to renew their current status prior to filing to avoid complications during the processing of their application.
  • This measure is intended to alleviate processing delays for initial residence permits and other applications filed by accredited companies to allow foreign nationals to start working in Costa Rica sooner.

To view entire article, click here.


Slovak Republic, May 13, 2019

Online System for Residence-Related Processes Implemented

  • The Slovak Foreign Police launched an online system for foreign nationals to schedule Residence Permit appointments and register their residency.
  • The new system streamlines the residency process as foreign nationals were previously required to queue early in the morning to obtain an appointment.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, May 10, 2019

DHS Preserves, Extends TPS Status for Nepal and Honduras in Compliance with Court Order

  • Complying with a federal court order, DHS will preserve Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Nepal and Honduras, while lawsuits challenging the termination of TPS for these and other countries continue. 
  • The validity of TPS-related documentation, including employment authorization documents, for nationals of Nepal will be automatically extended through March 24, 2020.
  • For now, the TPS designation for Honduras remains in effect through January 5, 2020, and USCIS will extend TPS-related documentation for the country in November.

To view entire article, click here.


Chile, May 10, 2019

New Mandatory Online System and Documentary Requirements for Permanent Residence Applications

  • Effective immediately, permanent residence applicants must submit their applications online instead of by mail. This requires a personal appearance by the applicant in Chile to obtain a code for the online system. This system should eventually reduce permanent residence application processing times. However, immigration authorities may delay adjudication of online applications until they complete the review of applications previously filed by mail, which would cause a delay in the initial stages of implementation of this system.
  • Also effective immediately, all permanent residence applicants must submit an apostilled or legalized criminal clearance certificate from their country of origin, whereas previously this requirement only applied to Colombian, Peruvian and Dominican Republic nationals. This may delay the permanent residence document gathering time, since it may take a significant amount of time to obtain this document in some countries.

To view entire article, click here.


Turkey, May 10, 2019

Residence Permit Renewal Now Requires Personal Appearance

  • In a change of policy, all residence permit renewal applications in Turkey must now attend an appointment at the Migration Office, whereas previously renewal applications could typically also be filed by mail. Renewal applicants now must request an appointment online, which is the existing process for initial residence permit applicants.
  • Affected residence permit renewal applicants may face longer processing times due to the new policy.

To view entire article, click here.


Other Weekly News Briefs

Belgium: Update on EU Intracompany Transferee Permit TimingAs an update, due to upcoming elections in Belgium, ongoing efforts to implement the EU Intracompany Transferee (ICT) Permit under the Single Permit scheme have been postponed from May 2019 to an as yet unconfirmed date. Fragomen currently expects the EU ICT Permit to enter into force not before early 2020. By way of background, Belgium is the only remaining EU country that still has to implement the EU ICT Permit. Although EU ICT Permit holders from other countries continue to benefit from short-term mobility to Belgium (working at a Belgian corporate group entity for up to 90 days in a 180-day period), employers cannot yet opt for Belgium as their primary EU destination for intracompany assignments under the EU ICT Permit nor seek long-term mobility in Belgium until the EU ICT Permit is implemented. Fragomen will continue to monitor implementation and share updates on relevant developments as they occur.

Cape Verde/Russia: Mutual Visa Waiver Forthcoming – A forthcoming mutual visa waiver will allow nationals of Russia traveling for business or tourist activities to enter Cape Verde without a visa for up to 60 calendar days. Travel under this agreement may not include study, hands-on work or residency. Reciprocally, Cape Verde nationals will be able to enter Russia for tourism and business for up to 60 calendar days in a 180-day period. The effective date of the agreement in each country is not clear.

Denmark: Short-Term Fast Track Permit to Allow Multiple Entries – Effective June 1, Danish employers registered for expedited processing under the Fast Track scheme can sponsor short-term assignments for foreign workers (not exceeding three months per 12-month period) for multiple entries, where previously only a single trip per 12-month period was allowed. As a reminder, the Fast Track scheme requires prior certification with the Danish immigration authorities, is available to Danish private or public employers with at least 20 full-time employees, and requires that employees fall under either the pay limit scheme track, the researcher track, the high level educational stay track or the short-term stay track. The policy change is part of a number of measures seeking to streamline the Fast Track scheme to lower administrative hurdles for Danish employers seeking foreign talent. Employers should benefit from more flexible assignment planning options for this permit type.

Iraq: Suspension of Visa Issuance for Egyptian and Filipino Nationals in Iraqi Kurdistan – Effective immediately, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) of Iraqi Kurdistan has suspended the issuance of visitor and residence visas for nationals of Egypt and the Philippines. Additionally, these nationals and their visa sponsors can no longer apply for a visa through the MOI’s electronic portal. However, affected nationals currently holding valid visitor or residence visas can still renew their visas. Companies who currently employ foreign nationals from Egypt or the Philippines are advised to renew their employment visas in advance of their expiration dates or risk not being able to continue to employ these foreign nationals. It is not clear if the suspension is temporary or permanent and if similar restrictions will be imposed by the federal government of Iraq.

Iraq: Periodic HIV Testing Mandatory for Residents of Iraq – The Ministry of Health of Iraq has started enforcing a residency regulation which requires foreign nationals with multiple entry-exit visas in Iraq to undergo an HIV test every three months from the completion date of their first medical examination that was used to obtain residence status. Affected foreign nationals planning to travel outside Iraq at the time their next HIV test is due must schedule an appointment with the respective clinic in advance of departure; appointments require a personal appearance. Noncompliant foreign nationals will be subject to a fine of USD 125 for each missed test. Additionally, the fine will be applied retroactively for each missed test the foreign national was subject to, starting from the date the last test was complete. This change comes as a result of Iraqi authorities standardizing residence regulations which, until now, have been implemented inconsistently or have not been applied at all. Those who test positive for HIV will be denied a residence visa and deported from Iraq.

Italy: Delay in Fingerprinting Appointments Increases Travel RestrictionsAs an update, authorities in many Italian regions are experiencing delays in scheduling fingerprinting appointments for residence permit applicants due to a high volume of applications. In some regions, waiting times for fingerprinting appointments are up to six months after filing the initial and renewal application. Although applicants can work and stay in Italy while waiting for the appointment and consequent residence permit processing, the delays may cause travel restrictions, since travel in the Schengen area is restricted after 90 days of stay in Italy until the foreign national obtains an Italian residence permit (exceptions may apply to holders of long-term national visa). Applicants with Schengen travel needs during residence permit processing are advised to consult with an immigration professional to plan their travel. Fragomen does not expect these delays to be resolved in the coming months, since there are no specific plans to resolve the underlying issue of high application volumes, and since the summer rush will be upcoming shortly.

Lithuania: Same-Sex Spouses and Partners Eligible for Dependent Status – Following a ruling by the Lithuanian Constitutional Court, foreign nationals can now sponsor same-sex spouses and registered partners as dependents, where this was not previously possible. Foreign nationals should benefit from facilitated entry for their family members to Lithuania.

Pakistan: Online Portal for Entry Visa Applications Expanded to Nationals from Additional Countries – Effective immediately, the Pakistani Ministry of Interior has expanded its online portal for entry visa applications to nationals of 179 countries. During the trial period, which began in March 2019, only nationals of China, Malaysia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom could use the online portal. Out of the 179 nationalities which are now eligible to use the portal, 50 are eligible for visas-on-arrival for tourism and 95 are eligible for visas-on-arrival for business. Nationals of countries not included in the respective lists must obtain their visas through consular missions abroad. The portal is designed to facilitate application processes for over 10 different categories of visas, including visas-on-arrival for tourism or business and visit visas for tourism and business.

Philippines: Clarifying Guidelines Issued on Work Authorization for Foreign Nationals – The Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration have issued joint guidelines to clarify the current rules and procedures on the issuance of work authorization to foreign nationals. These changes are set to take effect 15 days after publication in a newspaper of general circulation. However, publication is yet to take place and therefore, the exact date of effectivity is not yet clear. Key changes in the joint guidelines include:

  • A detailed list of foreign visitors who now require a short-term Special Work Permit (SWP) when entering the Philippines;
  • A limit on the validity of Provisional Work Permits to six months without possibility of renewal.

Fragomen is closely monitoring this situation and will report on further developments in this issue.

Qatar: Restrictions Implemented Concerning Egyptian Authorized Signatories – Employers in Qatar seeking to amend a list of authorized signatories on their Immigration License document are currently unable to add signatories who are Egyptian nationals, according to observed practice. However, employers can renew their Immigration License despite having one or more Egyptian signatories listed on the document. This restriction comes as a result of the severance of diplomatic ties between Qatar and certain Middle Eastern countries, Gulf Cooperation Member States and Egypt. The crisis has resulted in increased restrictions on mobility within the Gulf, including the inability of Egyptian nationals to obtain entry visas to Qatar. Earlier this year, Qatari authorities suspended a number of immigration processes for Egyptian residents in Qatar.

Saudi Arabia: Draft Law Approved to Introduce Residence Permits without a Sponsor or Employer – The Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia (Shura Council) has approved a draft law which will introduce residence permits for highly-skilled and wealthy foreign nationals who will not require a sponsor. Eligible foreign nationals will be able to obtain a residence permit for either up to one-year (renewable) or for an unlimited period of time. Qualifying applicants will be required to prove sufficient financial resources, a clean criminal record and show medical fitness. Beneficiaries of the program will be allowed to sponsor visitor visas for their relatives, employment visas for domestic workers, own property and travel without restrictions from and to Saudi Arabia, among other benefits. Further details of the law along with implementing executive regulations are expected to be announced in the coming months. This law aligns with others rules the government has implemented to attract foreign investors and entrepreneurs to the country, such as the reimbursement of and exclusion from foreign worker fees for select employers and the relaxation of labor market requirements.

South Korea: Relaxed Policy on Quota Requirements for D-8 Visa – The Korea Immigration Service has relaxed its policy on D-8 visa quota requirements. The quota is used to limit the number of foreign employees a local sponsoring subsidiary may sponsor under a D-8 visa. The quota was previously strictly tied to the amount of foreign-invested capital the local subsidiary had received from the overseas parent company as indicated in its Foreign-Invested Enterprise Registration Certificate. Typically, one D-8 visa was granted for every KRW 100 million invested (about USD 84,000 based on an exchange rate of KRW 1,188 per USD 1). With this relaxation in policy, a local subsidiary may now be allowed to sponsor additional D-8 visas based on other factors (in addition to foreign-invested capital), such as the amount of taxes paid, amount of revenue earned and number of local employees hired by the local subsidiary. Specifically, additional D-8 visas may be granted:

  • for every KRW 100 million in taxes paid annually;
  • for every KRW 1 billion in revenue earned annually; and
  • for every three local workers employed for at least six months by the local subsidiary.

However, when considering a local subsidiary's eligibility for additional D-8 visa quotas, it is important to note that the application of the relaxed quota policy is not rigidly formulaic but subject to some discretion. As such, other factors may be considered by the authorities in favor of granting additional quotas. A case-by-case assessment by Fragomen is required to determine the actual number of additional D-8 visas that may be permitted. This change is a positive development that can give multinational corporations more flexibility in their deployment of foreign intra-corporate transferees to their subsidiaries in South Korea.

Spain: Delays in Processing Residence Permits for Training and Professional Internships – Authorities in Madrid are currently taking four to five months to approve residence permit applications for training and professional internships, when they are statutorily required to process these applications in 30 business days. Employers should take these delays into account when planning their foreign nationals’ start dates.

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