May 23 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: May 17-23, 2019

Chile, Colombia, Estonia, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Republic of the Philippines, Romania, Spain, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United States

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: USCIS has completed initial data entry of all fiscal year 2020 H-1B cap cases selected in the lottery; the agency will soon begin to return unselected cases to petitioners. Federal immigration agencies released their Spring 2019 regulatory agendas disclosing their immigration rulemaking priorities for the coming six months. Of note, the Department of Homeland Security is moving forward with plans to toughen H-1B eligibility criteria, rescind the H-4 employment authorization program and make changes to the EB-5 program.
  • Taiwan: Same-sex marriage will be legal effective May 24. Fragomen is seeking confirmation from government authorities on this ruling’s immigration impact, but it is anticipated that same-sex spouses who have completed their marriage registration in a country that recognizes same-sex marriage may apply for a dependent Alien Resident Certificate where their spouse obtains a work permit in Taiwan.
  • Oman: Additional job titles have been added to the temporary ban on employers hiring foreign nationals in the private sector.
  • Spain: Detailed policy instructions have been issued clarifying eligibility criteria for the most-widely used work authorization types under the Entrepreneurs Act.
  • Romania: The minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card applicants has increased by 24 percent from the previous threshold.

These items and other news from Chile, Colombia, Estonia, Greece, Guyana, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, and the United Arab Emirates follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, May 22, 2019

Federal Immigration Agencies Release Spring 2019 Regulatory Agendas

  • The Department of Homeland Security is moving forward with plans to toughen H-1B eligibility criteria, rescind the H-4 employment authorization program and make changes to the EB-5 program.
  • DHS plans to impose a new filing fee on employers who use the forthcoming H-1B cap registration system.  Both DHS and the State Department are expected to propose fee increases for immigration filings generally.
  • A forthcoming proposed rule seeks to eliminate the concurrent filing of immigrant visa petitions and adjustment of status applications.

To view entire article, click here.


Taiwan, May 20, 2019

Same-Sex Marriage Legalized; Immigration Effects Still Unclear

  • Effective May 24, 2019, same-sex marriage will be legal in Taiwan. Fragomen is seeking confirmation from government authorities on the immigration impacts of this ruling, but it is anticipated that same-sex spouses whose home country recognizes same-sex marriage and who have completed their marriage registration in their home country may apply for a dependent Alien Resident Certificate as long as the other spouse obtains a work permit in Taiwan.
  • This would be a welcome development as currently, same-sex spouses must apply for a separate work permit or a student visa in order to reside in Taiwan.
  • A follow-up alert will be issued that discusses other situations once the information has been confirmed.

To view entire article, click here.


Oman, May 20, 2019

Additional Job Titles Added to Suspension on Hiring of Foreign Nationals

  • Effective immediately, the Ministry of Manpower in Oman has restricted employers in the private sector from applying for or renewing work visas for foreign nationals in the following professions: assistant general manager, managing director, human resources manager, personnel manager or officer, training manager, follow-up manager, public relations manager; assistant director and all administrative and clerical professions.
  • This ban, which is likely permanent, has been issued in addition to the existing temporary ban on hiring foreign nationals in 87 professions, implemented in January 2019.

To view entire article, click here.


Spain, May 18, 2019

Immigration Policy Changes Clarify Eligibility Criteria

Spanish immigration authorities have issued detailed policy instructions clarifying eligibility criteria for the most-widely used Spanish work authorization types under the Entrepreneurs Act. The changes present a mixed picture of more transparent processing and broader eligibility for dependents; but restricted eligibility for foreign nationals with limited professional experience.

To view entire article, click here.


Mexico, May 17, 2019

Express Processing No Longer Available in Mexico City; Stricter Adjudication of Applications

  • The National Immigration Institute (INM) has closed its express counter in Mexico City. As a result, applications for post-arrival registrations and Temporary Residence renewals must now be filed through the regular process.
  • The INM has also changed the format of the current Resident Identity Cards, which are taking longer to issue than the previous cards.
  • These developments are resulting in end-to-end processing times of 35 business days or more, up from 8 business days. Foreign nationals should also be aware of additional travel restrictions during the processing of their immigration applications.
  • Effective immediately, the INM will no longer accept applications that do not meet all its formal guidelines. Previously, companies could file incomplete applications if they did not meet one or more of the requirements to prevent immigration status expirations.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, May 17, 2019

USCIS Completes FY 2020 H-1B Cap Data Entry

  • USCIS has finished initial data entry of all FY 2020 H-1B cap cases selected in the lottery.
  • Receipting of H-1B cap cases is expected to continue for at least several more days.
  • USCIS will soon begin to return unselected cases and fee checks to petitioners, but has not identified a time frame for returns.

To view entire article, click here.


Romania, May 17, 2019

EU Blue Card Salary Level Increased

Effective March 15, 2019, the minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card applicants in Romania has increased to RON 10,326, up 24 percent from the previous threshold. Employers should adjust salary levels of current permit holders, and budget for the increase when planning recruitment.

To view entire article, click here.


Other Weekly News Briefs

Chile: Passport and Identification Card Requirements Relaxed for Venezuelan Nationals – The Ministry of the Interior is now allowing Venezuelan nationals with expired passports or identification cards to enter and regularize their status in Chile. The documents must have been issued after 2013 and will be considered valid until April 18, 2021. Usually, a foreign national’s passport or identification card must be valid on arrival to enter Chile, and for 12 months to apply for a residence permit. Chilean authorities are taking this measure to alleviate the challenges faced by Venezuelan nationals in obtaining and renewing such documents.

Colombia: Special Stay Permits for Venezuelan Nationals Can be Renewed – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that Venezuelan nationals holding a Special Stay Permit (Permiso Especial de Permanencia) issued between August 3 and October 31 of 2017, will be able to renew their permit for two additional years. Eligible foreign nationals can apply to renew their permit staring June 1, until the day before it expires. Special Stay Permits issued after October 31, 2017 are not yet eligible for renewal, but as Colombia continues to provide solutions surrounding the high influx of Venezuelan nationals into the country, it is possible this benefit will be expanded. Interested applicants should contact their immigration professional for more information.

Estonia: Immigration Restrictions Anticipated Following Elections – Following recent elections in Estonia, a member of the Estonian right-wing nationalist party was appointed as Minister of Internal Affairs, and as such will be responsible for determining future immigration policy in Estonia. It is expected that Estonian immigration policy will be restricted as a result. By way of background, Estonian immigration policy already had a strong nationalist bias, requiring local employment contracts for all foreign nationals, including short-term transfers and intracompany transferees. Fragomen will monitor the situation and will report on relevant developments.

Greece: Posted Worker Notifications by Email Allowed Some Parts of AthensAs an update, labor departments in some sub-regions of Athens now accept posted worker notifications by email, where previously personal application by a company representative was required. Some sub-regions of Athens still require a personal application, and this is determined on a case-by-case basis. Other labor authorities outside Athens still require in-person document submission.

IndonesiaImmigration Fees Revision – The Indonesian government recently issued a regulation that revised the fees for immigration-related services. Some of the key changes include fees for the Telex visa (from IDR 100,000 to IDR 200,000); Limited Stay Visa (from USD 55-105 to USD 150); Limited Stay Permit (from IDR 450,000-1 million to IDR 750,000-1.5 million, depending on duration); Visa-on-Arrival (from USD 35 to IDR 500,000); Extension of Visa-on-Arrival (from IDR 355,000 to IDR 500,000); Extension of Single-Entry Business Visa (from IDR 355,000 to IDR 500,000); and overstay penalty per day (from IDR 300,000 to IDR 1,000,000). At the time this news brief was published, the exchange rate was 1 IDR to 0.000069 USD. The fees must be paid in the currency indicated (in some cases this has switched from USD to IDR, and in other cases, it must be paid in IDR or USD. The fees to be paid in USD are likely in that currency to facilitate applications from outside Indonesia). Details on other relevant fee changes can be found on the government website.

Iraq: Delays in Immigration Processes for Select Employers – Employers in Iraq who liaise with U.S. consular authorities in the country to issue visa invitation letters should expect processing delays due to the temporary suspension of services by the Embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Erbil. Moreover, foreign and Iraqi nationals are currently unable to apply for U.S. visas and American nationals are unable to obtain urgent assistance at these consulates. The suspension of these services is due to the U.S. State Department ordering the departure of non-essential government employees from these consulates. It is not yet known when these services will resume or when the delays will end.

Iraq: Update on Blood Tests for Residents in Iraq – Contrary to last week’s news brief which detailed mandatory blood testing for foreign residents in Iraq every three months, newly-confirmed information indicates that instead, foreign residents holding a multiple entry-exit visa in Iraq who travel outside the country after the expiry of their latest blood test (which is valid for three months) must schedule another test within ten days of their return to Iraq. All foreign residents in Iraq are tested for HIV and Hepatitis B, in addition to malaria if they are nationals of most African and some Asian countries, including India, Malaysia and Pakistan. If foreign nationals do not timely complete the blood test, they face a penalty of USD 125, which is applied retroactively for each missed test, beginning from the date the last test was completed.

Morocco: Separate Residence Permit Now Required for Minor Children – Children of foreign residents in Morocco below the age of 16 must now obtain a separate residence permit to evidence their legal status in the country. Previously, personal details of accompanying minor children were included in their parents’ residence applications without a separate permit being issued for the child. Due to this policy and their lack of a separate permit, minor children were often denied a boarding pass when traveling back to Morocco, among other issues. Foreign nationals seeking residence in Morocco who are accompanied by dependents, including children below the age of 16, should obtain separate residence permits for each family member. Additionally, foreign nationals currently residing in Morocco with minor children who do not have their own residence permit should apply for the permit as soon as possible or risk their dependents being denied entry to or departure from Morocco or a third country.

New Zealand: Upcoming Changes to the Essential Skills in Demand Lists – Immigration New Zealand (INZ) recently announced that it will implement changes to the Essential Skills in Demand (ESID) lists starting May 27, 2019. The ESID lists include the Long-Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL), the Regional Skill Shortage List (RSSL), and the Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List (CISSL). The RSSL is a new category that will replace the current Immediate Skill Shortage List. The skill shortage lists identify occupations that are in demand in the labor market and are consequently granted an exemption from the labor market test requirement. In a labour market test, the employer needs to prove that there was an effort to recruit a New Zealand citizen or resident to fill the position and that no suitable local candidates were found. Employers do not need to meet this requirement, and can benefit from a streamlined process if the occupation they seek to fill is included in any of these lists. The skill shortage lists are regularly reviewed by INZ to keep up with the changing needs of the labor market and to preserve job opportunities for local workers.

Nigeria: Visa-on-Arrival Migrates to Online Platform, May Require Earlier Filing – The Nigerian Immigration Services has announced that the visa-on-arrival process has migrated to an online platform, where foreign nationals are able to complete the entire application process on their portal. Previously, foreign nationals were required to manually submit their documentation to obtain an approval letter before completing the application online. Document submission will now take place on the portal as part of the application. Given the history of system errors, applicants are advised to submit their applications at least 14 days prior to the travel date. Fragomen notes that this may not be a permanent step in the process, given the previous issues with online-based applications in Nigeria.

Worldwide/Guyana/Philippines: Apostille Treaty Takes Effect – The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents took effect April 18, 2019 for Guyana and May 14, 2019 for the Philippines. As a result, documents originating in Guyana or the Philippines, intended for use in other countries party to the Convention, are now subject to a facilitated one-step legalization process. As background, legalization is a process to confirm the authenticity of documents for global use and typically requires signatures by one or more national authorities in the country of origin of the document (such as the municipal registry and relevant Ministry) as well as the consular post of the country of destination of the document. Foreign nationals with documents originating in Guyana or the Philippines should benefit from streamlined document gathering.

United Arab Emirates: Expanded Exemptions for Administratively Fined Employers –Employers in the mainland who received administrative fines from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization (MOHRE) for noncompliance with select labor regulations are now able to apply for full or partial exemption from payment of fines if they meet certain criteria. Additionally, employers may be allowed to pay the fines in installments. Exemptions include employers who are financially insolvent due to commercial debts and employers who are fined for non-payment of employees’ wages, among others. In order to obtain the exemption, in most cases, the employer will have to prove that the waiver will help to restore financial solvency by submitting supporting documentation to the MOHRE prior to adjudication of the exemption application. Previously, only owners of local fishing businesses and companies that accrued fines as a result of employing Emirati or Gulf Council Cooperative nationals were exempt from the payment of these fines. Administrative fines for noncompliant employers are set by labor law and can range from AED 100 to 50,000, depending on the violation.

United Arab Emirates: Bank Guarantee System Replaced with New Program in the JAFZA – Effective September 2019, the existing system of bank guarantees in the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) will be replaced by a Workforce Protection Program, which will eliminate bank guarantees deposited against each employment resident permit. Under the new program, employers will pay an insurance premium for each foreign employee in an amount that is expected to be lower than the existing bank guarantee. Employers will be able to recover financial guarantees previously deposited under the bank guarantee system. The program offers better protection in case of unpaid wages, work-related injuries, etc. This new policy follows the introduction of the worker’s insurance scheme which replaced bank guarantees in the mainland in October 2018. It is expected that other free zones in the United Arab Emirates will soon implement insurance policies similar to the one introduced by JAFZA as the policy is aligned with the government’s recommendation to reduce fees related to the employment of foreign nationals in the country and to provide better protection of foreign nationals in case of unpaid dues. Additional information is expected to be released on the new program in the coming months.

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