May 09 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: May 3-9, 2019

Azerbaijan, China, Costa Rica, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Malaysia, Panama, Qatar, Russia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: Employers can now petition for an additional 30,000 fiscal year (FY) 2019 H-2B visas, which have been made available to returning, temporary non-agricultural workers. The State Department has selected its FY 2020 Diversity Visa Lottery winners; lottery entrants should go to the State Department's official website to learn whether they have been chosen.
  • Israel/United States: The Israeli Ministry of Interior has opened the application period and published further guidance on the B-5 Investors Visa for U.S. citizens.
  • Ireland/United Kingdom: The two countries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that enshrines the current policy that Irish and UK nationals do not require work and residence permits in each other’s countries. 
  • Azerbaijan/Latvia: The national minimum wage applicable to both local and foreign workers in Azerbaijan and the minimum monthly salary for foreign workers in Latvia have increased.
  • Malaysia: The Expatriate Services Division’s MYXpats Centre will add new features, upgrade its system and implement substantial fee increases starting June 1.

These items and other news from Azerbaijan, China, Costa Rica, Hungary, Panama, Qatar, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uzbekistan follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

Latvia, May 9, 2019

Minimum Salary Level Increased

  • The minimum monthly salary for foreign workers in Latvia has increased to EUR 1,004 for Residence Permit with Work Authorization and EU Intracompany Transferee (ICT) Permit applicants; EUR 1,506 for standard EU Blue Card applicants; or EUR 1,205 for EU Blue Card applicants in shortage occupations, up 8.4 percent from last year. Note that EU Blue Card applicants in shortage occupations were not previously subject to a special salary threshold.
  • Employers must adjust the salaries of current foreign workers and those with pending or new applications, if required.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, May 9, 2019

DHS Now Accepting Petitions for Additional FY 2019 H-2B Visas

  • Employers can now petition for an additional 30,000 H-2B quota numbers in FY 2019.
  • Petitions will be accepted until the additional quota numbers are exhausted or until September 16, 2019, whichever is sooner.
  • To qualify, workers must have previously held H-2B status in at least one of the last three fiscal years, and petitioners must attest that they will suffer irreparable harm if unable to hire additional H-2B workers.

To view entire article, click here.


Ireland/United Kingdom, May 8, 2019

Treaty Consolidates Existing Reciprocal Citizens’ Rights

Ireland and the United Kingdom have signed a Memorandum of Understanding consolidating reciprocal citizens’ rights in the Common Travel Area between the two countries into a single instrument. This memorandum enshrines the current policy that Irish and UK nationals do not require work and residence permits in each other’s countries. 

To view entire article, click here.


United States, May 7, 2019

State Department Selects FY 2020 Diversity Visa Lottery Winners

  • Lottery entrants must check the State Department’s official Diversity Visa Lottery website to learn whether they have been chosen. Entrants may experience delays accessing the official website due to heavy user traffic.  
  • The State Department does not send direct notification to lottery winners. 
  • Successful entrants can submit an application for permanent residence during FY 2020, which begins on October 1, 2019.

To view entire article, click here.


Azerbaijan, May 7, 2019

Minimum Wage Increased

The national minimum wage applicable to both local and foreign workers in Azerbaijan has increased to AZN 180, up 38.5 percent from last year.  Despite the significant increase, this has minimal impact since foreign workers typically receive salaries well above this threshold.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, May 6, 2019

DHS Will Make Additional H-2B Visas Available for Employment in FY 2019

  • Employers will soon be able to petition for an additional 30,000 H-2B quota numbers for temporary non-agricultural employment in FY 2019.
  • To qualify, workers must have previously held H-2B status in at least one of the last three fiscal years, and employers must claim they are likely to suffer irreparable harm without additional workers.
  • DHS is expected to issue petition filing instructions for the additional quota numbers in the near future.

To view entire article, click here.


Israel/United States, May 6, 2019

Update on B-5 Investor Visa Application Process for U.S. Citizens

The Israeli Ministry of Interior has opened the application period for and published further guidance on the B-5 Investors Visa for U.S. citizens. Key points of the guidance include:

  • Eligible U.S. citizens can apply at any of four Israeli consulates in the United States;
  • The application process involves a personal interview; and
  • Children under 21 qualify for dependent status, up from children under 18, as was previously published.

Fragomen expects further guidance on eligibility criteria and estimated government processing times to be published in the coming months.

To view entire article, click here.


Malaysia, May 6, 2019

Upcoming Fee Increases and System Upgrades for MYXpats Centre Starting June 1

The Expatriate Services Division’s MYXpats Centre will add new features, upgrade its system and implement substantial fee increases starting June 1.

  • New features will be added to the system after the upgrade including the ability to make online payments, availability of new online services for Transfer of Endorsement and Cancellation of Passes, and new branches in Penang and Johor.
  • Processing fees for initial and renewal Employment Pass, Dependant Pass, and Long-Term Social Visit Pass applications will increase substantially. Moreover, there will be fees associated with processing initial and renewal Professional Visit Pass applications, which were processed for free previously.

The upgrades are intended to facilitate the employment process for skilled foreign talent. These changes will not apply to immigration applications submitted via the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation.

To view entire article, click here.


Brexit News and Related News Briefs This Week

European Union/United Kingdom: United Kingdom to Hold European Parliament Elections – As an update, the UK government has announced that the United Kingdom will participate in European Parliament elections between May 23-26, 2019. A no-deal Brexit on June 1 will be avoided if the European elections take place in the United Kingdom, moving Brexit day back to October 31, 2019. As a reminder, if both the United Kingdom and European Union ratify the Withdrawal Agreement before this date, the United Kingdom would leave the European Union the first day of the following month.

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

Azerbaijan: Visa Exemptions Revoked, Further Changes to Visa on Arrival – Azerbaijani authorities have revoked visa exemptions for nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey for short business and personal trips to Azerbaijan. It is not yet clear why these visa exemptions, which were only introduced in March 2019, were revoked. EU nationals travelling by the New York-Baku direct flight and Iraqi nationals travelling by the Baghdad-Baku direct flight can now obtain an entry visa at the airport upon arrival. Nationals from Iran and Turkey remain eligible for a visa-on-arrival, as they were before. Separately, nationals of Indonesia are now eligible to obtain a visa-on-arrival. As a reminder, visas-on-arrival typically allow a single-entry 30-day trip, and can be obtained at the airport upon entry through the Azerbaijan Service and Assessment Network (ASAN) terminals. Exceptionally, Turkish nationals can obtain a visa-on-arrival for a single-entry 60-day trip. Separately, all listed countries are also eligible to apply for an e-visa, with processing times between three hours and three days after filing the application and allowing a single-entry 30-day trip in a 90-day period. Note that the list of visa-exempt and visa-on-arrival-eligible nationals for Azerbaijan changes frequently, typically with short or no notice. Travelers should contact their immigration professional to discuss applicable visa requirements before each trip.

European Union: Border Controls Extended Until NovemberAs an update, all six EU countries in the Schengen area that instituted temporary internal border controls have formally extended these controls. France has extended its border controls until October 31, 2019; Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden have extended controls until November 12, 2019. All listed countries are part of the Schengen area, where internal border controls are in principle not allowed, with exceptions for temporary national security measures. The current controls have been in place since late 2015; in 2016 and 2017, the European Council recommended to prolong the checks in light of migration flows and intra-EU security at that time.

Hungary: New Delhi Consulate Requesting More Documents – In a change of policy, applicants filing any type of long-term visa application to Hungary from New Delhi, India must now submit a police clearance certificate, where this was not previously required. The police clearance certificate does not have to be translated or Apostilled. Short-term visa applicants are not required to submit this document. Residence permit for work purposes applicants must additionally submit an Apostilled birth certificate, issued in or translated to English; and a CV/resume issued in English; where this was not previously required. The changes do not affect applications filed in Mumbai, India.

Panama/China: Longer Stay Under Multiple-Entry Visa – Effective May 2, 2019, Panamanian nationals holding ordinary passports and an approved multiple-entry visa can stay in China for tourism and business for up to 90 days, and vice versa. A reciprocal agreement has extended the allowable stay period from 30 days under this type of entry in both countries.

Panama: New Rules for Specific Country Visa Work Permit – An executive decree has modified the work permit rules for Specific Country Visa applications filed after April 24, 2019. The rules reduce the validity of the work permit to three years (with the possibility of renewal), from the previous indefinite validity, and require renewal applicants to submit a social security receipt proving nine consecutive contributions or an income tax return with a tax clearance certificate. The new rules should benefit applicants of this category since they can now apply for the work permit before their visa application is approved, which should allow them to work three to four months earlier than under the previous rule. As a reminder, this category is for foreign nationals from Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Marino, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States of America, Uruguay and United Kingdom; who are either under a labor contract with a company established in Panama, or are shareholders of a Panamanian company.  Applicants under this category benefit from an exemption from the quota requirements that apply for foreign nationals under other work permit categories.

Qatar: Visa-Exempt Entry Announced for Select Participants of Summer in Qatar Festival – Relatives and friends of foreign residents and citizens in Qatar will be able to travel without a visa to Qatar during the Summer in Qatar festival, which will take place June 4 through August 16, 2019, according to an announcement by the Qatar National Tourism Council. At this time, it is not known if travelers will have to secure pre-approval for entry or hold any specific documents; however, it is possible that the person inviting the foreign national will have to show proof of residence in Qatar, and the foreign national will have to show confirmation of accommodation for entry. Additional details of the program are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Russia/Costa Rica: Visa Waiver Forthcoming for Costa Rican Nationals – Effective May 25, 2019, Costa Rican nationals will be exempt from obtaining a visa for stays of 90 days in a 180-day period, for tourism only (those seeking to perform commercial and work activities will not be eligible for this exemption). Russian nationals are already visa exempt in Costa Rica for tourism and business stays up to 90 days.

Russia: Simplified Citizenship Process for Some Foreign Nationals – Residents of the Donetskaya and Luganskaya regions are now eligible for a streamlined citizenship process that takes three months, as opposed to the process for other residents, which typically takes at least six months. Under the new process, foreign nationals who have permanent registration status in these regions can apply for temporary and then permanent residence permits without living in Russia under such permits (as required for other foreign nationals). The list of supporting documents is also much shorter than for residents of other regions.

United Arab Emirates: Online Application Process Launched for Long-Term Residence Visas – The UAE government has implemented an online application process for a six-month entry permit which will allow foreign nationals who are eligible for long-term residence permits to enter the country in order to complete processes related to their purpose of residence (e.g., business projects, investment in real estate or enrollment at a university), and enable them to finalize their immigration process in the United Arab Emirates. The following categories of foreign nationals are eligible to submit an online application through the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship’s website: entrepreneurs, investors, individuals with exceptional talents and outstanding students. Applications must be supported by proof of long-term residence eligibility and a fee of AED 300. The implementation of the online application process comes as additional details are being released on the long-term residence permit system, which was first announced in May 2018 and implemented in February 2019. It remains unclear if existing residents in the United Arab Emirates who meet the long-term resident visa requirements must undergo the same process as foreign nationals outside of the United Arab Emirates.

United States: Latest PERM and PWD Processing Times – As of April 30, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) was conducting analyst review for PERM applications filed in February 2019 or earlier, and processing audited cases filed in October 2018 or earlier. DOL is working on standard reconsideration requests submitted in December 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 January 2019. The agency has been processing PERM and H-1B redeterminations requested in March 2019, and PERM center director reviews requested in February 2019. There are no pending H-1B center director reviews. These reports are available on the iCERT page.

Uzbekistan/United Arab Emirates: 30-day Visa Waiver – Uzbek authorities have introduced a visa waiver for UAE nationals seeking to travel to Uzbekistan for tourist and business trips up to 30 days. Previously, UAE nationals required a B visa for business trips. 

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