Virginia, US

Nov 07 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: November 1-7, 2019

Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Iraq, Israel, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Sweden, United States

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has indicated it expects to decide by the end of 2019 whether to implement its H-1B cap registration system for the upcoming FY 2021 cap season. The agency has finalized a regulation to impose a $10 fee for each H-1B cap registration once the system is implemented. Starting November 11, Polish nationals will be able to apply for travel to the United States as visitors for business or tourism under the Visa Waiver Program. A federal district court has temporarily blocked the enforcement of a presidential proclamation that would require immigrant visa applicants to demonstrate that they would have unsubsidized health insurance within 30 days after entry to the United States or sufficient funds to cover reasonably foreseeable medical expenses.
  • Israel: Effective November 5, visa nationals are no longer eligible for Hi-Tech (HIT) visas and must instead apply for a B-1 Foreign Expert visa if they qualify. Current HIT visa holders will remain on this visa only for the duration of its validity. Pending HIT visa applications will be adjudicated under the B-1 Foreign Expert visa process.
  • Canada: The Quebec government has implemented more restrictive language, degree and profession requirements for the Quebec Experience Program and the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.
  • Iraq: Employers in the oil and gas sector must now obtain employment visas directly from the Ministry of Interior, limiting the involvement of the Ministry of Oil and the respective company that holds a contract for work with the government. Foreign nationals can now only obtain new employment visas in country every other year; on alternate years, they must leave Iraq and re-enter once they receive a new Letter of Invitation.
  • Mexico: Foreign nationals in Mexico are temporarily unable to obtain exit/re-entry permits for travel after their residence card application is shown as approved in the Instituto Nacional de Migración's internal system until they obtain their resident card.



These items and other news from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, France, Israel, Lithuania, Malaysia, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Sweden, and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, November 7, 2019

DHS Finalizes H-1B Cap Registration Fee

  • When USCIS implements its long-planned H-1B cap registration system, employers will be required to pay a $10 fee for each case entered into the cap lottery.
  • Payment can be submitted by inputting credit card, debit card, checking account or savings account information directly into the H-1B registration portal. Batch registration and payment will be accepted.
  • USCIS is expected to announce by the end of 2019 whether it will implement its H-1B cap registration requirement, along with the $10 registration fee, for the FY 2021 cap season.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, November 6, 2019

Polish Nationals Eligible for B Visa Waiver Program Starting November 11

  • Starting November 11, Polish nationals will be able to apply for travel to the United States as B-1/B-2 visitors under the Visa Waiver Program.  If deemed eligible, they will not need a visa from a U.S. consulate for their business visitor or tourist travel.
  • Visa Waiver applicants must submit their applications at least 72 hours in advance of travel using the online application system, Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). 
  • Business visitors under the Visa Waiver Program are permitted to engage in allowable B-1 business activities in the United States for no more than 90 days.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Iraq, November 6, 2019

Oil and Gas Sector Employment Visa Process to be Streamlined; Approval Delays in Short Term

  • Employers in the oil and gas sector in Iraq must now obtain employment visas directly from the Ministry of Interior, limiting the involvement of the Ministry of Oil (MOI) and the respective company that holds a contract for work with the government.
  • Under the new rule, the MOI will issue all Letters of Invitations (LOI) and foreign nationals will obtain their multiple-entry visa stickers through a consular post abroad or upon arrival in Iraq, depending on their nationality and individual eligibility factors.
  • Although the process change will likely reduce processing fees and times, currently, due to a lack of clarity in the new regulation, adjudicating agencies are holding employment visa applications which is causing delays in approvals.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Israel, November 6, 2019

Visa Nationals Ineligible for Hi-Tech Visas

  • Effective immediately, visa nationals are no longer eligible for Hi-Tech (HIT) visas in Israel.
  • As a result, visa nationals working for hi-tech companies who would normally apply for a HIT visa will have to apply under the traditional B-1 Foreign Expert visa path, which is a much lengthier process.
  • Visa nationals with pending HIT visa applications will have their applications redirected and adjudicated under the lengthier B-1 Foreign Expert visa process.
  • Visa nationals who currently hold HIT visas can remain on these visas for the duration of their validity but will not qualify for extensions under this category.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Iraq, November 6, 2019

Employment Visa Holders May Need to Leave Iraq to Obtain New Employment Visa

  • Effective immediately, foreign nationals can only obtain new employment visas in country every other year; on alternate years, they must leave Iraq and re-enter once they receive a new Letter of Invitation (LOI) which is expected to take up to two months. Previously, foreign nationals could obtain new employment visas in country each year.
  • There are no changes to the employment visa process for foreign nationals who are outside of Iraq when their visa expires.
  • The new regulation may increase the costs of some foreign nationals’ assignments in Iraq since there are added expenses related to travel and obtaining a new LOI.
  • Furthermore, there may also be a disruption in employment as a foreign national in Iraq must exit the country and wait for the Ministry of Interior to issue a LOI and to obtain a visa from the consulate, if this latter step is required based on their nationality and individual eligibility.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Canada, November 5, 2019

Stricter Requirements Implemented for Quebec Experience Program and Quebec Skilled Worker Program

  • The Quebec government has implemented more restrictive language, degree and profession requirements for the Quebec Experience Program and the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.
  • The new changes may prevent many foreign nationals, including temporary residents working or studying in Quebec, from applying for permanent residency in Quebec, as they may no longer qualify for a Quebec Selection Certificate under the restrictive rules.
  • It is likely that the government will provide further details for these changes in the upcoming weeks as these changes are controversial and highly restrictive to immigrants in Quebec.



To view entire article, click here.

 

Mexico, November 4, 2019

Travel Restrictions During In-Person Registration Processes in Mexico City

  • Foreign nationals in Mexico are temporarily unable to obtain exit/re-entry permits for travel during the approximately 15 business days between when their resident card applications are shown as approved in the Instituto Nacional de Migración's (INM's) internal system and when their resident card is issued. 
  • The INM has temporarily stopped issuing permits to foreign nationals at this stage in an attempt to reduce the workload of the local INM office in Mexico City, which is currently facing understaffing and remodeling.
  • The change means that foreign nationals may not be able to travel outside of Mexico at this stage of the process when they are registering post-arrival, renewing a work permit, changing status to permanent residence or obtaining a new resident card due to theft or loss.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, November 4, 2019

H-1B Cap Update: Decision on H-1B Cap Registration Expected This Year, Acting USCIS Director Says

  • Acting USCIS Director Kenneth T. Cuccinelli has indicated that his agency expects to decide by the end of 2019 whether to implement its H-1B cap registration system for the FY 2021 cap season.
  • USCIS continues to test its online registration tool with the involvement of members of the business immigration community.
  • A rule that will impose a $10 fee for each H-1B cap registration is expected to be finalized in the coming days.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, November 4, 2019

Federal Court Blocks Health Insurance Requirement for Immigrant Visa Applicants

  • A federal district court has temporarily blocked the enforcement of a presidential proclamation that would require immigrant visa applicants to demonstrate that they would have unsubsidized health insurance within 30 days after entry to the United States or sufficient funds to cover reasonably foreseeable medical expenses.
  • Later this month, the court will consider whether to continue to block the proclamation and issue a preliminary injunction while a lawsuit challenging the proclamation goes forward.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, November 1, 2019

State Department Publishes Draft Public Charge Questionnaire

  • The State Department has proposed a draft questionnaire in connection with its recently published public charge rule. The rule will not take effect until the questionnaire is finalized.
  • Public comments on the questionnaire will be accepted until December 23, but final approval could take several months after the comment period closes.
  • Lawsuits challenging the public charge rule are expected and could delay its implementation even further.
  • There is no immediate impact to visa applicants.



To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, November 1, 2019

DHS Continues to Extend TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan in Compliance with Court Orders

  • Complying with federal court orders, DHS will continue to preserve Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan, while lawsuits challenging the termination of TPS for these countries continue.
  • The validity of TPS-related documentation, including employment authorization documents, for nationals of the six countries will be automatically extended through January 4, 2021.
  • TPS-related documentation for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan had been set to expire on January 2, 2020, for Honduras on January 5, 2020, and for Nepal on March 24, 2020. 



To view entire article, click here.

 

Weekly News Briefs

Bolivia: General Strike and Protests Affecting Immigration Processing – Amid protests concerning the presidential election and the ongoing general strike, private entities and government offices in La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba are closed or are altering their office hours. The closures are preventing Fragomen, foreign nationals and employers from completing immigration processes, including document procurement and legalizations. Foreign nationals and employers can expect processing delays for immigration-related applications until the situation normalizes. Fragomen is working with affected clients on a case-by-case basis.

Brazil: Visa Waiver for Qatari Nationals; Waiver Forthcoming for Indian and Chinese Nationals – Effective immediately, nationals of Qatar are eligible for visa-free transit and entry to Brazil for tourist and business stays of up to 30 days, extendable for an additional 30 days. Since 2017, citizens of Brazil have been eligible for visa-on-arrival for stays of up to 30 days in Qatar with the possibility of a 30-day extension. Chinese and Indian nationals are also soon expected to be visa waived or benefit from a simplified visa process when an agreement is finalized.

Colombia: Online Appointment Now Required for Salvoconducto Status – Foreign nationals applying for a safe passage (salvoconducto) in Bogotá must now book an appointment online through Migración Colombia's website and can no longer walk in without an appointment. Fragomen is monitoring the appointment system but expects appointments to be granted within three business days after the request, as is the case in other cities. Foreign nationals can apply for safe passage status to extend their stay period in Colombia when they cannot extend their visa prior to the renewal deadline, or as part of a regularization process following the payment of fines. ​

European Union: France, Norway and Sweden Confirm Border Control ExtensionAs an update, France, Norway and Sweden have now formally extended internal border controls. France has extended controls until April 30, 2020; Norway and Sweden have extended controls until May 12, 2020. All listed countries are part of the Schengen area, where internal border controls are not allowed according to EU law, except for temporary national security measures. The current controls have been in place since late 2015; in 2016 and 2017, the European Council recommended prolonging the checks due to migration flows and intra-EU security at that time.

Israel: Strike at Israeli Consulates Worldwide Ends – The strike of employees of all worldwide Israeli consular posts last week, which temporarily suspended all consular services, has ended. Applicants with consular applications should expect processing delays as a result of the backlog of applications that may have accumulated during the suspension and should contact their immigration professional for case-by-case advice.

Lithuania: Streamlined Immigration Process for Favored Nations – Effective immediately, nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States benefit from streamlined immigration processing. Specifically, eligible applicants need not obtain a work permit before filing a temporary residence permit application, removing an administrative step which took approximately seven business days to complete. Additionally, eligible applicants need no longer submit a police clearance certificate with their temporary residence permit application, a document which took several days to several weeks to obtain and authenticate. Favored nations’ applications are processed in 45-90 calendar days instead of the standard 60-120. After Brexit, UK nationals are also expected to benefit from these streamlined processes. 

Malaysia: Longer Validity of Approval Letters for Some Employment Pass Applications – The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) has announced that approval letters issued to Employment Pass (EP) applicants in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector will now have a longer six-month validity. Previously, approval letters issued to ICT applicants only had a three-month validity compared to the six-month validity issued to applicants in the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) sector. The longer validity period should now be sufficient time for EP applicants to obtain a reference visa (if required) and enter Malaysia to complete their EP endorsement. It should benefit employers and foreign nationals filing their EP applications with MDEC, and prevent cases where sponsoring companies had to refile their employee's EP application because the approval letter lapsed before the employee could enter Malaysia. The change is also seen as MDEC's way to standardize the validity of approval letters between the MSC and ICT sectors.

Papua New Guinea: End of Year Closures Require Early Application Submission – The PNG Labour Department has announced that it will be closed December 20, 2019-January 9, 2020.  Employers must submit new work permit applications to the Labour Department by November 8, 2019, and work permit renewal applications by November 29, 2019, in order for the applications to be processed before the closure period.

Qatar: Visa-Free Entry in Effect for Nationals of Rwanda – The government of Qatar signed a bilateral agreement implementing visa-free entry for Rwandan nationals traveling to Qatar for tourism for up to 30 days with the possibility of extending their visa for another 30 days. In order to qualify for visa-free entry, Rwandan nationals must hold a passport with a minimum validity of six months from the date of entry and a return or onward ticket from Qatar. At this time, Qatari nationals still require a visa for entry into Rwanda; however, this may change in the near future based on the agreement.

United States: Latest PERM and PWD Processing Times – As of September 30, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) was conducting analyst review for PERM applications filed in July or earlier, and processing audited cases filed in February 2019 or earlier. DOL is working on standard reconsideration requests submitted in May 2019 or earlier.

As of September 31, 2019, DOL is issuing prevailing wage determinations for PERM and H-1B requests filed in May 2019. The agency has been processing PERM redeterminations requested in July 2019 and H-1B redeterminations requested in August 2019, respectively, and PERM center director reviews requested in June 2019. There are no pending H-1B center director reviews. These reports are available on the iCERT page.

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