Nov 25 2020

Weekly Immigration Update: November 20–25, 2020

Australia, Azerbaijan, Botswana, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Macau, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tunisia , Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela

In immigration news this week:

  • Worldwide: Jurisdictions around the world continue to adapt their coronavirus-related travel restrictions and quarantine measures, and many have implemented extension policies and other concessions. Visit Fragomen’s COVID-19 website for the latest immigration updates.
  • Brexit: Authorities in Hungary updated their published details on post-Brexit residence permits or residence registration options (‘Article 50 residence permits’) for current UK national residents and their non-EU national family members. Check this consolidated information page for more information.
  • Minimum salary requirements: The Wallonia region in Belgium and the Czech Republic have published 2021 minimum wage levels. Check this consolidated information page for more information.
  • United States: Foreign nationals planning to travel internationally and return to the United States during the holiday season should take into account several new factors, including COVID-19 policies worldwide, reduced operations at U.S. consulates and immigration travel bans. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will continue to implement the Trump Administration’s ban on “non-essential” travel across U.S. land borders and ferry travel with Mexico and Canada through December 21, 2020.
  • United Kingdom: New guidance for employers clarifies practice questions arising from changes to UK immigration rules.

​These items and other news from Croatia, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Netherlands, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, November 24, 2020

Holiday Travel During the Coronavirus Emergency

  • Foreign nationals hoping to travel internationally and return to the United States this holiday season should consider several additional factors, including COVID-19 policies worldwide, reduced operations at U.S. consulates, and immigration travel bans remaining in place through at least the end of 2020.
  • If you will need to apply for a visa while abroad, be prepared for limited consular appointments, possible delays in visa issuance, and potential appointment cancellations due to changing COVID-19 local conditions.
  • Ensure that all of your travel documentation is accurate and contains sufficient validity to minimize reentry problems.

​​To view entire article, click here.

United States, November 23, 2020

December Visa Bulletin Update: USCIS to Honor Dates for Filing for Employment-Based Categories Next Month

  • USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment applications in December from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Dates for Filing listed in the State Department's December Visa Bulletin.

​To view entire article, click here.

United States, November 20, 2020

December 2020 Visa Bulletin: Final Action Dates Advance in Most Categories; EB-3 India Dates for Filing Retrogresses By One Year

  • EB-1 China and EB-1 India Final Action dates will advance by four months to April 1, 2019. 
  • EB-2 China will advance by over one week to May 1, 2016, and EB-2 India will advance by over one week to October 1, 2009.
  • EB-3 China will advance one month to November 1, 2017, and EB-3 India will advance two weeks to March 15, 2010.
  • EB-5 China will remain at August 15, 2015, and EB-5 Vietnam will advance by two weeks to September 1, 2017. 
  • The Dates for Filing cutoff for EB-3 India will retrogress by one year. Dates for Filing for the remaining categories are largely unchanged from November or advance moderately. 

To view entire article, click here.

United Kingdom, November 20, 2020

UK Government Releases New Guidance for Employers Ahead of Upcoming New Immigration System

  • The new guidance for employers clarifies many practical questions arising from the wide-ranging changes to the UK immigration rules that form the basis of the new immigration system taking effect on December 1, 2020.
  • The guidance includes information about the conversion of existing Sponsorship Licences into the new system; extending electronic filing processes that were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and new employer reporting requirements.

​To view entire article, click here.

United States, November 20, 2020

U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico Land Border Restrictions Extended Through December 21

  • CBP border restrictions permitting only essential travel across the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada land borders will be extended through December 21. The restrictions do not affect air travel.
  • Essential travel includes travel by U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals traveling to work in the United States, among others. 
  • Visa Waiver and other business travelers may face additional scrutiny at the border.
  • “Non-essential travel” at land borders is not permitted, which includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.

​To view entire article, click here.

Other Weekly News Briefs

: Revised Posted Worker Directive Implementation Forthcoming – Croatia will implement the Revised Posted Worker Directive on January 1, 2021, which expands remuneration rights and limits the duration of assignments under home country employment conditions. Although Croatia will be six months late in implementing the Directive, Fragomen expects that Commission infringement action will not proceed beyond the current stage of a formal notice.

Czech Republic: Integration Requirement Forthcoming - Starting January 1, 2021, Czech residence permit applicants must complete a four-hour integration course at a local Integration Centre within one year of their residence permit approval. The integration requirement applies to all non-EU nationals seeking a Czech residence status for one year or longer, including the Employee Card, the key employment permit type. Limited exemptions apply for Intra-Company Transfers and graduates of Czech universities, among others. The course provides information on Czech conditions of stay and work, the Czech state and values, major cultural events and the Czech Republic in general. The course is offered in a range of languages.

Ireland: Pre-Clearance Applications Moved Online – In a further effort to digitize processes, Irish authorities have moved pre-clearance applications online. Pre-clearance is required for volunteers; de facto partners of Irish nationals, Critical Skills Employment Permit holders and Hosting Agreement holders, among others. Pre-clearance is not required for employment-based permits. Pre-clearance application forms are now filed through an online visa platform instead of in hard copy by mail. Original supporting documents and the applicant’s passport are then submitted to the consular post listed on the summary application form within 30 days. Additionally, visa national applicants no longer submit a separate visa application once the pre-clearance is approved. Pre-clearance approval automatically generates visa approval for eligible visa-required applicants. Hardcopy applications will still be accepted and processed until December 31, 2020. Irish authorities are expected to continue moving processes online, as the Dublin residence card renewals and Atypical Working Scheme applications earlier this year.

Netherlands: Civic Integration Changes Postponed – In the Netherlands, changes to the civic integration system that were scheduled to take effect in July 2020 but were initially postponed to July 1, 2021, have been postponed a second time to January 1, 2022. The delayed timeframe should allow public stakeholders to adequately prepare for the implementation of the new system, in light of pandemic-related workload challenges. The civic integration process is mandatory for some foreign nationals, including dependents of Dutch nationals, asylum seekers and foreign nationals who voluntarily choose to apply for Dutch nationality or long-term residence. Under the new rules, these applicants would need to complete one of three new integration routes based on their existing language and educational abilities. Civic integration is not required for temporary residence permit holders, including holders of permits based on employment.

Peru/United Arab Emirates: Tourist Visa Exemption Implemented – According to a recently signed mutual agreement, UAE nationals with regular passports no longer require a visa to enter Peru for tourism for a stay of up to 90 days in a 180-day period (and holders of diplomatic, special and mission passports no longer require a visa for tourism for stays of up to 90 days in each visit). Both of these exemptions also apply to Peruvian nationals traveling to the United Arab Emirates. Business travelers must still obtain a visa prior to travel.

Saudi Arabia: Stricter Requirements Announced for Calculating Saudization Ratios – The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development announced an amendment to rules calculating the ratio of Saudi national workers in the Nitaqat system, based on their minimum monthly salary, which will go into effect in April 2021.  For full-time employees, Saudi workers will count as one employee for purposes of the Saudization ratio if their monthly salary is SAR 4,000 or above. Saudi nationals with a monthly wage between SAR 3,000 and SAR 4,000 will be counted as half an employee, while those with a salary lower than SAR 3,000 will not count towards the nationalization ratio of the employer. Currently, the minimum monthly salary for a Saudi national to count as one employee is SAR 3,000; those earning between SAR 1,500 and SAR 3,000 are counted based on a special equation; and those with a salary lower than SAR 1,500 are not counted at all. Part-time workers will count towards the employer’s Saudization ratio as half of an employee if their salary is SAR 3,000 or above per month (currently the minimum salary is SAR 1,500 per month).

Saudi Arabia: New Visit Visa Category for Shorter Transit Period – The government of Saudi Arabia introduced an additional visit visa category for foreign nationals transiting through Saudi Arabia by air, sea or land for up to 48 hours. The visa costs SAR 100. This new category is in addition to the existing transit visa category allowing foreign nationals to transit through Saudi Arabia for up to 96 hours, which costs SAR 300.

Switzerland: 2021 Work Permit Quotas Unchanged from 2020 - Swiss authorities have published work permit quotas for 2021, with identical quota allocations as for 2020. The following quota numbers will become available as of January 1, 2021: 4,000 short-term L Permits and 4,500 long-term B permits for non-EU/European Economic Area (EEA) nationals (issued annually); 3,000 short-term L Permits and 500 long-term B permits for EU/EEA nationals (issued quarterly). Starting 2021, the previously announced quota for UK nationals will be released: 1,400 short-term L Permits and 2,100 long-term B permits (issued annually). L permits are available for up to 24 months, B permits for over 24 months. As before, quotas do not apply to applications for L permits for stays under four months, status changes and renewals. Annual quotas are typically exhausted by the end of each year. Quarterly quotas are typically exhausted six to seven weeks after release. Employers are therefore advised to submit applications early to avoid rejections due to the quotas being filled.

United States: State Department Issues Six-Month B Visa Bond Pilot Program for Certain Countries, Starting December 24 - The State Department has issued a temporary final rule, published in the November 24 Federal Register, that creates a six-month B-1/B-2 “visa bond” pilot program. The pilot applies to B visa applicants from 23 countries who require a waiver of visa ineligibility. The program takes effect on December 24, 2020 and will remain in place through June 24, 2021.  Under the rule, B visa applicants who are nationals of 23 historically high visa overstay countries and who require an inadmissibility waiver may be required to post a bond of $5000, $10,000 or $15,000 in order to obtain the B visa.  The 23 countries are: Afghanistan, Angola, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa), Djibouti, Eritrea, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Laos, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The bond requirement can be waived by the State Department either for an individual or for a category of foreign nationals.  The pilot bond program does not affect those traveling under the Visa Waiver program.

United States: OMB Releases Guidance on President Trump’s Order to Review Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices - In response to President Trump’s August 3, 2020 executive order requiring government agencies to conduct a review of federal contractors’ and subcontractors’ use of nonimmigrant workers and overseas labor on federal contracts, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has instructed agencies to review their largest direct contractors and submit the results of that review to its office by December 31, 2020. 

Some affected—and, possibly, some unaffected—federal contractors may have already received an inquiry on this issue from federal agencies with whom they work. However, the OMB memo formalizes the process by which the government will implement the executive order using some of the same questions that agencies have been informally asking in recent months.  Affected contractors should prepare for an inquiry about their use of foreign workers or offshoring. 

According to the OMB instructions, each federal agency should evaluate, at a minimum, the following for work performed in the United States during Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019: service contracts from the 25 contractors with which they have made the most obligations during that time period, or such number of contractors to cover at least 10 percent of the agency’s obligations for services during this period, whichever is less. The new guidance appears to narrow the scope of the original executive order by directing federal agencies to review their largest contractors only.  Direct subcontractor review is not required, though agencies are directed to document certain information for subcontractors as well, to the extent feasible. Primary contractors could reach out to their subcontractors regarding their use of foreign workers or offshoring on the federal contract.   

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