Virginia, US

Nov 14 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: November 8-14, 2019

Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Malta, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposal seeks to make significant changes to the immigration benefits fee structure by increasing filing fees and imposing new fee requirements for many case types. The State Department has rescinded its recent interpretation of the standard of review for blanket L visa applications; new policies concerning blanket L visa eligibility, however, are in development.
  • Canada: The government has updated wage information, creating new prevailing wages for many occupations. According to the Quebec government,  foreign nationals are no longer subject to the stricter requirements relating to the Quebec Selection Certificates under the Quebec Experience Program which went into effect on November 1. 
  • Australia: A newly introduced Global Talent Independent program hopes to attract highly skilled migrants from the best universities and most successful companies in the world.
  • Sweden: Effective October 14, the minimum salary for EU Blue Card holders increased by eight percent from last year’s monthly salary.
  • France: In order to better align the immigration system with the country's labor market needs, the French government intends to streamline the residence permit process and create a tool to map regional labor shortages, among other planned initiatives. The proposal is part of a package of measures rolled out over several years, some of which will require parliamentary approval.
  • Malta: Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly wage will increase by 0.6 percent from last year.

These items and other news from Austria, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

Malta, November 14, 2019

Minimum Salary Level to Increase

Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly wage in Malta will increase to EUR 761.97, up 0.6 percent from last year. Foreign workers typically receive salaries well above this threshold.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, November 14, 2019

State Department Withdraws Revised Blanket L Visa Standard, But Future Changes Are Expected

  • The State Department has withdrawn blanket L visa guidelines that would have required applicants to show their eligibility by “clear and convincing evidence” and directed officers to deny applications where questions about the applicant’s eligibility could not be resolved quickly.
  • However, officials of the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have indicated that new L-1 visa eligibility policies are in development.

To view entire article, click here.


Sweden, November 13, 2019

EU Blue Card Minimum Salary Level Increased

  • Effective October 14, 2019, the minimum salary for EU Blue Card holders in Sweden has increased to SEK 51,900 per month, up eight percent from last year.
  • Employers of foreign nationals seeking to obtain or renew an EU Blue Card must increase the foreign national’s minimum salary to comply with the new rule.

To view entire article, click here.


France, November 13, 2019

Streamlined Residence Permit Process, New Labor Shortages Tool Forthcoming

  • The French government has announced that it will introduce several changes to better align the immigration system with France’s labor market needs.
  • Key planned changes include a new statistical tool to map regional labor shortages, expedited work authorization processing for companies recognized by the French government as having regular needs for international mobility due to their sector of activity and internal organization, and making the residence permit filing process electronic, among other changes.
  • The proposal is part of a package of measures rolled out over several years. Some of the measures require parliamentary approval before they can take effect, which is expected in 2020.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, November 12, 2019

USCIS Proposes Significant Changes to Immigration Benefits Fee Structure

  • Fees for adjustment applications and ancillary benefits would nearly double, as would fees for naturalization applications.
  • USCIS would create separate fees and forms for H-1B, L-1 and other nonimmigrant case types.
  • USCIS would increase the premium processing timeline to almost three weeks, from 15 calendar days.
  • Asylum applicants and other humanitarian applicants would be subject to new and increased fees.

To view entire article, click here.


Canada, November 12, 2019

Prevailing Wages Updated

  • The Canadian government updated wage information, creating new prevailing wages for many occupations across the country.
  • Employers should review their foreign employee population in Canada for compliance with the updated wage requirements.
  • Failure to meet the prevailing wage can result in compliance issues for employers of foreign nationals in Canada.

To view entire article, click here.


Canada, November 12, 2019

Stricter Requirements Recently Implemented for Quebec Experience Program to be Suspended

  • The Quebec government announced that once suspending regulations are published in the Official Gazette, foreign nationals will no longer be subject to the stricter requirements which went into effect on November 1 relating to the Quebec Selection Certificates under the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ). The publication of the regulations is expected imminently.
  • The changes were suspended due to the public outcry stemming from the number of foreign nationals suddenly ineligible to apply under the program.
  • The PEQ-Graduate category, which had just re-opened for applications on November 1, will remain open for applications, along with the PEQ-Worker category. Applications should be adjudicated under the criteria which were in place prior to November 1, 2019.
  • Changes to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program, which were announced at the same time as the restrictive PEQ regulations, remain in effect at this time.

To view entire article, click here.


Bolivia, November 12, 2019

Political Crisis Intensifies, Affecting All Immigration Processing

  • As the political situation intensifies following the resignation of the Bolivian President, more government offices and private entities are closing, preventing Fragomen, foreign nationals and employers from initiating or completing immigration processes.
  • Foreign nationals and employers should expect processing delays for all pending and new immigration-related applications including Resident Visa applications, Identity Card issuance and document services, among other processes, until the situation normalizes.
  • Affected foreign nationals with filed applications which require submission of the applicant’s original passport or identification document may face travel restrictions until the Ministry of Government reopens.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, November 8, 2019

Federal Appeals Court Sends H-4 Work Authorization Lawsuit Back to Lower Court for Further Consideration

  • In the case of Save Jobs USA v. DHS, a federal appeals court has held that a group of U.S. technology workers has standing to challenge the H-4 spousal employment authorization program, overturning a district court ruling.
  • The case will now return to the district court, which will address whether the Department of Homeland Security had the authority to create the H-4 work program.
  • The decision does not have an immediate impact on H-4 nonimmigrants holding work authorization documents. USCIS continues to accept and adjudicate applications for H-4 work authorization.

To view entire article, click here.


Australia, November 8, 2019

Global Talent Program Launched

  • The Global Talent Independent program has been introduced in Australia with the intention of welcoming highly-skilled migrants from the best universities and the most successful companies in the world.
  • Prospective applicants will need to demonstrate an internationally recognised record of exceptional and outstanding achievement in their field and an annual income of at least AUD 148,700.
  • Eligible migrants under the program will receive fast-tracked processing and some will be eligible to obtain Australian permanent residency within a matter of weeks.

To view entire article, click here.


Weekly News Briefs

Austria: Policy Change Hinders Vander Elst Applications – In a change of policy, the Austrian Labor Market Authority (AMS) no longer accepts informal document submissions for Vander Elst service providers seeking secondment declarations. Previously, Vander Elst applicants proactively emailed supporting documents to AMS when filing a ZKO (Zentrale Koordinationsstelle des Bundesministeriums für Finanzen) declaration with the Ministry of Finance, since the ZKO declaration would trigger an AMS document request. Currently, AMS requires applicants to await the formal document request to be sent to the EU home employer. Since such requests are sent via standard mail in German only and typically with a one-week response deadline, secondment declaration applications are now often rejected by AMS for missing the deadline. Affected applicants are advised to consult with immigration counsel, since supporting documents may be accepted on appeal. Affected applicants and employers will likely face delays and administrative hurdles with this new AMS practice. 

Canada: Stricter Requirements Suspended for Quebec Experience Program – As expected, the Quebec government published suspending regulations in the Official Gazette stating that foreign nationals are no longer subject to the stricter requirements which went into effect on November 1, relating to Quebec Selection Certificates under the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ). The changes were suspended due to the public outcry stemming from the number of foreign nationals suddenly ineligible to apply under the program. However, foreign nationals who hold diplomas, had performed between 900 and 1,799 hours of training (inclusive) and had submitted an application between November 1 and 13, 2019 will have their applications adjudicated under the selection criteria that was in place as of November 1, 2019. All other foreign nationals who submitted an application between November 1 and 13, 2019 as well as all future applicants will have their applications reviewed under the criteria in place prior to November 1. Foreign nationals should be aware that regulations pertaining to language and Quebec value attestations and French language proficiency for spouses, which were announced at the same time as the restrictive PEQ regulations, are still expected to come into effect on January 1, 2020.

Chile: Immigration Delays Continue – Although Chile's Immigration Department in Santiago is currently open and functioning as usual, ongoing civil unrest continues to cause closures or irregular operating hours for some governmental agencies, notary offices, banks and other institutions. As a result, foreign nationals and employers can expect additional processing delays for immigration related applications until the situation normalizes, including the following:

  • Due to irregular bank schedules, Special Work Permit for Tourists applications at Santiago's international airport may only be filed before 12 PM (GMT-3).
  • The Internal Revenue Service (Servicio de Impuestos Internos) is temporarily closed until further notice, delaying issuance of provisional RUT numbers for foreign nationals. The provisional RUT number allows local entities to enroll a foreign national in their payroll.
  • The Civil Registry (Servicio de Registro Civil) is only processing urgent applications until further notice, preventing foreign nationals from applying for and receiving their Chilean Identity Cards and definitive RUT numbers. The definitive RUT number is required for many daily activities such as opening a bank account and obtaining utility services, among other activities.
  • The International Police (PDI) is experiencing delays for registration appointment availability and is currently granting appointments approximately 60 days after a request is made. Foreign nationals must register with the International Police in order to apply for a Chilean Identity Card and definitive RUT number.

Fragomen continues to work with affected clients with case-by-case advice. ​

Cyprus: Stricter Rules and Retroactive Checks on Citizenship by Investment – Following criticism of residence and citizenship by investment programs throughout Europe earlier this year, Cyprus has overhauled its citizenship by investment program, introducing stricter eligibility criteria, enhanced background checks and safeguards, and standardized permit evaluations and checks. Cypriot authorities are conducting retroactive checks on approximately 2,000 granted passports to verify whether these met the criteria in place at the relevant time. These checks have reportedly resulted in 26 passport revocations. According to the officials, the revocations took place because applicants did not meet the applicable criteria at the time of their approval.

Czech Republic: Faster Processing for Highly Skilled Local HiresFollowing legislative changes, vacancies for managers, specialists and technical / professional workers (with occupations ranked in categories 1-3 in the local job classification system (ISCO)) submitting Employee Card and EU Blue Card applications must now be posted for 10 calendar days, down from 30. Since posting a vacancy is a mandatory step in the application process for these permit types, eligible applicants and their employers benefit from faster application processing.

Greece: Golden Visa Investment Changes Ahead – The Greek government is planning to impose a higher investment amount for the Golden Visa, which allows investment in the Greek economy in exchange for a Greek visa. The details have not yet been announced but are expected in the next few months. Additionally, improvements have been implemented for the investment payment process, which is expected to reduce the processing time for pending applications, which currently take over a year to process. Fragomen will report on related developments.

Oman: Visit Visa for Tourism Now Requires Electronic Pre-Approval (e-Visa) – Effective immediately, foreign nationals traveling to Oman can no longer obtain visit visas upon arrival. Instead, they must apply for a visa through the Royal Oman Police’s electronic portal in order to obtain an electronic pre-approval (e-visa) prior to travel. This change is expected to expedite the entry process, as obtaining a visit visa upon arrival often took hours during peak travel times. The Omani government last amended its rules for visit visas in 2018.

Oman: Suspension Extended on Recruitment of Foreign Nationals to Certain Industries – The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has extended its suspension on the issuance of new work visas for workers in the construction and cleaning services industries by another six months, effective November 2019. The suspension does not apply to companies employing 100 workers or more; companies charged with implementing government projects, companies registered with the Public Authority for the Development of Small and Medium Business and select employers in free zones. A suspension on the recruitment of foreign workers in these categories has been in place in 2014. Other industries have also been affected by suspensions on the recruitment of foreign workers, including in June 2019, when the MOM extended a suspension on foreign sales and procurement representatives and in July 2019, when the MOM extended the suspension on the recruitment of foreign national workers in 87 professions; both decisions are still in effect. Furthermore, in May 2019, the MOM issued a list of professions that are expected Inbox to be permanently restricted to Omani nationals.

Papua New Guinea: Visa Application Process Improvements – The Immigration and Citizenship Authority (ICA) recently introduced expedited processing and online filing to the visa application process. Restricted Employment Visa (REV) and Employment Visa applicants may now opt to pay a fee of USD 2,000 to expedite the processing of their applications to two business days instead of five and 15-20 business days, respectively. Moreover, REV applicants may now also file their visa applications online through ICA’s website to obtain an e-Visa instead of submitting their applications over the counter at the ICA office. An additional USD 50 administrative fee, however, is charged for online filing. Processing times of five business days are the same for both filing options. These changes come after the ICA recently eliminated the requirement to obtain an original fee receipt in Papua New Guinea when filing visa applications. These changes are seen as the ICA’s initiative to streamline the visa application process.

Qatar: E- Contracts Now Required for All Work Residence Permit and Labor Card Holders – The Qatar Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (MADSLA) is now requiring all Qatar work residence permit and labor card holders to hold a registered employment contract that is printed through the online e-contract portal. The e-contract was first introduced by MADSLA on December 16, 2016; however, at that time, e-contracts were not required for foreign nationals who were already holding a valid contract that was registered with the Ministry of Labour. As part of this new requirement, employers and foreign nationals will not be able to complete the following immigration-related processes without the foreign national holding a registered e-contract: work and residence permit renewals; sponsorship transfer completions; family residence permit applications; and family visit visa applications. This new requirement is not applicable in the Qatar Financial Center and the Qatar Science and Technology Park.

South Africa: Supporting Documents for Traveling Minors No Longer Required Upon Entry – The Minister of Home Affairs signed a waiver which, effective immediately, allows foreign nationals traveling to South Africa to enter without having to present supporting documents for traveling minors. Previously, foreign nationals were required to present a birth certificate or parental consent form at the entry port in South Africa when traveling with children. This requirement negatively affected tourism and was previously removed as a mandatory requirement, following a recommendation in 2018. Foreign business travelers who enter with minor children (who would enter as tourists) would also benefit from this waiver. Such documentation may still be required for visa applications or work permits of foreign workers entering South Africa with minor children, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Spain: Appointment Delays Persist in Barcelona – Longstanding delays persist for foreign nationals scheduling appointments with the Barcelona immigration office and police station for applications such as a residence card or an EU registration certificate. Current appointment wait times are approximately four to six weeks, up from the normal one to two weeks. Government representatives are now intervening to attempt to push the relevant authorities to resolve the delays. Applicants are advised against paid appointments offered allegedly by call centers and processing agencies, since the immigration appointments should be free of charge and paid appointments constitute malpractice. Affected applicants are advised to consult with immigration counsel for alternatives, such as applications at another location, if applicable.  

Switzerland: New Permit Format for EU Nationals – European Union and European Economic Area residence permit applicants in Switzerland cantons will now receive a credit card-type permit instead of a paper permit. Non-EU nationals already received credit card-type residence permits. The cantons of Geneva and Thurgau have started issuing new format permits as of November 1, 2019, whereas other Swiss cantons will start issuing the new cards at a later, unconfirmed date. Authorities aim for country-wide implementation by 2021. Current permit holders in relevant cantons do not need to take any action; they will receive a card upon permit renewal, or when notifying a permit change.

United KingdomFive-Day Permanent Residence Processing Forthcoming – Effective November 13, 2019, foreign nationals applying for permanent residence (Indefinite Leave to Remain - ILR) based on the Tier 2 General route can apply under the Priority Service processing category, whereby applications are adjudicated in approximately five business days for a GBP 500 fee. Permanent residence applications can also be processed either in six months at no additional cost, or in 24 hours for a GBP 800 super priority fee. These fees are in addition to the standard GBP 2,389 government processing fee for ILR applications. The UK authorities do not guarantee processing times.

United States: Latest PERM and PWD Processing Times – As of October 31, 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.

DOL is issuing prevailing wage determinations for PERM and H-1B requests filed in July 2019. The agency has been processing PERM and H-1B redeterminations requested in October 2019, and PERM and H-1B center director reviews requested in October 2019. These reports are available on the iCERT page.

United States: SCOTUS Hears Arguments on DACA Termination – The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) earlier this week heard oral arguments in its consolidated review of the three lawsuits challenging the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. A ruling is not expected before June 2020. There are no changes to the DACA program until further notice. The Department of Homeland Security will continue to accept DACA renewal applications, but will not accept applications from foreign nationals making their first DACA application.

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