Oct 05 2018

Weekly Immigration Update: September 28 - October 4, 2018

Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Czech Republic, Greece, India, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Romania, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States

In United States immigration news this week, a federal district court judge has temporarily blocked the Trump Administration’s attempt to end temporary protected status for Sudan, Haiti, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Also in the United States, President Trump has signed a bill to fund the federal government through December 7. Immigration programs set to expire on September 30 have been reauthorized through December 7, including the E-Verify and EB-5 Regional Center programs.

The labor mobility provisions of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement are expected to be implemented consistent with existing practices under NAFTA.

On October 4, Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority introduced a new electronic arrival card that will replace the paper-based disembarkation/embarkation card and be used by certain foreign visitors during a three-month trial period.

Switzerland published its work permit quotas for 2019, which have increased for long-term B permits.

Romania plans to ease immigration eligibility requirements for foreign nationals under many visa schemes, which, if approved, would significantly reduce administrative burdens related to hiring foreign workers.

These items and other news from Australia, Bolivia, Czech Republic, Greece, India, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, October 4, 2018

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Termination of Temporary Protected Status for Four Countries

  • A federal district court in California has issued a preliminary injunction that blocks the Trump Administration from terminating Temporary Protected Status for individuals from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador while a lawsuit challenging the terminations continues.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has 15 days to formulate a plan to ensure that TPS documents and employment authorization remain valid for beneficiaries from the four countries.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, October 3, 2018

FY 2020 Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Opens Today

  • Entrants have until Tuesday, November 6, 2018 at noon EST to register online at the State Department’s official lottery website.
  • Lottery applications must conform to the State Department’s strict requirements.

To view entire article, click here.


United States/Canada/Mexico, October 1, 2018

United States, Canada and Mexico Reach Agreement on New Trade Pact; Labor Mobility Provisions Are Largely Unchanged

The labor mobility provisions of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement are expected to be implemented consistent with existing practices under NAFTA, though each country continues to have the authority to interpret the agreement with respect to the cross-border movement of businesspersons, professionals, intracompany transferees, traders and investors.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, September 28, 2018

President Trump Signs Spending Bill with Stopgap Funding through December 7

  • President Trump has signed a bill to fund the federal government through December 7, averting a federal shutdown on September 30.
  • Immigration programs set to expire on September 30 will be reauthorized through December 7, including the E-Verify and EB-5 Regional Center programs.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, September 28, 2018

Reminder: Premium Processing Fee Increase Takes Effect October 1

  • Premium processing requests postmarked on or after October 1, 2018 must include the new $1,410 fee.
  • Premium processing remains suspended for most H-1B case types through February 19, 2019, but remains available for certain other employment-based nonimmigrant and immigrant petitions.

To view entire article, click here.


Portugal, October 4, 2018

Online Filing System, Other Improvements Significantly Reduce Residence Permit Appointment Wait Times

A process change at the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service should reduce in-country residence permit appointment waiting times by eight months. Additionally, foreign nationals can file visa applications online and can file in-country residence permit applications in regions other than their region of residence, which should also significantly streamline the overall immigration process.

To view entire article, click here.


Switzerland, October 3, 2018

Work Permit Quotas for 2019 Increase

Swiss authorities have published the work permit quotas for 2019. Quotas for long-term B permits are up by 1,000, whereas quotas for short-term L permits are down by 500. Quotas for EU/European Economic Area nationals are unchanged from last year. 

To view entire article, click here.


Romania, October 3, 2018

Government Proposes to Ease Immigration Requirements

The Romanian government plans to significantly ease immigration eligibility requirements for foreign nationals under many visa schemes by eliminating restrictions such as a national quota, the labor market test requirement, the EU Blue Card program salary threshold and certain educational requirements. If approved and implemented, these changes would significantly reduce administrative burdens for hiring foreign workers.

To view entire article, click here.


Singapore, October 3, 2018

Electronic Arrival Cards to Replace Paper-Based Versions

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority will introduce new electronic arrival cards for foreign visitors to Singapore during a three-month trial period starting October 4, 2018. This is intended to replace the paper-based disembarkation/embarkation card foreign visitors are currently required to submit upon arrival. The change will affect business visitors but will not have an impact on citizens, permanent residents, work pass holders and other long-term pass holders who are already exempt from submitting disembarkation/embarkation cards.

To view entire article, click here.


Australia, September 28, 2018

New Prime Minister May Shift Focus for Immigration

Last month, Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was replaced and the former Treasurer, Scott Morrison, appointed as the new Prime Minister. A new Ministry was announced on August 27. This included a separation of the responsibility for Immigration within the Ministry of Home Affairs and the appointment of David Coleman as Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. These changes are likely to result in a renewed focus to take advantage of the economic benefits of migration but in a targeted way. 

To view entire article, click here.


Weekly News Briefs

United States: Latest PERM and PWD Processing Times - As of September 30, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) was conducting analyst review for PERM applications filed in August 2018 or earlier, and processing audited cases filed in March 2018 or earlier. DOL is working on standard reconsideration requests submitted in August 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 June 2018. The agency has been processing PERM redeterminations requested in August 2018, H-1B redeterminations requested in September 2018, and PERM center director reviews requested in August 2018. There are no pending H-1B center director reviews.

These reports are available on the iCERT home page. 

Czech Republic/India: New Delhi Appointment Issues Alleviated - The introduction of an appointment quota at the Czech Embassy in New Delhi, India in May has alleviated the Residence Permit and Employee Card appointment delays that existed prior to the quota. Although applicants can only schedule appointments on one day each month, and appointment slots are limited in number, most applicants receive appointment confirmation within one to three weeks from their request. Average appointment waiting times in New Delhi are now one to two months in total, a significant improvement to the wait times early this year. Although the number of available appointment slots each month is strictly limited, the available slots appear to be sufficient to meet current appointment demands.

Greece: Practical Guidance on EU Intracompany Transfer (ICT) Permit Forthcoming - As an update to the status of Greece's implementation of the EU Intracompany Transferee (ICT) Permit, the Greek government has published a Ministerial Decision paving the way for further decrees that will clarify the application process and document requirements for EU ICT Permit applications in Greece. Fragomen expects these further decrees to be published shortly, at which time an update will be issued. Foreign nationals will only be able to apply for an EU ICT Permit once these ministerial decrees are published.

India: Electronic Services Further Expanded - Electronic services have been extended to all Foreigners’ Regional Registration Offices (FRROs) and Foreigners’ Registration Offices (FRO) across India. Previously, e-services were only available in Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Lucknow, Mumbai, Puducherry, Thiruvananthapuram, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurugram and Gautam Buddha Nagar. The following implementation challenges are expected during the e-service expansion effort: 

  • Prolonged processing timelines;
  • Delays in issuance of residential permit once approval is granted;
  • Requests for incorrect government fees;
  • Residential Permits issued with errors;
  • Inability to resolve issues without following up with immigration officers, often in person; and
  • Cancellation of applications without appropriate justification/reason.

India/South Korea: South Korean Nationals Eligible for Visa-on-Arrival - Nationals of South Korea are now eligible for a non-extendable 60-day (double-entry) visa-on-arrival for business, tourism, conference and medical purposes. Previously, South Korean nationals were only eligible for an e-visa, for which they had to apply prior to arrival. The visa-on-arrival eligibility will reduce administrative burdens for South Koreans seeking to travel to India on short trips and there will be no restrictions on the number of times this facility can be used per calendar year. The visa-on-arrival can be obtained at any of the six designated ports of arrival, namely, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad international airports.

Italy: Longer Processing and Higher Fees for Citizenship Applications Forthcoming - The Italian government plans to double processing times for most citizenship applications from 24 to 48 months. Additionally, government filing fees will increase to EUR 250, up from EUR 200. The changes become effective upon publication, which is expected to occur in December, and can then be amended or revoked by Parliament within 60 days. Eligible foreign nationals are advised to file their applications early to account for the delays.  

Netherlands/Bolivia: Bolivian Nationals Eligible for Easier Entrepreneur Permit - A Dutch court recently ruled that Bolivian entrepreneurs settling in the Netherlands should have the same beneficial treatment as U.S. nationals. As a result, Bolivian nationals should be allowed to apply for entrepreneur permits under conditions of the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT). These conditions allow entrepreneurs to avoid the points-based review system that is typically applied, and instead make a capital investment in a Dutch company, expected to be EUR 4,500, as required under DAFT.

Qatar: Visa Service Center to Open in Sri Lanka - The Ministry of Interior announced that the first visa service center for the new pre-arrival immigration process will open in Sri Lanka on October 12. Foreign nationals from Sri Lanka seeking employment in Qatar will need to undergo a medical examination, submit biometric data and an employment contract at the service center before obtaining an entry permit for travel to Qatar. Service centers will also be opened in other select countries, including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Tunisia, though the exact opening dates have not been confirmed. Foreign nationals and companies employing foreign nationals from Sri Lanka (and eventually the other countries where service centers will open) should anticipate significant work start date delays due to the extra processing step. The extent of delays will depend on the country of application and expected volume of applications at the visa centers, among other factors.

Turkey: Most Consulates Resume Issuing Free Trade Zone Work Visas - Most Turkish consular posts have resumed issuing Work Visas for Free Trade Zone (FTZ) work permit approvals, though some VFS service centers are still not issuing Work Visas. Turkish consular posts stopped issuing Work Visas for FTZ approvals in April.

United Kingdom: Restrictive Language Test for Citizenship Applications Forthcoming - The UK Home Secretary plans to require a higher level of English language skills as part of UK citizenship applications. Currently, non-exempt foreign nationals should have language skills at B1, B2, C1 or C2 level under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages; or should have a university degree from a course taught in English. Additionally, the Home Secretary plans to organise a public consultation to seek feedback on changing the civic integration exam (Life in the UK test). The Home Secretary is seeking to make the test more relevant to current life and culture and to promote British values and principles.


Global Immigration News Links

  • Although a Trump administration proposal to make it harder for legal immigrants to remain in the U.S. could cause thousands to forgo billions of dollars in government assistance each year, it would cost society more than it saves, according to Bloomberg.
  • The Trump Administration's "zero tolerance" policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border was fraught with planning shortfalls, according to an Inspector General report, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • The UK government plans to allow opposite-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships, which is currently only possible for same-sex couples.
  • Romania’s constitutional court ruled that same-sex spouses shall enjoy similar family rights as opposite-sex spouses, in a case involving a U.S.-Romanian couple whose marriage was registered in Belgium. The ruling follows a June European Court of Justice ruling.
  • Macedonian nationals have voted in favor of changing the country’s name to resolve a name conflict with Greece, though voter turnout was low.​

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