Sep 12 2019

Weekly Immigration Update: September 6-12, 2019

Angola, Australia, Canada, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Oman, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Russia, The Bahamas, United Kingdom, United States

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: A proposal to terminate the H-4 work authorization program remains under federal review, according to the Department of Homeland Security in a court filing. Until a rescission regulation is finalized and implemented, the agency will continue to accept and adjudicate new H-4 work authorization applications and renewals under its current rules.
  • United Kingdom: The Home Secretary published changes to the UK Immigration Rules that impact the EU Settlement Scheme and the Tier 1, Tier 2, and Start-up and Innovator categories. The British Prime Minister also announced plans to for a new visa that will allow international graduates to stay and find work for up to two years post-graduation.
  • Russia: The Ministry of Labor and Social Development has updated its list of professions for qualified foreign specialists who are exempt from a quota application.
  • Nigeria: Foreign nationals who remain in Nigeria for over 90 days are subject to a new biometric registration requirement.
  • South Korea: To combat the abuse of the national health insurance system, the Immigration Service has been restricting the grant of visa extensions and some work/residence permits to foreign nationals who have defaulted on payments to the Korean national health insurance service.
  • Ecuador: A proposed law pending approval with the National Assembly would create a new visa for foreign nationals seeking to conduct business and technical activities for up to 180 days, eliminate travel restrictions for temporary residences, and create stricter eligibility rules and travel restrictions for permanent residents, among other changes.

These items and other news from Angola, Australia, Bahamas, Canada, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Oman, Russia, Sierra Leone, and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

Mexico, September 12, 2019

Immigration Processing Delays in Monterrey Resulting in Travel Restrictions

  • Immigration authorities in Monterrey, Nuevo León are experiencing further delays in issuing some residence approvals and Residence Cards while they finalize the administrative transition to the office’s newly-appointed head immigration official in Monterrey.
  • Foreign nationals with residence applications that were approved but not signed by the former immigration head’s team can expect delays in obtaining their Residence Cards while immigration authorities re-issue approval notices and the new immigration head’s team signs them.
  • Affected foreign nationals with approved Residence Cards which have not yet been issued may face travel restrictions until they receive their Residence Cards, since Exit Permits, which are issued to foreign nationals with pending immigration applications in order to travel, are generally not issued after an application is approved in the system.
  • Foreign nationals and their employers can also expect continued processing delays of several months for new temporary residence visas, permanent residence applications, renewals, post-arrival registrations and corporate registrations filed in the city of Monterrey and possibly across the state.
  • Fragomen will contact affected clients with case-by-case advice.

To view entire article, click here.


United Kingdom, September 11, 2019

Statement of Changes Published, Impacts EU Settlement Scheme, Tier 1 and Tier 2 Visas

The Home Secretary has published a Statement of Changes to the UK Immigration Rules. Relevant changes include:

  • Changes to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) including a new right of administrative review and clarification that close family members of UK nationals returning with them from the European Economic Area or Switzerland will be able to make an application until March 29, 2022 (if the relationship existed on exit day) or December 31, 2020 (if the relationship was established after exit day.)
  • Removal of PhD roles from the Tier 2 (General) annual quota and a wide expansion of the Shortage Occupation List, as recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee earlier this year.
  • Confirmation that Tier 2 migrants will not be penalized for any absence from work due to sickness, statutory parental leave, assistance in a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis or legal strike action.
  • Changes to Tier 1 category including the closure of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category for new applicants, amendments to the investment criteria for Tier 1 (Investor) extension and settlement applications, and changes to the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category requested by competent bodies.
  • Changes to the Start-up and Innovator categories including confirmation that business activities can be started earlier, relaxation of Start-up visa requirements for Tier 4 (General) students on a doctorate extension scheme, clarification of the qualifying criteria an organization must meet to be an endorsing body, and the removal of a ‘checkpoint’ between an applicant and their endorsing body after 24 months in the Start-up category.

Most changes are effective October 1, 2019.

To view entire article, click here.


United Kingdom, September 11, 2019

Visa Route for Graduates Seeking Work Forthcoming

  • The UK Prime Minister has announced plans to allow international graduates to stay and find work in the United Kingdom for up to two years after graduation under a new visa that is reportedly expected to apply for students starting in the academic year 2020/2021.
  • Eligible students must have successfully completed a degree from a trusted UK university or higher education provider.
  • During the two-year period, graduates will be able to apply for any role and will not be restricted by skill level or salary threshold, whereas currently graduates only have four months to find a role suitable for Tier 2 (General) Visa sponsorship.
  • Employers will also benefit from being able to hire skilled graduates who may not otherwise be able to meet the requirements for a Tier 2 (General) visa immediately upon graduation, whereas currently graduates cannot be offered a permanent role unless they can switch to a Tier 2 (General) or other visa.
  • The policy change follows the announcement of a new Global Talent Visa earlier this year, in response to growing concerns that the science, technology, engineering and math sectors will be disproportionately impacted in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

To view entire article, click here.


United States, September 11, 2019

H-4 EAD Rescission Proposal Remains Under Federal Review, DHS Confirms

  • A proposal to terminate the H-4 employment authorization program remains under review with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a court filing. There is no projected publication date for the proposal.
  • Publication of the proposal has been delayed as DHS continues to meet with OMB and “interested parties” about the rule.
  • Eligible H-4 spouses may continue to apply for and renew employment authorization documents until further notice. If published, the proposal would not be implemented until DHS reviews public comments and finalizes the rule, a process that takes several months.

To view entire article, click here.


Nigeria, September 11, 2019

Biometric Registration for Foreign Nationals Due December 31

  • The Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) has implemented a new requirement for biometric registration of foreign nationals who remain in Nigeria for over 90 days.
  • Foreign nationals are required to appear in person at one of the NIS centers before December 31, 2019.
  • Employers found to have unregistered foreign nationals are subject to fines.

To view entire article, click here.


Russia, September 10, 2019

New Quota-Exempt Profession List for Qualified Foreign Specialists Released

  • The Russian Ministry of Labor and Social Development has added professions to the list of those exempt from a quota, including engineer-programmer, technological installations operator and certain electrician occupations, among others; and has excluded professions previously on the list, such as quality engineer and manager of hotel service, among others.
  • Employers should ensure adequate quota and related document preparation time if a quota application is required.
  • The addition of new highly-skilled technology professions to the quota-exempt list is in line with the State Migration Policy Concept, an Executive Order that lays out plans for increasing skilled migration to Russia; and in line with other recently-relaxed immigration policies in Russia such as a work permit exemption for artists and scientists, and an expansion of its e-visa platform.

To view entire article, click here.


South Korea, September 9, 2019

Visa Restrictions for Foreign Nationals Who Default on Payments to National Health Insurance Service

  • The Korean Immigration Service has been restricting the grant of visa extensions and some work/residence permits to foreign nationals who have defaulted on payments to the Korean national health insurance service.
  • This measure seeks to combat the abuse of the national health insurance system by those who leave Korea after undergoing expensive medical treatment under the national health insurance system.
  • Employers with foreign nationals who have defaulted on national health insurance system payments will encounter difficulties and limitations in extending their foreign workers’ visas.

To view entire article, click here.


Ecuador, September 9, 2019

Proposed Immigration Reforms Under Legislative Review

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior of Ecuador proposed a law that would introduce the following key changes:

  • Create a new Acts of Commerce Visa for foreign nationals seeking to conduct business and technical activities in Ecuador, among other activities, for up to 180 days;
  • Eliminate travel restrictions for temporary residents in Ecuador;
  • Create stricter eligibility rules and travel restrictions for permanent residents; and
  • Replace the UNASUR Temporary Visa for Countries of South America with a visa that provides more access to South American non-UNASUR nationals.

The proposed law is in the preliminary stages of discussion and could take the National Assembly six months or more to approve.

To view entire article, click here.


Weekly News Briefs

Angola: Dependents Must Apply for Temporary Residence Visa Before Travelling – The Angolan government now requires dependents of foreign nationals travelling to Angola under a Main Work Visa to apply for a Temporary Residence Visa at an Angolan consular post after the main applicant has received their Work Visa. Previously, dependents could enter Angola with the main applicant under an Ordinary Visa and then apply in country for a Temporary Residence Visa. As a result of this change, dependents should expect longer wait times before traveling to Angola.

Australia: Review of Skilled Migration Occupation Lists Forthcoming – In a press release, the Australian government announced that it has commenced a review of its Skilled Migration Occupation Lists, which are used to determine eligibility for Australia’s skilled visa programs. The review will inform the next update to the lists. The government is seeking feedback from industry, employers and other relevant stakeholders, and have specifically drawn special attention to regional Australia. The focus on regional Australia aligns with the government’s decision to allocate 23,000 regional migration places for 2019/20, the introduction of two new regional visas and new Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA). The formal submission period opens February 2020 and the new lists will be released March 2020. Fragomen’s Government Relations team can assist with these engagement opportunities to present information and formal submissions effectively to achieve desired outcomes. If you are interested in learning more about the review of the Skilled Migration Occupation Lists and how Fragomen can advocate for outcomes to support your business needs, please reach out to your Fragomen immigration contact, or directly to Justin Gibbs, Director of Government Relations APAC, at MARN: 1798314

The Bahamas: Update Following Hurricane Dorian – Following hurricane Dorian, government offices in Nassau are open and accepting immigration applications, but processing may be delayed by a few days. Visa and work permit applicants should take possible delays into consideration and plan their entry and start dates farther in advance than usual.

Canada: Pilot Program Implemented to Ease Restrictions on Dependents – A two-year pilot program implemented until September 9, 2021 will enable certain sponsored foreign nationals under the family class or the spouse or common-law partner in Canada (SPLPC) class to immigrate to Canada, where they were previously excluded. Previously, when a principal applicant applied to become a permanent resident, they were required to declare and have the backgrounds checked of all of their family members (spouses, common-law partners, dependent children and dependent children of dependent children) even if they were accompanying the applicant so that immigration officials could determine whether the family members would not make the principal applicant ineligible or inadmissible to Canada. Under the pilot program, principal applicants will be able to sponsor their non-accompanying dependent spouse or child to immigrate to Canada in the future, regardless of whether the dependent had their background/medical check during the principal applicant's application process.

Finland: Stricter Requirements for Russian Nationals Implemented – Effective September 1, 2019, Finland has implemented stricter rules for Russian nationals applying for Finnish tourist visas in order to align them with the requirements of the European Union’s Schengen Area. Russian nationals travelling to Finland for tourism must now provide proof of accommodation and travel tickets or a written travel plan and evidence they have the funds to support their stay, whereas previously they only had to submit a form with a photo and evidence of health insurance.   

Germany: Relaxed Permanent Residence Rules Forthcoming – As an update to the reforms expected in March 2020, highly skilled workers will become eligible to apply for permanent residence after four years, whereas currently they can only apply after five years of continuous residence in Germany. The reduction enables a faster solidification of the resident status of high skilled workers. 

Indonesia: Alternative Work Authorization for Company Shareholders – A recent regulation issued by the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) now permits foreign nationals who are shareholders of a local company to obtain a Recommendation for Limited Stay Visa (Recommendation VTT), which is an alternative to a Work Permit (RPTKA and Notifikasi), and allows shareholders to work in Indonesia during its validity. The process does not require a filing fee, and takes approximately three to four business days, as opposed to the three to five weeks needed to obtain a Work Permit. A Recommendation VTT can be granted for up to 12 months; however, the foreign national will still need to obtain a valid Limited Stay Permit (KITAS) during that period in order to legally stay in the country. To qualify, the foreign national must hold shares of a local company equivalent to at least IDR 1.125 billion (around USD 79,439). If they hold concurrent positions as Directors or Commissioners, a lower threshold of at least IDR 1 billion (around USD 70,610) applies. The Recommendation VTT is granted by BKPM and not by the Ministry of Manpower.

Nigeria: South African Missions Re-open – After closing the South African missions in Abuja and Logos last week, the missions have re-opened and resumed regular services following a security assessment. Foreign nationals can once again submit applications; however, process delays are expected due to a backlog created as a result of the closure.

Oman: Omanization Ratios Announced for Companies Contracting with Electricity and Water Sector Companies – Effective immediately, the Ministry of Manpower has set out minimum ratios of Omani workers to foreign workers in different professional levels for private sector companies contracting with companies in the electricity and water sectors. The respective ratio requirement will apply annually for four or five years, following the start of the contract and depending on the sector. For example, managers in the electricity sector are subject to the following ratios of the percentage of Omanis in the company’s headcount: 60% first year; 70% second year; 80% third year; and 90% fourth year. Managers in the water sector are subject to the following ratios: 30% first year; 60% second year; 100% third year; 100% fourth year; and 100% fifth year.

Russia: Voluntary De-registration Procedure Available to Hosts – Host parties seeking to submit a notification of a foreign national’s departure from the place of stay where they were registered can now use an official government form, whereas only a draft form was previously available. This may be desirable for hosts who wish to cease any connection with the foreign national. The host can submit the notification to the authorities in person via a center or post office. The process is voluntary and there is no obligation or deadline to submit this notification. Host parties are required to register foreign nationals staying on their premises under rules implemented in July 2018.

Russia: Procedure to Report Loss of Status Abroad Forthcoming – Starting October 17, 2019, Russian nationals are expected to be able to report loss of their nationality or permanent residence overseas, whereas currently they are unable to do so. The details of the new declaration process have not yet been announced or finalized. Russian nationals must notify migration authorities when they acquire citizenship or permanent residence status in another country; however, currently there is still no mechanism by which they can submit this notification from overseas. Fragomen will continue to report on further developments once details of the notification system are available.

Sierra Leone: Visa-on-Arrival Program Expanded – Effective immediately, the Internal Affairs Ministry allows African Union nationals to apply for a visa-on-arrival subject to a fee of USD 25. The other new nationals eligible under the program include those from Bahrain, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, China, the Commonwealth member countries, East Timor, European Union citizens, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Macau, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam; these nationals are subject to a USD 80 fee for the visa-on-arrival. The visa-on-arrival program allows for two 30-day extensions, as is the case with the standard business visa program.

United States: Latest PERM and PWD Processing Times – As of August 31, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) was conducting analyst review for PERM applications filed in June 2019 or earlier, and processing audited cases filed in January 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 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.