Virginia, US

Dec 22 2017

Weekly Immigration Update: December 15 – 21, 2017

Canada, European Union, India, Iraq, Oman, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela

In United States immigration news this week, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to propose new regulations that, if finalized, would significantly affect the H-1B program, F-1 practical training, and H-4 employment authorization, among others.

A new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) guidance memo restricts the TN Economist subcategory.

The Canadian government has extended the pilot program that allows a qualifying spouse or common-law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to work while they await the processing of the first stage of their permanent residence application until January 31, 2019.

In Venezuela, the websites of the Ministry of Universities and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are currently down. Venezuelan and foreign nationals who need to apostille or legalize documents will not be able to do so while the websites are inoperable.

The European Council has concluded that the second phase of Brexit negotiations can begin and confirmed that additional guidelines for talks will be issued in March. The next phase will focus on negotiating the transition period and the framework of the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Foreign nationals in India must now file for an Aadhaar Card if they have resided in India for 182 days or more in the preceding year.

Private sector employers in Oman must register their Omanization plan for 2018 before December 31, 2017.

These items and other news from Austria, Bulgaria, Iraq, Italy, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and the United States follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, December 19, 2017
USCIS Restricts TN Economist Category

New USCIS guidelines restrict financial analyst, market research analyst and marketing specialist occupations from the TN Economist category. The restrictions will apply to new applications and will affect extensions of stay and international travel for current employees in TN Economist status.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, December 18, 2017
Re-Registration Period Opens for Honduras TPS

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduras has been extended through July 5, 2018.  Honduran TPS beneficiaries have until February 13, 2018 to re-register. Employment Authorization Documents expiring on January 5, 2018 will be automatically extended through July 4, 2018.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, December 18, 2017
Final Re-Registration Period Opens for Nicaragua TPS

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaragua will expire on January 5, 2019. Current Nicaraguan TPS beneficiaries must re-register by February 13, 2018 in order maintain status through the program expiration date. Employment Authorization Documents that expire on January 5, 2018 will automatically be extended through March 6, 2018.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, December 18, 2017
January Visa Bulletin Update: USCIS to Honor Employment-Based Final Action Dates Only Next Month

In January, USCIS will only accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is current for final action under the State Department's January Visa Bulletin. Adjustments for the EB-4 Non-Minister Religious Worker and EB-5 Regional Center programs will not be accepted unless the programs are reauthorized by Congress.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, December 15, 2017
DHS Plans to Propose Significant Changes to H-1B, H-4 and Practical Training Rules in 2018

According to its regulatory plan for 2018, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to propose rules that would impose stricter eligibility and cap selection criteria on H-1B employers, terminate the H-4 employment authorization program, and significantly revise the practical training program for foreign students.  Regulations would not take effect until finalized, a process that normally takes at least several months.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Venezuela, December 21, 2017
Inoperable Websites Causing Document Legalization Issues

The websites for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Universities in Venezuela are currently inoperable, which prevents Venezuelans and foreign nationals from making appointments to obtain document apostilles and legalizations.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Iraq, December 20, 2017
Longer Process for Obtaining Exit Visa

Effective immediately, exit visa requests must be submitted with the respective Ministry of Interior's Directorate of Residence before the foreign national's departure from Iraq. As a result, it will take longer to obtain the exit visa as compared to the previous process, which allowed applications to be submitted directly at the airport the same day as the departure.

To view entire article, click here.

 

European Union/United Kingdom, December 19, 2017
Second Phase of Brexit Negotiations to Begin

The European Council has agreed to move to the second phase of Brexit negotiations because sufficient progress on the Withdrawal Agreement has been reached. The next phase will focus on negotiating the transition period and the framework of the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Oman, December 19, 2017
Deadline Announced for Registration of Omanization Plan

Employers in the private sector must register their Omanization plan for 2018 before December 31, 2017.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Canada, December 18, 2017
Work Permit Pilot Extended for Spouses and Common-Law Partners

The Canadian government again extended the pilot program that allows a qualifying spouse or common-law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to work while they await the processing of the first stage of their permanent residence application. This program has been extended once before and is now open until January 31, 2019.

To view entire article, click here.

 

India, December 15, 2017
Aadhaar Card Requirement Reinstated for Foreign Nationals

In a reversal of previous guidance issued by the Indian government in May, foreign nationals must obtain an Aadhaar Card if they have resided in India for 182 days or more in the preceding year from the date of submission of the Aadhaar Card application.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Weekly News Briefs

United States: H-2B Cap Reached for First Half of FY 2018 – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reports that as of December 15, 2017, the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the first half of fiscal year (FY) 2018 has been reached.

December 15, 2017 was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before April 1, 2018. The final receipt date is when USCIS received enough cap-subject petitions to reach the limit of 33,000 H-2B workers for the first half of FY 2018. This means that no cap numbers from the first half of FY 2017 will carry over to the second half of FY 2018, which begins on April 1, 2018.

USCIS is currently accepting cap-subject petitions for the second half of FY 2018 for employment start dates on or after April 1, 2018.

The cap for each half-year is 33,000, but USCIS accepts filings in excess of the cap because some cases will be denied or withdrawn and because employers may ultimately employ fewer H-2B beneficiaries than reflected in their petitions.

Austria: New Government Plans to Push Civic Integration – The new Austrian coalition government has published a plan to promote civic integration. It plans to expand the requirements for foreign nationals to learn German and prove knowledge of Austrian culture and norms. The government will increase scrutiny on completion of these obligations, and will impose sanctions for failure to meet such obligations. The plan would potentially affect all foreign nationals living and working in Austria, whether under a work and residence permit or other status. The Settlement Permit already includes limited German language skill requirements, which would likely be expanded under the new integration requirements.

Bulgaria: Changes to Blue Card Rules to Benefit Foreign Workers – The below improvements have been made to the EU Blue Card in Bulgaria, which is a visa pathway for employees with specialized knowledge:

  • the initial validity of the Blue Card has been extended from three to four years;
  • it is no longer necessary to annually renew the EU Blue Card; and
  • government filing fees have decreased from EUR 200 to EUR 50.


These changes are aimed at streamlining the immigration process for foreign nationals and are a part of an ongoing review of the immigration framework.

Italy: Investor Visa Category Available – The investor visa category is now available through an online platform. The category was introduced in November 2016​ and further regulations were published in September 2017.

Kazakhstan: Visa-Free Regime Extended Through 2018 Kazakhstan has extended its visa waiver program until December 31, 2018. Eligible foreign nationals can travel to Kazakhstan for tourism or business for up to 30 days without a visa. Longer stays require a visa. The visa waiver was introduced for foreign nationals from 39 countries on January 1, 2017, and expanded to a total of 45 countries shortly thereafter.

Romania: Work Permit Quota Amount Increased – The Romanian Government has increased the 2017 quota for work permits, which were exhausted in November, as follows:

  • Work permits for permanent workers: Increased to 5,000 (previously 3,000).
  • Work permits for seconded workers: Increased to 1,700 (previously 700).
  • Impact: The increased quota will allow more foreign nationals to apply for work in Romania. The increase will affect only those with pending applications where the deadline for the application has not yet expired.
  • Impact on denied applications: Foreign nationals whose work permits were denied cannot reapply until the new 2018 quota is issued.
  • Impact in 2018: The immigration authorities will not issue any work authorizations in 2018 until the 2018 quota is published.


Russia: Letter of Invitation Process Streamlined and Related Fee Required Sooner – Effective December 11, 2017, there are two main process changes for foreign nationals who require a letter of invitation (LOI). As background, companies accredited with the Moscow Migration Department as inviting organizations must request a LOI from the Migration Department as part of the out-of-country process to authorize foreign nationals to work in Russia.

  1. Streamlined LOI process. Foreign nationals will see a faster process to obtain their LOI. This is due to a new rule requiring the Migration Department to email all LOIs to the Russian consulate, where previously, mailing the LOI was an option.
    • Impact. This will reduce the work authorization processing time by two to three days.
    • Background. The Migration Department must send an LOI to the Russian consulate as part of the work authorization process.
  2. LOI fee due sooner.  The inviting company must now pay the RUB 800 LOI filing fee upon submission of the application. Under the previous rule, companies whose applications were mailed could pay the fee upon collection of the LOI.
    • Impact. This will not significantly impact the process as the expense is relatively small per applicant.
  3. LOI process reminders
  4. A Work Visa can only be issued by the Russian consular post indicated in the LOI application form; and
  5. Foreign workers cannot correct mistakes made in an electronic request for an LOI. In case of mistakes, employers may need to re-apply for a LOI.
  6. Looking ahead. It is expected that companies will again be able to request LOIs in a paper format in early 2018. Fragomen will provide an update when this is available.


South Africa: Increased Border Controls – Due to an increase in unauthorized entry during peak periods, and the observed increased risks of fraudulent document use and undocumented travellers, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has announced that it will enhance border controls and coordination among government institutions in South Africa. The DHA plans to produce reports on the increased border controls and the results. Travellers should therefore be prepared for more scrutiny upon entry by the DHA, Department of Transport and Department of Health and should ensure their documents are in line with current requirements prior to entry.

United Arab Emirates: Stricter Requirements Implemented for the MOHRE Application Typing – The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) has implemented stricter requirements for the typing of labour-related applications at Tash’eel Service Centres. Labour-related applications, such as work permits or employment contracts, must be submitted for typing by a company representative (e.g. public relations officer or a third party) at a Tash'eel Service Centre. These centers are authorized to process applications on behalf of MOHRE.  The company representative must now submit the below information for the application to be typed:

  • Original Emirates ID Card of the authorized signatory, a business license manager or the national sponsor (generally a UAE citizen who owns at least 51% of the shares in the company);
  • Original e-signatory card of the authorised signatory; and
  • Password that MOHRE sends to a mobile number that the sponsoring entity registered in the MOHRE’s system.


Previously, only the original e-signatory card was required for the application typing process. Not providing these mandatory items will result in delays in the application process.

 

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