Connecticut, US

Jan 26 2018

Weekly Immigration Update: January 19 – 25, 2018

Austria, Belarus, Canada, Ecuador, France, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Switzerland, Thailand, United States

In immigration news this week, U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act of 2018, which proposes to increase the H-1B cap to 85,000 (with further increases when demand for cap numbers is high), reform the employment-based immigrant quota system, and introduce a new program that would allow qualifying employers to sponsor foreign professionals for conditional permanent residence using streamlined procedures.

On Monday, the United States Congress passed a temporary spending measure to fund the federal government through February 8, 2018. The measure allows affected immigration functions – including PERM and LCA processing – to resume for now while negotiations on the FY 2018 federal budget and legislative relief for DACA beneficiaries continue. It also temporarily reauthorizes the EB-5 Regional Center Program and E-Verify, among other expired programs.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) clarified the automatic extension of employment authorization documents for Haitian Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries.

The United States, Canada, and Mexico continue to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Canada has updated its Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) to reflect an increased 2018 nomination allocation and the opening of numerous OINP streams to accept applications.

In Switzerland, effective July 1, employers hiring foreign workers will need to conduct a labor market test for occupations with an unemployment rate of over eight percent.

The national minimum wage has increased in France and Belarus.

These items and other news from Austria, Ecuador, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Peru, Portugal, and Thailand follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

 

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, January 25, 2018
Legislative Update: Sens. Hatch and Flake Propose Employment-Based Reforms

  • The I-Squared Act of 2018 would increase the H-1B cap to a baseline of 85,000 per year and up to 195,000 in years of high demand, with expanded cap exemptions.  In high-demand years, a priority system would be used to allocate cap numbers, with highest priority given to advanced-degree holders.
  • The bill would reform the employment-based immigrant quota system by eliminating the per-country cap on immigrant visas, recapturing unused immigrant visa from prior years, and exempting dependents, holders of U.S. advanced degrees in designated STEM fields, individuals of extraordinary ability, and outstanding professors and researchers from immigrant visa numerical limits.
  • A new program would allow qualifying employers to sponsor foreign professionals for conditional permanent residence using streamlined procedures if they have engaged in U.S. worker recruitment, participate in E-Verify, pay a $10,000 fee per petition and agree to initiate the permanent residence process within one year after the beneficiary is hired.  The program would be capped at 35,000 immigrant visas per year. 
  • Foreign students would no longer be required to maintain a foreign residence, allowing them to pursue permanent residence in F-1 status.


To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 22, 2018
Congress Passes Temporary Spending Measure to Fund Federal Operations Through February 8

The stopgap agreement allows affected immigration functions - including PERM and LCA processing - to resume for now while negotiations on the FY 2018 federal budget and legislative relief for DACA beneficiaries continue.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Canada/Mexico/United States, January 22, 2018
NAFTA Update - As Renegotiation Continues, Immigration Impact Remains Uncertain

As Canada, Mexico and the United States enter the sixth round of NAFTA renegotiations, employers should begin to consider alternatives for employees who would be affected in the event that labor mobility under the trade pact is restricted.

To view entire article, click here.

 

United States, January 19, 2018
USCIS Clarifies Automatic EAD Extension for TPS Beneficiaries

Haitian TPS beneficiaries who have an EAD with a July 22, 2017 expiration date and who applied for a new EAD during the last re-registration period but have not yet received their new card can benefit from an automatic extension of their protected status and work authorization through July 21, 2018.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Thailand, January 23, 2018
Chaengwattana Immigration Bureau Requires Proof of Payment of Last Three Months’ Income Tax for Certain Visa Applications

The Thailand Immigration Bureau in Chaengwattana now requires proof of the last three months' income tax withheld (PND 1) when filing certain visa applications. This is a departure from the usual one month withholding tax requirement imposed by the Immigration Bureau in Bangkok. 

To view entire article, click here.

 

Canada, January 23, 2018
Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program Updated

There have been significant updates to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) which include:

  • An increase in the nomination allocation for 2018;
  • Opening of numerous OINP streams to accept applications;
  • Issuance of Notifications of Interest (NOI) for the Express Entry Human Capital Stream; and
  • Reduced application period for the Employer-Job Offer stream.


Additionally, a new law brings into effect monitoring and compliance requirements for employers and foreign nationals who apply to the OINP program.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Switzerland, January 23, 2018
Labor Market Test to be Implemented for Occupations With High Unemployment

According to a Swiss Federal Council press release, effective July 1, 2018, employers hiring foreign workers in Switzerland will need to conduct a labor market test for occupations with an unemployment rate of over eight percent. The threshold is expected to be lowered to five percent on January 1, 2020.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Israel, January 23, 2018
Minimum Prevailing Wage for Foreign Experts Increased

Effective January 1, 2018, the minimum monthly prevailing wage for foreign national experts has increased to NIS 19,604, up three percent from last year.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Belarus, January 19, 2018
Minimum Wage and Salary for Highly-Qualified Staff Increased

Effective January 1, 2018, the monthly minimum wage in Belarus has increased to BYN 305, up 15 percent from last year. The monthly salary for highly-qualified staff has increased to BYN 4,575 per month, also up 15 percent. 

To view entire article, click here.

 

France, January 19, 2018
Minimum Wage Increased

Effective January 1, 2018, the national minimum wage has increased to EUR 1,498.47 per month, up 1 percent from last year.

To view entire article, click here.

 

Weekly News Briefs

Austria: Civic Integration Requirement Clarified – Further to the plan to promote civic integration, the Austrian government has introduced an integration exam. The exam tests German language skills (at least A2 level, according to the Common European Framework of Reference) as well as knowledge of Austrian culture and norms. The exam is added to existing requirements for foreign nationals to adjust to Austrian society if they intend to stay in Austria for more than two years. It applies to Red-White-Red cards, EU Blue Cards, family permits, long-term resident permits and naturalization applications. Fines may be imposed for failure to meet these obligations.    

Austria: Spouses’ Diplomas Must be Authenticated – Effective immediately, Austrian authorities require diplomas held by spouses to be apostilled / legalized and authenticated by a local authority (under the European ENIC-NARIC recognition framework). Alternatively, if spouses do not submit an authenticated diploma, they must demonstrate German language skill (at A1 level, according to the Common European Framework of Reference) when filing an application for a Red-White-Red Card Plus as an accompanying dependent. The authentication process requires spouses to submit a transcript as well, but the latter does not have to be apostilled / legalized or authenticated. If the diploma and transcript is not available in German or English, a translation is necessary as well.  Additional fees apply for the authentication process, which depend on the number of documents provided.

Ecuador: Legalized Birth Certificate and Diploma Required for Ecuadorian Identification Card – Effective immediately, foreign nationals applying for the Ecuadorian Identification Card must now present a certified copy of their birth certificate showing their parent's full names (although at this time the immigration authorities have not clarified why this is important, it may become important in the future) and a certified copy of their diploma, showing the highest level of education completed. In the absence of a diploma, the identification card will automatically show a basic level of education, which can result in the inability to obtain a driver’s license. Both documents must be apostilled or legalized. The government has not yet released information stating if penalties will apply for noncompliance. It will take longer to obtain an identification card due to the additional document requirements.

Ecuador: Health Insurance Required for Identification Card – The Ecuadorian Civil Registry has published a new rule stating that it will only require health insurance for foreign nationals applying for Ecuadorian identification cards and will no longer require health insurance for those applying for temporary residence, as it previously published. Foreign nationals applying for identification cards will need to secure health insurance with an Ecuadorian company, as international insurance coverage from insurance companies without a presence in Ecuador will no longer be accepted. Foreign nationals applying for an Ecuadorian identification card in the immediate future who do not have the proper health insurance coverage may require extra time to obtain insurance prior to obtaining their identification card.

Ireland: Visa Requirement for UAE Nationals to be Eliminated – On or after January 31, 2018, holders of UAE passports will no longer be required to obtain a visa to travel to Ireland for business visits and work. Although a visa will not be required, holders of UAE passports will still be subject to questioning by an immigration officer upon arrival.  As before, all non-EEA nationals who seek to work in Ireland must apply for an Employment Permit or other work authorisation before travelling to Ireland. Also as before, non-EEA nationals intending to reside in Ireland for longer than 90 days must register with the immigration authorities after arrival and obtain an Irish Residence Permit.

Kuwait: 25-Day Amnesty for Illegal Foreign Nationals – Effective January 29, 2018, there will be a 25-day amnesty period for foreign nationals in Kuwait whose visas have expired without being renewed or cancelled. Foreign nationals can either leave the country without facing penalties or can regularize their status by obtaining a valid visa by February 22, 2018. Out-of-status foreign nationals who remain in Kuwait past this date will be required to pay a fine of KWD 2 per day overstayed, with a maximum cap of KWD 600. The amnesty period will last until February 22, 2018.

Peru: Appointment Required for Venezuelan Nationals to Obtain Interpol Reports – Venezuelan nationals are now required to book an appointment with Interpol (international police) to obtain a report in order to apply for any type of Peruvian visa. Previously, Venezuelan nationals did not require an appointment and could appear at Interpol the day that they wished to obtain the report. The appointment requirement was introduced due to an increase of Venezuelan nationals applying for the Interpol report. Venezuelan nationals should be aware that the next available appointments are in April, which will cause significant delays in obtaining visas. Foreign nationals from other countries still do not need to book an appointment.

Portugal: Residence Card Appointment Delays Continue – Residence card and other immigration appointments are being scheduled six or more months in the future due to ongoing delays at the Immigration and Border Service. Although applicants can work and stay in Portugal before they obtain a residence card, those without a residence card will likely face travel restrictions when attempting to reenter Portugal. The government is investigating the possibility of resolving the issue by extending the initial visa validity.

 

Global Immigration News Links

  • President Trump proposed legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants in exchange for an end to decades of family-based migration policies, a border wall and crackdown on other undocumented immigrants already living in the country, the New York Times reports.
  • Immigration will be a key issue in Germany's coalition talks after four months of political deadlock since a September 24 election.


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