INDIA | Expanded E-Visa to Attract More Business Travelers
In action taken on November 28, the Indian Union Cabinet approved measures to expand the scope of its current “e-tourist” visa program to include business travelers and medical tourists. With its expanded scope, the electronic visa is being renamed the “eVisa” and the permissible stay expanded from the current 30 days to 60 days. Eight additional nations will be added to the eligible list, bringing the total to 158 countries. The visa’s previous two-entry limitation each year continues to apply to business and tourist visitors; but it has been expanded to three entries each year for medical visitors. Hopefully, once the new program takes full effect, authorities may consider expanding the permissible uses each year for business travelers as well.
As of the date of writing, the Ministry of Home Affairs had yet to announce the implementation date for these changes or add the new details to its online application process. The move is designed to boost international trade and commerce to India, and similar pro-business immigration reforms are likely to follow over the coming months. Per a government press release issued after the cabinet meeting, “The Union Cabinet has given its approval for liberalization, simplification and rationalization of the existing visa regime in India and incremental changes in the visa policy decided by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with various stakeholders.” Pro-Link GLOBAL is enthusiastic about the prospects of improved corporate mobility to India and is continuing to track the developments from our New Delhi Office.
QATAR | Revisions to Kafala System Will Hopefully Benefit Foreign Workers
A new law, enacted in October 2015, will finally come into force on December 14, making major revisions to Qatar’s “kafala system.” The new law, first advertised in Qatar’s Official Gazette on December 13, 2015 with an effective date of one year later, amends aspects of Qatar’s Labor Law which human rights organizations criticize as being akin to modern-day slavery.
Versions of the kafala system, or “sponsorship system,” exist in the laws of most Middle Eastern and Gulf nations, though some – notably, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – have made recent positive reforms. The kafala laws are often justified as a necessity to manage the massive foreign worker populations of those countries, which in the case of Qatar, constitutes 94 percent of the private labor force. However, critics argue that the laws giving employers sole control of employees’ ability to change or leave employers, or to obtain exit visas to leave the country, lead to exploitation and abuse.
SINGAPORE | Several Changes Impact Work Pass Holders
Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has recently made several relatively-minor changes to the rules and procedures applicable to various work pass holders – including Employment Pass (EP) holders, S Pass holders, and foreign Work Permit holders – of which companies should be aware.
Letters of Consent Needed for Employment Pass Holders Appointed to Boards of Directors
Effective both prospectively and retroactively, companies appointing Employment Pass (EP) holders employed by another company to their boards of directors must first obtain a Letter of Consent (LOC) from the MOM. This requirement now inserts the MOM into the process of appointing foreign national company directors. Requests for the required LOC can be submitted through the MOM’s iSubmit website and will be processed within 5 weeks. The MOM has already indicated that it will approve such requests and issue LOCs where: (1) the two companies are “related by shareholding,” and (2) the director appointment is related to the EP holder’s primary employment in Singapore.