Immigration changes around the world: Australia, China, Morocco, Russia, Spain & Zambia

AustrThe more significant of these second-round changes applicable to companies, their foreign employees, and business travelers include:

  • Police Clearance Certificates (PCCs) Required for 457 Visa Applicants – Applicants for Subclass 457 Visas and their accompanying family members will no longer be exempt from police clearance requirements and must now provide PCCs from each country where they have resided. This requirement applies to applications filed after July 1 and applications already submitted but not adjudicated by July 1.
  • English Language Requirement for High-Earning 457 Visa Applicants – Applicants for 457 Visas earning over AUD $96,400 will no longer be exempt from English language proficiency standards. Instead high-earning applicants will be required to meet the same English language requirements as other 457 Visa applicants.
  • Stricter English Language Requirement for Permanent Visa Applicants – Applicants for all permanent employer-sponsored skilled visa streams will be subject to a higher language standard: an International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or equivalent exam, score of a 6 in each component.
  • Potential Changes in Occupations Lists – The new narrower Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and Short-Term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL), which replaced the previous Skilled Occupation and Consolidated Sponsored Occupation (OCSO) list in April, will be further reviewed and potential changes made.
  • Increased Visa Application Charges (VACs) – Many VACs will undergo significant increases July 1. A full schedule of the new fees can be found here.
  • Lower Maximum Age for Skilled-Independent and Direct Entry Streams – The maximum age ceiling for Subclass 189 (Skilled-Independent) visas and Subclass 186 (Direct Entry) visas will be set at 45 years of age at the time of application.
  • New Permanent Visa for New Zealanders – A new pathway to permanent residency will open to New Zealand citizens who resided in Australia prior to February 19, 2016. For more details, see our Immigration Dispatch of May 30.
  • Passenger Cards No Longer Required – Travelers will no longer be required to complete outgoing passenger cards when exiting Australia.
  • APEC Business Travel Cards Available Online – Eligible Australian citizen business travelers can now obtain their APEC Business Travel Cards (ABTCs) online. Details are available on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website here.

CHINA | New Work Permits System Mandatory in Beijing Starting June 19

In the ongoing move to automate the Chinese work permit system, Beijing is set to transfer all work permit application processing over to the new nation-wide electronic work permit system starting June 19. All companies in Beijing wishing to submit applications for Foreigner’s Work Permits should be sure to have registered and established accounts with the new system by June 16 at the latest. After June 19, the alternative manual processing will no longer be available in Beijing, and all work permit applications must be submitted electronically.

Companies are advised that, throughout China, the new system has been experiencing significant technical challenges which authorities are attempting to resolve through recent upgrades to the system. Therefore, companies are strongly encouraged to complete their registration with the new system as soon as possible to minimize the chance of missing the deadline due of technical issues.

MOROCCO | Online Work Permit Submission Now Mandatory

Effective June 1, companies sponsoring foreign national employees for work permits are required to submit applications and track their progress using the Ministry of Labor and Professional Integration’s (MOL) Taechir online portal. Furthermore, the MOL has announced that it will no longer accept submission of manual work permit applications. Companies that have not used the online process in the past should register on the Taechir site immediately to obtain log-in credentials to avoid delay in submitting future applications.

This final MOL announcement making the electronic process mandatory brings no change in application requirements. The initial application submission is completed online and notification of adjudication or requests for additional documents are sent through email. However, subsequent paper submission of signed original forms and documents to the Department of Employment is still required.

RUSSIA | Sanctions on Turkey Partially Lifted – Ban on Hiring Turkish Nationals Ends

Effective May 31, Russia has partially lifted the diplomatic and economic sanctions against Turkey. These sanctions were put into place after the November 2015 downing of a Russian military jet by the Turkish air force. The jet was bound for Syria through Turkish airspace. In response to the incident, Russian Presidential Order No. 583 of November 28, 2015 imposed a list of sanctions against Turkey which included suspension of the previous bilateral visa-free entry agreement, a ban on Turkish companies doing business in certain industries in Russia, and a ban on the employment of Turkish nationals by Russian companies.

This new decree (No. 244), signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 31, now removes the ban on Turkish companies from the construction, architectural, tourism, hotel, government services, and woodworking industries in Russia and removes the ban on Russian companies employing Turkish nationals. However, it is important to note that the general suspension of the previous visa-free travel agreements remains in place. Therefore, both Turkish companies seeking to do business in Russia, and Russian companies hiring Turkish nationals, should contact their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist well ahead of making any strategic business plans in this regard. Business visas and work permits are still required in most instances, with limited exceptions being added for airline workers and service passport holders.

SPAIN | New Rules for Posted Workers Adopted

While companies were already under various notification requirements when posting foreign employees to Spain, this now brings Spain more in-line with the EU-wide standards under the Directive. Changes of which companies should be aware include:

  • New Online Notification System – Within the coming months, the Spanish Ministry of Employment and Social Security will introduce an online registration portal where companies will transmit the details for each posted worker prior to the assignment start date;
  • Designated Representative Required – Notification of the posted worker assignment transmitted to the Ministry must include the name and contact information of the designated person or entity in Spain responsible for communicating with the Ministry on behalf of the foreign sending company. Communications include confirmations regarding the posting and retainment of the required documents after completion of the posting; and
  • Document Retention Requirements – Documents regarding the posting must be translated into Spanish and retained for two years following completion of the posting assignment. Required documents include the employment contract and assignment letter, work permits, work time records, pay slips, and proof of payment of wages.

ZAMBIA | New Stricter Employment Permit Guidelines Issued

Companies should take note that new guidelines – applicable to employment permits valid longer than six months – are a significant departure from past practice. Included in the changes are the following:

  • Applications – Applications for employment permits must be submitted in-country to the DOI in Lusaka prior to the foreign national arriving in Zambia. Sponsoring companies using third-party agents to submit applications must designate a single agent as authorized to act on their behalf for all employment permit applications.
  • Employment Permit Validity – Permits will no longer be valid for a standard two-year period. Rather, the length of the permit will be determined by the DOI on a case-by-case basis. Sponsoring companies must specify in the application the length of intended employment in Zambia for the foreign employee, and the DOI will then rule on the maximum length for which the permit will be issued. Points to be considered by the DOI are the industry in question, size and stage of the company’s development, and the scarcity of the worker’s skills.
  • Recruitment Efforts and Job Advertisement – Sponsoring companies must provide a summary showing evidence of local recruitment efforts, including two advertisements of the open position in leading Zambian newspapers.
  • Subcontractors – Companies that subcontract with foreign companies must provide information on their organizational structure and number of local and foreign workers employed by the subcontractor.
  • Zambianization Plan – Sponsoring companies will be required to submit a “succession plan” providing the names of local employees and a plan to train them to eventually replace the foreign worker.
  • Quarterly Labor Audits – The DOI’s Immigration Permits Committee (IPC) will conduct quarterly audits to verify the number of local and foreign workers employed by companies at any given time. The IPC will partner with other agencies, including the Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Mines, in their audits.
  • Required Documents – In addition to the above, the revised guidelines now contain a more extensive list of required documents to be submitted along with employment permit applications.