AUSTRALIA | DIBP Issues Some Clarification on Next Rounds of Changes to Employment-Based Visas
The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has begun to clarify some of the details on the remaining two rounds of changes to the country’s employment-based visa programs. In total, four round of changes have been announced since April of this year. With the first two completed in March and July, the next two rounds are scheduled for December 31 and March 1, 2018.
Effective December 31, the DIBP will begin collecting Tax File Numbers for permanent employer-sponsored skilled visa holders, and data will be matched with records of the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to ensure that visa holders are not paid less than their nominated salary. Breaches of sponsorship obligations may result in sponsor sanctions, including a range of penalties depending on the severity and frequency of the breaches.
As we await the details for the new TSS visa, the DIBP has now issued clarification on some of the changes to the permanent employment-based visa schemes, including the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) also slated for March 1. Those changes include:
- Occupation Lists – Only jobs on the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) will be available through the Direct Entry stream for both ENS and RSMS visas, with some additional occupations available through the RSMS to support regional employers;
- Residence Requirement – The required residency period to be eligible to transition from temporary to permanent residence under the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream will be increased from the current two years to three years;
- Age Requirement – Applicants must be under 45 years of age at the time of application for ENS and RSMS visas, rather than the current 50 years of age;
- Training Requirement – Employers nominating a worker under the ENS or RSMS visa streams will be required to pay a contribution to the new Skilling Australians Fund (SAF), which will replace the current training benchmarks. The contribution, payable in full at the time the worker is nominated, will be set at AUD 3000 for small businesses (with annual turnover of less than AUD 10 million) and AUD 5000 for all other businesses;
- Work Experience – At least three years of work experience relevant to the particular occupation will be required for ENS and RSMS visas, an increase from the current two years; and
- Minimum Market Salary Rate – Employers must pay the Australian market salary rate and meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (AUD 53,900 as at 12 April 2016) for any employees holding ENS or RSMS visas.
Note that applications under the Temporary Residence Transition stream filed by foreign nationals who either held or had applied for subclass 457 visas on, or prior to, April 18, 2017 will be “grandfathered” under certain transition arrangements. These TRT applications will continue to be reviewed under the current occupation, age, and work experience requirements in existence prior to March 1, 2018.
BRAZIL | New Electronic Visa System for Nationals of Australia, Canada, United States, and Japan
Starting November 21, nationals of four countries will begin receiving access to new electronic e-visas for Brazil through a new online application system. Reportedly, the new system will issue business and tourist visas within 72 hours. The e-visas will be made available first to Australian nationals starting November 21. Canadian nationals will be added to the system starting January 8, 2018, with United States nationals to be added January 15 and Japanese nationals to be added January 22.
Citizens of the eligible countries who travel to Brazil for business or tourism should benefit from a faster and more convenient visa application and issuance process once the electronic visa system is fully implemented. While the Brazilian government has focused first on these four countries that have the highest volume of travelers to Brazil, the new e-visa system is expected to be expanded to nationals of additional countries over the coming months.
INDIA | Deadline Approaching for Overseas Indian PIO Card Holders to Convert to OCI Card
As the December 31 deadline approaches, Indian consulates and embassies around the world are urging holders of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to convert those cards to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards. Although this deadline has been extended several times since the initial January 2015 announcement, a new impetus to convert to OCI cards was announced: starting in October 2018, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will only accept machine-readable travel documents. With existing PIO cards being hand written, PIO cards will no longer be considered valid travel documents.
The OCI card is valid for the holder’s lifetime and serves as an unlimited multiple-entry visa to India, with no requirement to register with the Indian Foreigners Regional Registration Offices regardless of length of stay.
Holders of PIO cards are encouraged to submit their “PIO in lieu of OCI” applications at their local Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in India or at the overseas mission or consulate for their country of residence. PIO card holders may continue to use their valid PIO cards until converted.
JAPAN | Visa Requirements Relaxed for Indian and Ukrainian Nationals
Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced several measures relaxing the visa requirements for nationals of India and Ukraine. Taking effect on January 1, 2018, the measures should be of particular benefit to frequent business visitors to Japan from these two countries.
Indian Nationals – Indian citizens will be able to apply for a multiple-entry visa using only their passport and proof of either financial means (for tourism) or affiliation with certain Japanese enterprises (for business). An employment certificate and explanation letter stating the reason for applying for a multiple-entry visa will no longer be required. Indian citizens who have travelled to Japan at least twice in the last year will only need to submit their passport and visa application form and will be issued a five-year multiple-entry visa valid for stays of up to 90 days.
Ukrainian Nationals – The scope of Ukrainian citizens eligible for multiple entry visas for business or cultural/intellectual purposes will be expanded, and the validity of these visas will be extended from three to five years. New three-year multiple-entry visas for tourism and other purposes, valid for stays of up to 30 days, will be introduced. Applicants for short-term visas will no longer have to submit a letter of reference from a guarantor if they are self-financed.
KAZAKHSTAN | Changes to Intra-Company Transfer Permit Rules
Effective September 15, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection has amended the rules for obtaining work permits for intra-company transferees (ICTs). Included in the changes are the following:
- The host company must now submit confirmation that the position has been advertised for at least 15 days. However, work permit applications for ICTs will now be approved even if the employment service finds qualified local candidates during the compulsory 15-days local labor market search;
- The special conditions (providing training or employment for local Kazakh nationals) applicable to a host company applying for a work permit for ICTs are now applicable for both initial and renewal applications;
- Host companies participating in the program to increase the proportion of the local workforce are exempt from the special conditions. This program is available for companies that have concluded a contract with a relevant state authority in accordance with an agreement on sharing products (usually companies working in oil industry); and
- Educational certificates are no longer required in support of applications for ICT work permits. Instead, the foreign employer and the host company may provide official letters stating that the assignee’s work experience and qualifications match the position and the relevant skill.
UNITED KINGDOM | Number of Available Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas Doubled
The United Kingdom Home Office has announced that the number of visas available annually through the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route is increasing from 1000 to 2000. Tier 1 visas are available to nationals of non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries who are recognized as global leaders or promising future leaders in the fields of digital technology, science, arts, and other creative fields by one of five UK endorsing organizations. Those five organizations are Tech City UK, Arts Council England, the British Academy, the Royal Society, and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The current allocation of 1000 visas – which is split between the five endorsing organizations – will remain. However, an additional 1000 visas will now be made available across all five endorsing bodies and allocated based on need. Non-EEA nationals of exceptional talent potentially eligible under the Tier 1 category should consult an immigration specialist to assess whether they may qualify for one of these additional opportunities.