Immigration changes in Australia, Cyprus, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates.

MALAYSIA | MDEC Changing Employment Pass Application Process
Effective November 15, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) will introduce reduced and more consistent processing times for employment passes, a new online application portal, and new service fees (which will be paid online in advance of application submission). The new process and enhanced version of the “eXpat” online portal will cater to both Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and Information Communication Technology (ICT) status companies.

New Processing Times

Under the new applications process, the MDEC will remain the main focal point for all application matters and will liaise directly with the Immigration Department of Malaysia (IDM) on the endorsement of passes. Processing timelines for new and renewal applications submitted after November 15 will be as follows:

  • MSC Approval (Stage 1) – Seven business days, a change from the current three business days;
  • MSC Endorsement (Stage 2) – Two business days, a change from the current 14 to 21 business days;
  • ICT Approval (Stage 1) – Seven business days, a change from the current five business days; and
  • ICT Endorsement (Stage 2) – Two business days, a change from the current 10 to 14 business days.


AUSTRALIA | Citizenship Application Processing Resumes
Following the Australian Senate’s block to the overhaul of the citizenship eligibility criteria, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has resumed processing applications that were lodged on or after 20 April 2017. However, processing times are expected to be longer than typical while the DIBP works through the backlog of applications.

As we reported earlier this year, the Australian Government announced on April 20 that it would be introducing tougher criteria for Australian citizenship, applicable to all applications lodged after that date. Under the proposed changes, permanent residents of Australia would be required to wait a minimum of four years and would be required to prove a significantly higher level of English ability before being eligible to apply for Australian citizenship. While the DIBP waited for the changes to become law, processing of applications lodged on or after April 20 was put on hold.


CYPRUS | New Intra-Corporate Transfer Permit Implemented
Effective immediately, Cyprus has implemented a new intra-corporate transferee (ICT) permit, in line with the European Union (EU) ICT Directive (2014/66/EU). The new Cyprus ICT permit facilitates intra-EU mobility, and loosens the strict employer eligibility criteria which characterized the previous intra-corporate transfer route in Cyprus. The Ministry of the Interior signed the Order in October 2017, implementing the new ICT permit in accordance with the Alien and Migration (Amendment) (Ref. 2) Law of 2017.

The new ICT permit is available to third-country nationals transferring to work in Cyprus as managers, specialists or trainees within the same group of companies. Managers and specialists must have worked for their sending company for at least twelve months, with trainees having worked for at least six months. The combined work/residence permits are issued with a validity of up to three years for managers and specialists, and up to one year for trainees.


SINGAPORE | New Electronic Application System for Permanent Residence
Beginning 18 December 2017, the Singaporean Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will introduce a new electronic Permanent Residence (e-PR) application system, which will be mandatory for all Permanent Residence (PR) applications submitted from that date forward. With the new e-PR system, applicants will no longer need to make an appointment to submit their application in person; rather, they can enter their details into an online application form and submit supporting documents electronically.

For applications submitted from December 18, ICA will charge a PR application processing fee of SGD 100, payable online. Applicants will also require a valid SingPass account, a computer with Adobe Acrobat Reader installed, and a digital camera or scanner. The current estimated processing time of four to six months for permanent residence applications will not change.


TAIWAN | New Foreign Recruitment Law Enacted
On October 31, 2017, the Taiwan Legislative Yuan passed the new Act Governing Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals. While the new law has yet to receive a formal implementation date, it will bring various benefits for foreign nationals working in Taiwan and the companies that employee them. Some of the improvements include:

  • Foreign nationals working in Taiwan will be able to extend their work permits and Alien Residence Cards (ARCs) for stays of up to five years in total (an increase to the current maximum of three years);
  • The current 183-days per year minimum residency for Alien Permanent Residence Cards (APRCs) to remain valid will be replaced with a requirement that the APRC holders do not leave Taiwan for more than five years without re-entering;
  • ARC holders will be able to enroll sooner in the National Health Insurance System. Currently, enrolment is only allowed after six months of residence;
  • Foreign nationals will be able to apply for a four-in-one “gold card” that combines a work visa that allows them to transition between jobs without legal restrictions, a residence visa, an Alien Resident Certificate, and a re-entry permit into a single card. Foreign professionals will be permitted to apply for the card individually without the approval of their employer;
  • Foreign nationals will be able to participate in a pension scheme, a portion of which will be paid for by their employer;
  • A new tax deduction rate of 50 percent of annual income applicable to foreign workers with annual income of TWD 3 million (approximately USD $99,437);
  • Foreign nationals will be eligible for a 6-month multiple-entry “job-seeking visa”, subject to an annual numerical cap; and
  • Benefits of the act will also apply to residents of Hong Kong and Macau working in Taiwan.


UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Indian Nationals with 14-Day Visa-on-Arrival Banned from Changing Status In-Country
Effective immediately, Indian nationals who enter the United Arab Emirates (UAE) using the 14-day visa-on-arrival option will no longer be allowed to change their immigration status to another visa type – such as a tourist, business, or employment visa – without first exiting the UAE. Indian nationals in this situation who wish to change status will need to exit and re-enter UAE with a tourist, employment, or business visa. A similar rule of prohibited in-country changes in status from the visa-on-arrival is also applied to Nigerian nationals on 14-day tourist visas and to other holders of 14-day “service visas” for attending business meetings, conferences, training, and related activities.

Earlier this year, the UAE opened its popular visa-on-arrival program to Indian nationals holding U.S. Green Cards, U.S. visas valid for at least six months, or valid residence visas from either the United Kingdom or another European Union member state. Eligible Indian nationals may receive a visa-on-arrival and remain in the UAE for up to 14 days.