CED Unveils Immigration Reform Plan to Fill High-Shortage Occupations

CED calls for a two-pronged coordinated strategy of retraining Americans for occupations experiencing shortages, and reforming immigration policy so that businesses can better attract and retain foreign talent. The recommendations include:

  • Employ both native-born workers and immigrants to flexibly address looming labor shortages. Whenever possible, policymakers should first prioritize education, training, and retraining Americans for jobs that will increase in demand. In our education system, young, native-born workers must be better directed toward occupations facing the most severe shortages.
  • Remove the annual per-country caps on permanent employment-based immigrant visas. Immigrants from China, the Philippines, and India have brought critical skills to the U.S. economy for generations. However, there are arbitrary limits on the number of employment-based visas that immigrants from these countries can receive. Making deserving immigrants from these large countries wait years before coming to the United States, while immigrants from smaller countries face no such constraints, convinces some worthy candidates to seek alternative destinations.
  • Move away from educational attainment as the dominant criterion to determine employment-based visas. Though important, education is only one measure for determining the level of contribution an immigrant will make to the labor market. Often, critical labor shortages do not align with steep educational requirements.
  • Streamline the visa administrative process for in-demand workers. Businesses are often reluctant to hire non-citizens because of the delay, cost, and uncertainty of obtaining visas. As such, the U.S. should create a process to provide a “fast track” for highly qualified workers to enter its labor market even before they have job offers in hand.
  • Use temporary employment-based visas to fill truly temporary needs. If firms are unable to fill an opening due to temporarily tight local or national labor market conditions, they should be given an opportunity to hire from abroad for a fixed and non-renewing period. Temporary visas could relieve critical labor supply bottlenecks without reducing wages and job opportunities for native workers.
  • Create state and locally administered employment-based visas. Governors and mayors have a more ground-level perspective on the needs of their labor markets, based on their day-to-day work, than does the federal government. As such, the United States should allow state and local governments to issue (or at least designate) a limited number of employment-based visas.
  • Create a standing Workforce and Immigration Policy Advisory Board to analyze and report immigration issues. This independent, bipartisan advisory group would consist of expert members from the policy, academic, and business communities. The President and Congress would appoint members, who would provide advice as it relates to employment-based immigration policy.


Global immigration changes around the world: Saudi Arabia, Australia, Kuwait, Vietnam & Israel

SAUDI ARABIA | July 1 – Companies, Foreign Workers, and Families Brace for Potential Start of Expat Levy

Foreign nationals and the companies employing them in Saudi Arabia are braced for the beginning of a greatly-expanded “expat levy” starting July 1. The measure was first announced by the Saudi government in December 2016 as part of the fiscal 2017-18 national budget to help overcome the continuing budget deficits of the last several years due to slumps in global oil prices. In other words, the Saudi government is attempting to walk a policy “tightrope” between raising additional tax revenue to balance the budget and encouraging increased local hiring, while at the same time recognizing that the national economy is highly dependent on foreign labor and investment. December’s announcement brought understandable outcry from expats and companies alike, but the Saudi crown has been silent on the subject since that time.


AUSTRALIA | New Six-Year Multiple-Entry Visa and Work and Holiday Visa for Singaporean

At the recent Singapore-Australian Leader’s Summit held in Singapore, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced two new visa measures to further cement economic ties between the two nations. Coming January 1, 2018, Australia will begin offering a six-year multiple-entry visa for business and tourism to citizens of Singapore. In addition, effective August 1, Singapore will be included under Australia’s Work and Holiday Visa program.


ISRAEL | B-1 Work Visa Rules Revised for Skilled Foreign Workers on Large-Scale Projects
Israel’s Ministry of Interior is revising its work visa rules to assist companies bringing in skilled foreign workers to work on large-scale projects that require unique technological or mechanical expertise. The amendments to the B-1 work visa regulations appear designed to facilitate work authorization for skilled blue-collar workers who previously would have difficulty qualifying under the current criteria. The new regulations were just recently published; thus, some of the details and exact implementation date are still unclear, and Pro-Link GLOBAL will be doing a more detailed analysis of the opportunities for companies as more information is released.


KUWAIT | Residence and Visit Visas Issuance and Renewals Halted for Many Expat Family Members
Effective immediately, dependent family members – other than spouses and children – will no longer be able to obtain Kuwaiti Residence Permits (Iqamas) from the Ministry of Interior (MOI) or Family Visit Visas from Kuwaiti diplomatic missions abroad. This freeze means that parents, siblings, and other family members of sponsored foreign employees may no longer accompany or visit their working family members in this gulf emirate. Affected family members already in Kuwait have three-months after the expiration of their current visa to exit Kuwait or reportedly face deportation action. However, Kuwaiti authorities have stated that exceptions may be made with prior approval where remaining in the country may be unavoidable.


VIETNAM | New Work Permit System Mandatory in Hanoi Starting July 1, Mandatory Soon in Other Cities
In April, Pro-Link GLOBAL reported that the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA) was transitioning to a new online work permits application system. Pilot programs using the new system have been ongoing in Dong Nai and Vung Tau City, with nation-wide roll-out slated for July 1. For more details, see our Immigration Dispatch of April 24. Reportedly, the pilot programs have been successful, and the MOLISA is set to implement the new system nationwide.


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.


Relocating to Canada? Here’s news on visas and an expat guide to cost of living

Canada launches visa program for hiring specialized foreign talent

Key components of the new global talent stream:

Who can apply? High-growth Canadian companies that need to access global talent in order to grow, as well as global companies that are investing in, or relocating to, Canada and will be creating new Canadian jobs.

How much does it cost? $1,000 per position, minus the cost of the actual visas.

What is the process? Employers can contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as soon as a foreign candidate is identified, and then get personalized help with completing the Labour Market Benefit Plan and Labour Market Impact Assessment.

How long does it take? Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has set a two-week processing time that it expects to meet at least 80 per cent of the time.

See more

Expats should pay careful attention when they negotiate their salaries. The cost of living in Canada is certainly reasonable when compared to the likes of many of the Asian superpowers and European metropolises but tax rates are high. Thus, a lucrative salary can be reduced significantly. By the same token, such deductions also mean that expats moving to Canada are able to take advantage of some of the country’s fantastic infrastructural assets; namely, universal health insurance that grants near comprehensive coverage, to a high-standard healthcare system and free education at public schools that are well reputed.

Each province of Canada oversees the education of people within the province borders. There are however common aspects with the whole system.
Primary education starts at 1st grade, and continues to 6th grade. This means that children will enter at age 5 or 6 and exit around the age of 11. In secondary schools the education covers grades 7 – 12 in the majority of provinces, although Quebec is different by finishing at grade 11.

Children are obliged to attend school until the age of 16, although the mandatory leaving age in New Brunswick and Ontario is 18. Those who graduate with a high school diploma in Canada will find that many countries worldwide will accept this as a qualification. A large majority of the schools have programs that offer help to foreign students. The school day in the public school system normally starts at around 8am and ends by 3pm. Some public schools in Canada offer day or home-school programs, but this will cost at least C$10,000 a year.

In order to register your children for school, you will need to provide documentation. This will both be a passport and study permit, or if you are on a work permit, you can provide that and your passport.
Canada also has over 150 colleges and universities that your children may attend.

Cultural faux pas 
Canada is a very tolerant country, but there are some things that you can do to make your stay unpleasant.
·    Never arrive early for a social occasion. Opt, instead, for being “fashionably late.” Showing up early at a bar or disco in Quebec (at, say, 10 o’clock) immediately marks you as an “Anglo.”
·    Do not yawn or scratch in public. Toothpicks, nail clippers, and combs are never used in public.
·    Do not compare Canada with the United States.
·    Do not use the term “Native Americans” to refer to indigenous peoples. Many Canadians find the term offensive. Canadians refer to members of these groups as “people of the First Nations.”
·    Do not take sides in debates about contentious national issues (especially when they concern such issues the status of Quebec, the place of the French and English languages in Canadian society, etc.).
·    Do not be discriminatory to any group.

Similar to the US, Canada was built upon the culture of migrants. It is because of this diverse population that Canada is known as one of the most tolerant countries in the world. Those who are openly racist, sexist, or homophobic will soon find out that the majority disagrees with them. People with these beliefs will most likely be ignored. Canada is a very welcoming nation, with a strong focus on the community.

Cost of living analysis  (Canadian $ & US$ comparisons –  June 2017)

Basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district C$18 ($13)
Combo meal in fast food restaurant (Big Mac Meal or similar) C$10 ($7)

Monthly rent for 85 m2 (900 Sqft) furnished accommodation in EXPENSIVE area C$2,318 ($1,721)
Monthly rent for 85 m2 (900 Sqft) furnished accommodation in NORMAL area C$1,894 ($1,406)
Utilities 1 month (heating, electricity, gas …) for 2 people in 85m2 flat C$181 ($134)
Monthly rent for a 45 m2 (480 Sqft) furnished studio in EXPENSIVE area C$1,749 ($1,299)
Monthly rent for a 45 m2 (480 Sqft) furnished studio in NORMAL area C$1,407 ($1,045)
Utilities 1 month (heating, electricity, gas …) for 1 person in 45 m2 (480 Sqft) studio C$115 ($85)
Internet 8 Mbps (1 month) C$55 ($41)
40” flat screen TV C$476 ($353)
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 150 CV (or equivalent), with no extras, new C$25,264 ($18,759)
1 liter (1/4 gallon) of gas C$1.09 ($0.81)
Monthly ticket public transport C$140 ($104)
Taxi trip on a business day, basic tariff, 8 km. (5 miles) C$22 ($16)
Basic dinner out for two in neighborhood pub C$56 ($42)
2 tickets to the movies C$28 ($21)
2 tickets to the theater (best available seats) C$186 ($138)
Dinner for two at an Italian restaurant in the expat area including appetisers, main course, wine and dessert C$110 ($82)
1 cocktail drink in downtown club C$12 ($9)
Cappuccino in expat area of the city C$4.79 ($3.56)
1 beer in neighbourhood pub (500ml or 1pt.) C$7 ($5.16)

Global top 10 most expensive locations for expatriates

2017 Cost of Living ranking Country Location
1 Angola Luanda
2 Hong Kong Hong Kong
3 Switzerland Zurich
4 Switzerland Geneva
5 Switzerland Basel
6 Switzerland Bern
7 Japan Tokyo
8 Korea Republic Seoul
9 Venezuela Caracas
10 Sudan Khartoum

*Certain living costs, such as accommodation rental, utilities, car purchases and school fees are usually covered by separate allowances. Data for these costs are collected separately and are not included in ECA’s Cost of Living basket.

South American cities re-enter the top 100 most expensive in the world

Caracas in Venezuela climbed a dramatic 252 places in the past 12 months, now ranked 9th in the world, “though this ranking is likely to change considerably in upcoming Cost of Living Surveys given ongoing exchange-rate volatility,” said Mr Kilfedder.Buenos Aires (35th), Sao Paulo (85th), Rio de Janeiro (88th) and Montevideo (97th) also re-entered the top 100 most expensive locations in the world, with Brasilia reaching 103rd, up 106 places since last year.Although falling a few places this year to 23rd globally, Manhattan remains the most expensive location in North America for expatriates.

Russia and Australia climb the Cost of Living rankings

The strengthened rouble has led to Moscow climbing the rankings by 125 places this year to 56th. However, it has a long way to go to reach the heights of five years ago when it was ranked 13th in the world.Sydney remains the most expensive city in Australia. It currently ranks 50th in the global rankings, up from 70th place last year. All ranked locations within Australia rose in the global rankings this year, with Adelaide rising the most, by 34 places to 75th position, although it is still the cheapest ranked location in Australia.

Swiss cities continue to dominate the global top ten

Despite prices falling in the previous year, Swiss cities continue to dominate the global top 10, with Zurich 3rd, Geneva 4th, Basel 5th and Bern 6th.The relative decline of the euro between surveys has seen most Eurozone locations fall in the global rankings, notably French, Dutch and German destinations. Berlin has seen the most significant decline in mainland Europe, falling by 28 places to 122nd place.

Global highlights

Luanda is now the most expensive location in the world for expats

Luanda, the capital of Angola, has risen from 8th position last year to top ECA’s global rankings this year.“The cost of goods typically purchased by international assignees in Luanda, which were already high due to poor infrastructure and high oil-fuelled demand, have been pushed much higher in the last year. The Angolan kwanza is increasingly overvalued, which pushes up relative costs, while the continued weakness of the black-market exchange rate has also inflated the price of imported goods,” commented Mr Kilfedder.