Germany – New minimum gross salary requirements for Blue Cards

As every year, the new salary threshold for the Blue Card application is announced in December.

For 2018, the minimum gross salary required will be increased to 52,000 €. Previously it had been 50,800 € gross.

A similar increase also applies to shortage occupations where the threshold will be put up from 39,624 € gross to 40,560 € gross.

The Blue Card was first introduced in Germany on August 1, 2012 and has since become a permit the country could not imagine being without. It was introduced to counteract the lack of qualified personnel in Europe. For highly qualified third-country nationals the option of a long-term settlement permit as well as unlimited access to the job market for spouses are valuable opportunities.

Every year Germany issues between 11,000 and 14,000 Blue Cards, numbers growing. A quarter of this number is issued to qualified professionals from India.

It is hard to imagine the German labor law without the Blue Card – which to many people’s disappointment is not blue.

Article from Palladium Mobility Group

www.palladium-mobility.com

Immigration changes in Australia, Brazil, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, and the United Kingdom.

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.

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.

 

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Immigration changes in Saudi Arabia, Austria, Canada, Singapore, Tanzania and Tunisia

SAUDI ARABIA | Validity of Block Visas Reduced to One Year
Effective immediately, companies in Saudi Arabia will have to utilize their block visas more quickly in order to hire foreign employees. The Saudi Ministry of Labor has announced that it is reducing the validity period of its block visas from two years to one year. Thus, companies now have just one year to recruit and hire the needed foreign workers before their block visa automatically expires. Only block visas for foreign domestic workers and those employed by Saudi government agencies are exempt from the new shorter validity period.

Block visas are the primary basis by which companies bring foreign workers to the Kingdom. Under the scheme, employers receive a pre-approved “block” of visas to hire foreign workers. With these recent changes, employers will now have just one-year for each block visa in which to recruit and hire workers and then apply for work visas at the Saudi overseas consular posts in the workers’ home country.

 

AUSTRIA | New EU Intra-Corporate Transfer Permit Implemented
Austria has transposed into their national law the European Union (EU) Directive 2014/66 “on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals in the framework of an intra-corporate transfer” and has introduced a new combined work and residence permit category for intra-corporate transfer (ICT). While the new ICT route –  which replaces the “Rotationsarbeitskraft” scheme for intra-corporate transfers – has been available since 1 October 2017, the legislation was only formally passed on 19 October 2017.

ICT Permit – The new ICT residence permit is available to third-country nationals transferred to work in Austria within the same group of companies as managers, specialists and trainees. The foreign employee must have worked for their sending company at least nine months (six months for trainees). The Rotationsarbeitskraft had no similar requirement. While the Rotationsarbeitskraft could be renewed annually for a maximum total of five years, the new ICT combined work/residence permits are issued with a validity of twelve months, renewable up to only a total of three years for managers and specialists (non-renewable for trainees).

 

CANADA | Alberta Immigration Nominee Program to be Expanded and Streamlined
As of 2 January 2018, the Province of Alberta’s Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) will streamline its provincial economic immigration program into two streams.

Alberta Opportunity Stream – This new stream will be the primary route under the AINP and will be formed by combining the current Employer-Driven Stream, the Strategic Recruitment Stream, and their 11 sub-categories into a single stream with a single application form and set of qualification criteria. Details on the new stream will be released by the provincial government around the time of its opening on January 2. Reportedly, those details will include the eligibility requirements and new applicable quotas.

 

SINGAPORE | Mobile Phone Numbers Required for Work Permit Issuance or Renewal
Effective November 17, employers must provide their foreign workers’ mobile phone numbers when completing the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM’s) Online Foreign Worker Address Service (OFWAS) portal prior to issuing or renewing their Work Permits (WPs). The requirement to confirm the employee’s residential address in the OFWAS portal will remain. This change is intended to facilitate the MOM in contacting WP holders in the event of emergencies.

 

TANZANIA | November 4 Audit Deadline to Verify Residence Status Approaching
Foreign nationals and their employers in Tanzania are reminded that they have until November 4 to verify the foreign national’s residence status. The requirement applies to all foreign nationals in the country – including foreign workers, business owners, students, and family members. Ongoing since October 5, the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Immigration Service Department (ISD) is conducting an audit of the residence status of all foreign nationals in the country.

Foreign employees and their employers have a joint responsibility to ensure that the employee completes this process. Failure to do so before the deadline may result in fines and imprisonment.

 

TUNISIA | Expats in GCC Countries Now Eligible for Visa-on-Arrival
Effective immediately, foreign nationals holding residence visas from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries no longer require consular visas to enter Tunisia and are now eligible for visas-on-arrival valid for stays of up to 15 days. Visas-on-arrival are reportedly now available to GCC expats at all Tunisian airports and border crossings.

To qualify, foreign nationals must present the following documents to border authorities upon arrival:

  • Valid passport;
  • Residence visa/permit issued by one of the GCC member nations valid for six months from the date of entry into Tunisia; and
  • Hotel reservations or other proof of accommodation in Tunisia.

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Immigration changes in Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

AZERBAIJAN | Post-Arrival Change of Status No Longer Possible for Foreign Workers or Business Travelers
Effective immediately, foreign nationals travelling to Azerbaijan for work or business must obtain the appropriate work or business visa before traveling. Previously, most foreign nationals traveling to Azerbaijan for work or business would enter the country on an e-visa or as a visitor with a visa-on-arrival, and then change status post-arrival.

Please note, since early 2016, U.S. nationals traveling on the direct flight from New York City to Baku with Azerbaijan Airlines, for tourism, business, or work, have been able to obtain a 30-day single-entry visa upon arrival at the Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku. This option is no longer available for business or work.

 

COSTA RICA | August Changes to Post-Arrival Immigration Steps Reversed
The Costa Rican immigration authorities, Dirrección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME), has reversed a recent change to the post-arrival temporary residence application process for employees of registered companies. The requirement – imposed in August and mandating that the main applicant and any dependents submit their fingerprints and complete a registration with their home country’s consulate in Costa Rica before submitting their temporary residence application – has been cancelled effective October 9.

However, to avoid possible post-arrival immigration delays, applicants are still encouraged to complete consular registration and fingerprinting ahead of the residence application.

 

OMAN | Minimum Salary Threshold for Foreign Employees to Sponsor Dependents Lowered
Effective immediately, foreign national employees in Oman earning at least OMR 300 (approximately USD $780) per month are permitted to sponsor their family members for dependent residence permits. Previously, the salary threshold for dependent sponsorship was OMR 600 per month.

While there is no specific ministerial decision in Oman establishing the minimum salary for expatriate employees to be able to sponsor their family members, the Royal Oman Police issue internal rules which provide such a threshold salary in practice.

 

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Abu Dhabi – Dependent Residence Permit Now Requires Abu Dhabi Tenancy Contract
Foreign nationals employed in Abu Dhabi who wish to sponsor family members for initial or renewal dependent residence permits must submit a Tawtheeq (a residential lease registered in Abu Dhabi) in support of the application. This change is effective immediately.

Exceptions

Note that there are some exceptions to this new rule. Predominately, employees who cannot submit a Tawtheeq because they live in another Emirate (such as Dubai) may appeal to the humanitarian section to seek an exception to this rule. In addition, the following exceptions have been historically granted:

  • Where the employee provides an undertaking to move the family to Abu Dhabi (however this can result in a shorter one-year dependent visa);
  • Where the employee works for a company which has another branch in the Emirate where the employee resides; and
  • Other sympathetic circumstances may be eligible for exception on a case-by-case basis.

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