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Global immigration changes for Philippines, Australia, Canada, Denmark & Vietnam

PHILIPPINES | Exiting Process for Long-Term Work Assignments Now Takes Four to Six Weeks
With the simple act of making the previous “standard” but often unobserved procedure for exiting the country now mandatory, authorities have added four to six weeks to the end of long-term work assignments for foreign nationals in the Philippines. Effective immediately, the Filipino Bureau of Immigration (BOI) will no longer process applications to cancel Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Cards (ACR I-Cards) unless the corresponding long-term work visa has first been downgraded to a tourist visit visa.

 

AUSTRALIA | New Criteria Allow More Companies to Enjoy 457 Accredited Sponsor Benefits


Effective July 1, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) is making it easier for more companies to qualify as Accredited Sponsors under the popular Subclass 457 Visa stream. Accredited Sponsors receive priority allocation and streamlined processing of their nomination and visa applications. While the changes to the accreditation characteristics do not effect current Accredited Sponsors and their benefits under the program, the new criteria should be particularly beneficial to companies with lower volumes of 457 Visa applications or high application volumes with medium percentages of Australian workers.

 

CANADA | Flagpoling Limited to Certain Days in Southern Ontario
Effective immediately, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) counters at the ports of entry in southern Ontario province are limiting the days on which they will accept flagpole applications for work permits or confirmations of permanent residence. The CBSA authorities at the Rainbow Bridge, Queenstown-Lewiston Bridge, and Peace Bridge crossings no longer accept flagpole work permit applications or permanent residence landings on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, or Mondays. Flagpole submissions will only be accepted at those crossings Tuesdays through Thursdays.

 

DENMARK | Efforts to Standardize CPR Registration Bring Stricter Requirements and Online System Pilot


The process for foreign nationals registering their residence in Denmark is undergoing changes: including stricter requirements for documents submitted in support of registration and a new online registration system being piloted in Copenhagen. While Civil Personal Registration (CPR) of foreign nationals in Denmark has traditionally been a largely local affair – subject to significant variations by municipality – the trend is to now standardize requirements across Denmark. With this movement toward standardization, some document requirements are becoming stricter.

 

VIETNAM | New Form Increases Multiple Entry Business Visa Process by Two-Days in Ho Chi Minh City
Effective immediately, the Immigration Authority in Ho Chi Minh City has replaced the primary application form for the Multiple Entry Business Visa (MEBV). A new Form NA-2 has now replaced the previous Form NA-18 only in Ho Chi Minh City; thus far, no other provinces have announced a similar change.

While there are no substantive changes in requirements, the new form brings a slight change in process. The new Form NA-2 requires the provision of the application details (i.e. assignee information, and assignment and entry dates) to authorities prior to submission who then print and return the partially-completed application for signing and stamping by the sponsoring company. With this change, companies should anticipate an additional two business days in the process for MEBV applications lodged in Ho Chi Minh City.

 

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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

Citizens
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.

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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.

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Immigration changes around the world – Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Pakistan, The Philippines and Switzerland

ARGENTINA | Pro-Business Reforms Bring Visa-Free Access for Business Travel to 35 Nations
Citizens of the 35 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are now exempt from visa requirements when traveling to Argentina for business purposes. On March 28, the Argentinian Ministry of Interior issued Resolution 137-2017 authorizing visa-free entry of these nationals for stays of up to 90-days to engage in business activities. Included in these 35 OECD nations are Australia, Canada, China, most European countries, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

 

 

AUSTRALIA | New Pathway to Permanent Residency for New Zealand Nationals
Much of the immigration news out of Australia lately has been in the category of more bad news. However, one piece of good news for New Zealand nationals may have been eclipsed by the recent controversy surrounding the major changes to the 457 Visa program and permanent residency and citizenship rules. Beginning July 1, a new pathway to permanent residence will open to New Zealand citizens who were residing in Australia prior to February 19, 2016.

 

 

COSTA RICA | New Streamlined Residence Registration Process Available to Accredited Companies
Effective immediately, the Costa Rican Immigration and Migration Directorate (Dirección de Migración y Extranjeria) (hereinafter the “Directorate”) has implemented a new streamlined process for accredited companies to register their foreign employees’ residences, apply for special projects visas, and register their companies with the Directorate. The new process purports to schedule appointments for these applications within four weeks – a significant improvement from the typical two months or more.

 

PAKISTAN | New Mandatory Online Visa System Implemented and More Changes Likely Coming
Effective immediately, all applications for work visas in Pakistan must be submitted electronically via a new online processing system accessible through the Pakistani Board of Investment (BOI) online portal. Manual applications are no longer being accepted. The new system provides a field-fillable application form and the ability to upload electronic copies of any required supporting documents. However, payment of the government processing fees must still be made through the National Bank of Pakistan, as the new online system does not yet have online payment functionality. The BOI intends to process most online applications within five weeks.

 

THE PHILIPPINES | DOLE Lifts Suspension of Overseas Employment Certificate Issuance
The Philippines Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello has now lifted the recent suspension of Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) issuance for directly-hired Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Thus, the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has resumed issuing exemptions and OECs for Filipino citizens who have been hired directly by foreign companies without using a POEA-licensed employment agency.

 

SWITZERLAND | L Permit Quota Exhausted for Second Quarter
While the Swiss Federal Council moderately increased the 2017 quota numbers for L and B work/residence permits for third-country foreign nationals, the number of available L and B Permits for European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Area (EFTA) nationals remained at the same low 2016 levels. Therefore, quarterly quotas for these applicants especially will remain tight throughout 2017. The quota of short-term L Permits (three to twelve months) for EU/EFTA nationals remaining on foreign contract has already been exhausted for the second quarter ending June 30.

 

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AUSTRALIA FIRST: WHAT NEW VISA POLICY MEANS FOR CHINESE, ASIAN IMMIGRANTS

In a budget unveiled last week, the Australian government of Malcolm Turnbull put “Australians first” by cutting the 457 visa for foreign workers and bringing in tougher English testing for immigrants.

Turnbull had said in April: “We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians. We’re putting jobs first, and we’re putting Australians first.”

But what will this mean for a country with growing roots and trade in Asia?

Dan Engles, managing director of Visa Solutions in Perth, Western Australia, said: “For the impact on China and Asia more generally, past the English language requirements it does send a message that we are increasing the barriers to the movement of people and especially if you don’t look and speak as we do here in Australia.”

The 457 visa was introduced during John Howard’s premiership, and designed to let skilled migrants in, to fill positions locals could not. Those using a such visas make up only 1 per cent of the workforce.

The 457 has now been replaced by a temporary skills shortage visa, with a two- or four-year term, and some 200 jobs cut from the original list of 650 eligible for a visa. Businesses using the new system to bring in foreign workers for positions Australians cannot fill will be required to contribute to the Skilling Australians Fund, which will support up to 300,000 trainees, apprentices and other workers.

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