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.


Expats in China earn 2nd highest pay packages in Asia Pacific

Expats in mainland China are earning the 2nd highest pay packages in the Asia Pacific region, according to an annual survey conducted by ECA International.
China has risen two spots since 2015 to beat out Hong Kong (ranked 4th), Taiwan (12th) and Macau (which doesn’t even make the list), but still trails behind Japan in the rankings, which look like this:
1) Japan
2) China
3) India
4) Hong Kong
5) Australia
6) Philippines
7) Republic of Korea
8) Indonesia
9) Singapore
10) Vietnam
11) Thailand
12) Taiwan
13) New Zealand
14) Sri Lanka
15) Pakistan
16) Malaysia

The value of a typical expat pay package on the mainland now clocks in at $282,500, compared to $265,500 in Hong Kong. The survey takes into account benefits, allowances and taxes.

In Singapore, which has been named the world’s most expensive city for expats for the fourth year in a row, expat salaries have fallen to a five-year low. Meanwhile, Malaysia lucks out at the bottom of the list.

However, it’s still comparatively cheap for companies to hire foreigners in mainland China as the yuan continues to weaken against the US dollar.


Recently, China has been introducing more measures to attract the “right kind” of foreigners with new 5-year work permits and green cards galore. But at the same time, authorities have been cracking down on “illegal” foreigners over the past year, making it tougher for unqualified laowai to get a work visa. However, as long as you’ve got a decent foreigner ranking, then you could be in line for a nice pay day.


Why These Expats Left Home To Chase The Asian Dream

 Leaving behind the comfort of their home countries, more and more young entrepreneurs are moving to Asia to start businesses.

Opportunities in huge markets like China and India are undeniable to these globetrotters. From Ghana to South Korea or Iran to China – here are 10 under 30s crossing oceans to chase the Asian dream.

A travel enthusiast, Fah started Klook in 2014 as a platform to book tickets for attractions, destinations and tours at exclusive rates.

Ramping up quickly, Klook has expanded to 50 destinations in Asia and grown its team to 160 in seven locations, with annual revenue reaching $100 million. In 2015, Klook raised $6.5 million in funding from the likes of Matrix Partners and China Growth Capital.

A Mauritius native, Fah grew up speaking seven languages. He began his career in investment banking in Hong Kong.
Shabibi started his entrepreneurial journey back home in Iran at the age of 13. After launching three successful businesses, he moved to the Philippines in 2015 to help other entrepreneurs achieve what he did and identify problems to solve in Southeast Asia’s developing markets.

With that in mind, he founded Machine Ventures, an incubator providing financial support and management guidance to startups.

One of the first companies it hatched is HeyKuya, a text-based personal assistant system with more than 35,000 users.


Global immigration changes

ITALY | Posted Worker Definition Often Unclear… Ministry of Labour Issues Helpful Guidance
Under the European Union’s 1996 Posted Worker Directive (96/71/EC) and 2014 Posted Worker Enforcement Directive (2014/67/EU) (collectively the Directives), EU member states are to have adopted into their national laws various provisions designed to protect foreign workers posted for work assignments by their foreign employers at locations in their country. To date, EU member nations remain at differing states of implementation of the Directives, with some members having adopted both Directives and some having adopting only the 1996 Directive.


CHINA | New Work Permit System Debuted Nationwide April 1
Upon publication of this writing, the April 1 target for full implementation of China’s new nation-wide electronic work permits system will have passed. While the new system has been in use through a pilot program in seven provinces since November 2016, all provinces should now be using the new system for processing the new single Chinese State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA) work authorization – the Foreigner’s Work Permit. This permit is designed to replace the former SAFEA Foreign Expert Permit and the Ministry of Human Resources’ Foreign Work Permits and Employment Licenses. Under the new system, authority for processing applications and issuing foreign work authorizations in China will lie with the provincial SAFEA Foreign Experts Bureaus (FEBs).


INDIA | New Biometrics Requirement at FRROs
India continues to improve and systematize its immigration system as the country moves to embrace the globalizing world of trade and commerce. While immigration remains primarily under the governance of territorial and local authorities in India’s mostly decentralized form of federal government, more processes are becoming standardized throughout the country. Pro-Link GLOBAL has reported recently on numerous refinements designed to modernize India’s corporate immigration processes, including expanded business and intern visas.


LITHUANIA | New Immigration Law Brings Numerous Positive Changes
Effective January 1, a new Act of Parliament dated September 14, 2016 is now fully implemented in Lithuania, making significant changes to the Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners. The amendments present several positive improvements for companies and foreign nationals operating in this Baltic republic.

EU Blue Cards – With the recent amendments, many foreign nationals who previously did not qualify for the European Union (EU) Blue Card will now be eligible under revised criteria. In addition to those applicants with formal higher education degrees, applicants without degrees but with at least five years of relevant work experience will now be eligible. The amendments also reduce the minimum annual salary level from twice the average local salary to 1.5 times the local average. Both changes bring the Lithuanian rules more in line with the general EU-wide standards for Blue Cards. In the case of certain foreign nationals with occupations in high demand, the labor market test through the Labour Exchange will be waived. This exemption is expected to speed processing times by at least two months.



Global immigration changes around the world

TURKEY | New Turquoise Card and Continuing State-of-Emergency
Perhaps the most promising of the many changes called for in Turkey’s new Law on International Workforce, enacted in August 2016, was the introduction of a new Turquoise Card. For more details on the new act making broad changes to Turkey’s immigration laws, see our recent Immigration Dispatches of August 29, October 3, and October 24. On March 14, the new Turquoise Card Regulation was finally implemented into law by publication in Turkey’s Official Gazette, providing the rules and procedures for this new long-term work and residence permit for highly skilled foreign nationals.


CHINA | Latest in Ongoing Transition to New Work Permits System in Shanghai
Pro-Link GLOBAL’s Shanghai office is continuing to closely monitor the ongoing changes on the road to implementation of the new nation-wide work permits systems in China’s most-populous city and largest expatriate community. The Shanghai Labor Bureau announced today that it will continue to process work permit renewals, amendments, cancellations, and annual inspections using the current policy and procedures until July. However, all new initial applications will be processed using the new system starting April 1. For more details, see our recent Global Brief of March 16 for coverage of all of the major changes to the work authorization process in Shanghai, and download our comprehensive free e-book China’s New Work Permit System here. Nation-wide roll-out of the new standardized work permits system still appears on track for April 1.


ESTONIA | New Start-Up Visa Available
Estonia continues to make its ambitious play to become the world’s next technology industry start-up hub. The tiny former-Soviet Baltic nation, upon gaining its independence in 1991, quickly embraced technology and the internet as its path to economic growth. In the area of immigration, Estonia has likewise eagerly embraced innovation, establishing the world’s only “e-residency,” a unique form of virtual residency, in 2014.


INDIA | New Intern Visa an Improvement, But with Limited Utility
In the ongoing efforts to simplify and better systematize India’s immigration system, the Indian High Commission has introduced a new Internship Visa category. Previously, most requests for visas for internship purposes were typically processed by Indian overseas posts as applications for general Entry (X) Visas. While the new Intern Visa category now clarifies the visa process for foreign interns in India, the apparent narrow scope of the new category makes its utility for most corporate internships relatively limited, and most company-sponsored internships are likely to continue to fall under either the general Entry Visa or Business Visa categories.


HONG KONG | Indian Nationals May No Longer Apply for Visit Visas at the Hong Kong Embassy
Without explanation, Hong Kong’s Embassy in India recently stopped accepting applications for visit visas; instead, requiring Indian nationals to now submit applications by post directly to the Immigration Department in Hong Kong. Instructions on the HK Immigration Department website concur: the general statement inviting applicants from overseas countries to submit their applications to the nearest Chinese diplomatic or consular post is now followed by the caveat: “visit visa applications from Indian nationals should be submitted to the Immigration Department direct.”