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Immigration news in Azerbaijan, India, Lithuania, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.

VIETNAM | Clarification of Intra-Company Transfer Permit Requirements in Ho Chi Minh City
In a welcomed development in Vietnam, the Vietnamese Labor Department in Ho Chi Minh City has clarified and eased its definition of what constitutes an intra-company transfer (ICT) for the purposes of work authorization and immigration in Vietnam. While maintaining previous regulation changes, the labor authorities in the Ho Chi Minh City office have implemented a new “Manager, Executive Director, Expert, and Technical Worker” classification that will provide multinational companies with more immigration options for their foreign employees. Under this new classification, which is available immediately, applicant foreign nationals will qualify for work permits where they have worked at least one-year for a foreign company “within the business group” of the host Vietnamese company.

 

AZERBAIJAN | Urgent Business E-Visa Now Available With Three-Hour Processing
The Republic of Azerbaijan continues to improve and expand its new online ASAN Viza system. Rolled out in January of this year, the new e-visa system provides fast and convenient visa application and processing for citizens of 94 nations, covering most of the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Eligible applicants can receive business and tourist visas with 30-day validities to Azerbaijan with standard processing times of under three-days. For more details, see our Immigration Dispatches of January 9 and July 31.

 

INDIA | Form C Registration Rules Placing Greater Burdens on Companies and Foreign Employees
For some time, India has technically required landlords, apartment managers, and accommodations managers to submit Form C to the Indian Bureau of Immigration (BOI) registering their foreign national tenants and guests within 24-hours of their arrival. While this rule has been officially “on the books,” in practice it has only been enforced arbitrarily depending on region, liberally interpreted to apply only to non-tourist stays, and the required registration timeframes often extended to 14-days from the foreign national’s arrival. Note that submission of Form C is an independent registration requirement for the foreigner’s landlord/manager and differs from the well-known requirement for foreign nationals to register with the local Foreigners (Regional) Registration Office (FRRO/FRO). For more information, see the BOI website here and here.

 

LITHUANIA | Twentieth Nation Adopts European Union Intra-Company Transfer Permit
On September 1, Lithuania began offering the European Union (EU) Intra-Corporate Transfer (ICT) Permit to non-EU/European Economic Area (EEA) employees of foreign companies transferred for work assignments to related companies in Lithuania but remaining on foreign payroll. With that, the Republic becomes the twentieth EU-27 nation to have adopted the EU’s Intra-Corporate Transfer (ICT) Directive (2014/66/EU). For details on the recent EU ICT Directive implementation in Austria and Croatia, see last week’s Immigration Dispatch of September 18.

 

QATAR | New Electronic Travel Authorization Introduced
Qatar continues to increase its openness to international business and combat the negative impact of the ongoing diplomatic and economic boycott by its Persian Gulf neighbors. For our previous coverage of the Gulf crisis and similar moves by Qatar, see our Global Brief of June 8 and Immigration Dispatches of June 26 and August 14. After introducing a visa-free option for citizens of 80 nations in August, Qatar is now implementing a single-entry electronic travel authorization (ETA) option for foreign nationals from additional countries not covered by the previous visa-free option. Effective September 27, citizens of eligible nations who also hold valid visas issued by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, or Schengen Area and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries may apply online for the ETA authorizing stays in Qatar of up to 30-days, renewable in-country for an additional 30-days.

 

RUSSIA | New Document Requirements for Highly Qualified Specialist Work Permit Renewal in Moscow
In the Russian Federation, the Migration Department in Moscow has increased supporting document requirements for Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) work permit extensions and corrections. Immigration authorities in the Moscow office are now requiring applicants to submit copies of their quarterly salary notifications covering the entire validity of the work permit for which they are seeking renewal.

 

SAUDI ARABIA | Japanese Nationals Now Eligible for Three-Year Work Visit and Commercial Visas
Saudi Arabia has significantly lengthened the validity period of Work Visit and Commercial Visas issued to Japanese citizens. Effective immediately, Japanese passport holders are eligible for three-year multiple-entry visas valid for stays of up to 90-days. Only citizens of the United States receive longer visas to Saudi Arabia, with a five-year multiple-entry option. United Kingdom and European Union passport holders are eligible for multiple-entry visas for up to two-years, with all other nationals eligible for visas of only up to six-months.

 

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Visa-On-Arrival for Indian Nationals Expanded
In May of this year, the United Arab Emirates opened its popular visa-on-arrival program to Indian citizens – with the caveat that they must hold a valid visa or green card issued by the United States. Thus, Indian passport holders with U.S. visas or green cards were then eligible for stays of up to 14-days (extendable in-country for another 14-days) in the UAE without need of obtaining a UAE visa. For details, see our Immigration Dispatch of April 10.

 

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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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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.

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Immigration changes around the world : France, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Sweden & Switzerland

FRANCE | Social Security Coverage Details Added to Posted Worker Declaration Requirements
Effective July 1, companies posting or seconding their foreign employees on assignments to France will be required to indicate the country in which the employee is covered by social security. This information will be required as part of the requisite déclaration préamble de détachement or pre-posting declaration (also known as the “posted worker declaration” in many European Union [EU] countries). In France, this declaration is submitted to the Ministry of Labor (MOL) and applies to all foreign nationals employed by companies outside France who are assigned to work temporarily in France but will remain on foreign payroll. Included in these types of assignments are temporary detachments as service providers, self-employment, and what are commonly referred to as intra-company transfers (ICTs).

 

IRELAND | INIS Eases “De Facto Partnership” Requirements
Without any formal announcement of the change, the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service (INIS) updated its website guidance on De Facto Partnership Immigration Permission (DFPIP) applications for an unmarried partner of an Irish resident or citizen to obtain residence authorization in the country. While the process and most requirements remain essentially the same, one significant change does stand out: applications for unmarried partners filing for Irish immigration permission now require “dated documentary evidence of living together continuously over a period of one year in a common place of residence.” (emphasis added) Previous versions of the same guidelines required evidence of cohabitation for at least two years.

 

ITALY | Schengen Agreement Suspension and Border Control Imposition Continue until May, 30
The temporary suspension of the Schengen Agreement and imposition of border controls in Italy continues through May 30. The Schengen Agreement is the international agreement of 26 European countries whereby many foreign nationals can travel visa-free without internal border checks between countries or after obtaining a Schengen visa to enter the external border. Through May 1, however, travelers entering Italy should carry their applicable IDs, passports, and visas, as well as expect to submit to document checks and allow additional time for border crossings at airports, land crossings, and seaports.

The measure was introduced pursuant to provisions of the Schengen Agreement which allow members to temporarily re-introduce border controls for public policy and security reasons. Italy is exercising the provision ahead of this month’s G7 Summit in the resort city of Taormina on the island of Sicily from May 26-27. The heads of state of the U.S., the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan, as well as an estimated 20,000 members of their delegations and the media will be in attendance in the small resort city.

 

RUSSIA | June 1 – July 12: All Foreign Nationals Must Register Within One-Day if Arriving in Certain Cities
Effective June 1 through July 12, all foreign nationals who will be visiting, staying, or residing in the Russian cities of Kazan, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi will be required to register their place of stay with the local Ministry of Internal Affairs authorities within one day of their arrival in those cities. This new temporary shortened registration deadline applies to all foreign nationals arriving in those cities during this six-week period starting June 1, regardless of the purpose of their visit or immigration status: including all temporary and permanent foreign residents – whether on work or business visas and permits – as well as their accompanying family members. During this time in affected cities, this special one-day registration deadline will replace the normal 7-day and 90-day registration requirements applicable to holders of general and “highly skilled” work permits. Therefore, holders of visas and permits that state the standard, longer registration deadlines should still plan to register within the one-day window if they are staying in one of the four affected cities.

This new shorter registration deadline – applicable only in these four cities – is being imposed by Presidential Order No. 202 of 2017 as an enhanced security measure for the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and FIFA World Cup 2018. From June 17 to July 2, the four cities will play host to matches between the nine qualifying international football teams participating in the Confederations Cup. Planning ahead, foreign nationals should also expect a similar registration requirement to be imposed in the eleven Russian cities hosting World Cup matches in June and July of 2018.

 

SWEDEN | New Work Permit System Accelerates Processing Times
Starting with applications submitted after May 2, the Swedish Migration Board (SMB) (Migrationsverket) launched a new work permit processing system which purports to adjudicate and issue initial work permits in less than 10 business days and renewals/extensions of current work permits in less than 20 business days. This is a major improvement over the recent norm which saw initial applications for work permits typically taking two months and in-country extensions taking up to seven months. Reportedly, in implementing the new system, the SMB also committed additional resources to guarantee the new shorter advertised processing times. Note, however, that applications lodged prior to May 2 will unfortunately continue processing under the old system and be subject to the significant backlog already amassed.

 

SWITZERLAND | Bulgarian and Romanian Nationals Once Again Subject to Labor Market Restrictions
Effective June 1, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals will once again have restricted access to the Swiss labor market. The Swiss Federal Council invoked the “safeguards clause” of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (“the Agreement”) between the European Union (EU) and Switzerland. For the 12-month period beginning June 1, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals on Swiss employment contracts will once again be required to obtain work/residence authorization. If the employment contract is for a duration of over one-year, or for an open-ended length, they must apply for long-term B residence permits, subject to a quota of 996 permits available in four quarterly allocations. For employment contracts with a duration less than one-year, short-stay L permits will be available without a quota. Note that Bulgarian and Romanian nationals working in Switzerland on temporary assignments but remaining on foreign contract are not affected.

The “safeguards clause” permits Switzerland to impose quotas on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals working in the country if the immigration levels from those nations exceeds 10 percent above the median of the past three years. The migration numbers for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals in Switzerland combined to 3,300 work/residence permit holders in 2016, double that of the previous year. At the same time, migration from other EU/European Economic Area countries declined in 2016.

 

UNITED KINGDOM | Prime Minister May’s Conservatives Pledge to Double the Immigration Skills Charge if Re-Elected
On Thursday, United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Theresa May announced her Conservative Party’s campaign doctrine for the upcoming June 8 general election, and the manifesto contains more bad news for companies in the UK sponsoring foreign national employees. One of the 10 key points of the Conservatives’ platform calls for a doubling of the new Immigration Skills Charge on foreign employees. If re-elected, PM May pledges to increase the levy from the current GBP £1,000 per employee per year of sponsorship to £2,000 per employee per year. This proposal to double the levy comes only six weeks after the Immigration Skills Charge was first introduced on April 6 of this year. For more details, see our Global Brief of March 21 and Immigration Dispatch of March 13.

Even with a recent five-point bump in the polls for the Labour Party, the Conservatives maintain a 13-percentage point lead over their rivals, and most UK political observers not only expect PM May to be a shoe-in to retain the office with a commanding mandate, but her party may add as many as 30 seats to its majority in the House of Commons. Thus, while the proposal is still campaign rhetoric at this time, it gives international companies in the UK cause for concern. Also included in the manifesto was the Conservatives’ long-standing general pledge to reduce UK immigration levels by the “tens of thousands.”

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