Worldwide: Weekly Immigration Update: August 9-15, 2019

Last Updated: August 23 2019
Article by Fragomen  

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: Foreign nationals who have received certain federal public benefits or who are likely to become dependent on the government in the future may face additional immigration hurdles under a new public charge regulation that is slated to take effect on October 15. The State Department will immediately retrogress EB-1 China and EB-3 China and India, while advancing cutoff dates in September for EB-1 and EB-2 Worldwide. EB-1 India is confirmed to be already unavailable.
  • Hong Kong: Though ongoing events in Hong Kong have caused travel disruptions at the Hong Kong Airport, immigration processing has not been affected.
  • United Kingdom: A new fast track Global Talent Visa Scheme is expected later this year for select applicants in the science, technology and mathematics (STEM) sector. According to revised guidelines from the Home Office, Tier 2 sponsors must now create a record of when their sponsored employees entered the United Kingdom within 30 days of the start of the visa's validity period.
  • Russia: The government is expanding the use of e-visas for business, tourist and humanitarian purposes. Foreign specialists will also see a shorter residence requirement for citizenship qualification.

These items and other news from Australia, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Maldives, Poland, Russia, and the United Kingdom follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, August 15, 2019

September Visa Bulletin Update: USCIS to Honor Final Action Dates Next Month

In September, USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Final Action dates listed in the State Department's September Visa Bulletin.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, August 15, 2019

September 2019 Visa Bulletin: State Department Retrogresses EB-1 China and EB-3 China and India Immediately; Confirms EB-1 India Already Unavailable

  • September Visa Bulletin dates will take effect immediately for EB-1 China and EB-3 China and India. State Department confirms EB-1 India has been unavailable since July.
  • EB-1 Worldwide will advance to October 1, 2017. EB-1 China has retrogressed to January 1, 2014.
  • EB-2 Worldwide will advance to January 1, 2018, while EB-2 China will remain at January 1, 2017 and EB-2 India will advance to May 8, 2009.
  • EB-3 Worldwide will remain at July 1, 2016. EB-3 China and India has retrogressed to January 1, 2014 and July 1, 2005.
  • State Department suggests additional retrogression could occur before the end of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30, but hopes to return all cutoff dates to those listed in the August Visa Bulletin on October 1.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, August 15, 2019

USCIS Completes Return of Unselected FY 2020 H-1B Cap Petitions

According to the agency, employers should receive returned H-1B cap petition packages and fee checks by August 29, 2019.

To view entire article, click here.

Hong Kong, August 15, 2019

Impact of Events on Employers and Foreign Employees

  • The ongoing events in Hong Kong have caused travel delays into and out of Hong Kong.
  • The Immigration Department is functioning as usual and processing of visa applications is currently within the standard time frame.
  • Employers with foreign employees in Hong Kong should ensure that their employees are informed of the latest situation and should provide them with company contact information in case they come across any administrative issues.

To view entire article, click here.

United Kingdom, August 14, 2019

New Guidance for Record Maintenance for Tier 2 Sponsoring Employers

  • According to revised guidelines issued by the Home Office, Tier 2 sponsors must now create a record of when their sponsored employees entered the United Kingdom within 30 days of the start of the visa's validity period.
  • This will particularly impact employers of ePassport gate users, for whom the employer will need to affirmatively confirm the employee's entry date since there is no paper record of this when using the ePassport service.

To view entire article, click here.

United Kingdom, August 14, 2019

New Global Talent Visa Forthcoming

  • The Home Office has announced it will launch a new fast track Global Talent Visa Scheme later this year for select applicants in the science, technology and mathematics (STEM) sector.
  • The new Scheme is based on the existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa route and will include an initial three-year duration in which applicants and their eligible dependents will be able to enter the United Kingdom without restriction and with no need for an existing job offer or any salary requirements. After three years, applicants will be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the United Kingdom.
  • Most importantly, the existing selection criteria will be relaxed so applicants will not need to have been awarded a Research Fellowship and the annual cap of 2,000 per year will be removed.

To view entire article, click here.

Russia, August 13, 2019

Relaxed Rules Implemented Regarding Electronic Visas and Citizenship Eligibility

  • The Russian government has expanded the use of e-visas in the Special Economic Zone of Kaliningrad and the free port of Vladivostok and will expand the use of e-visas to St. Petersburg and Leningrad beginning October 1, 2019.
  • Eligible foreign nationals should benefit from a more convenient and less expensive visa application process but may be affected by implementation issues as ports and officials begin to use the e-visa system.
  • Additionally, beginning October 1, qualified foreign specialists will be able to apply for citizenship after one year of residence, as opposed to the current three-year requirement.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, August 13, 2019

New Public Charge Rule Subjects Adjustment Applicants and Nonimmigrants to Higher Scrutiny

  • Under a new regulation, applicants for adjustment of status will undergo a closer review of their personal circumstances to determine whether they have used or are likely to need certain federal public benefits in the future.
  • Nonimmigrants who have used certain federal public benefits after their admission to the United States may be denied an extension of stay or change of status.
  • The rule is set to take effect on October 15, but will not apply to applications for adjustment, changes of status or extensions of stay filed before that date.

To view entire article, click here.

Weekly News Briefs

Australia: Changes to Health Policy Guidelines Expand Visa Eligibility of Foreign Nationals with Health Issues – Foreign nationals applying for an Australian temporary or permanent visa must undergo a health care costs assessment which evaluates the foreign nationals' expected health care costs based on the expected services a person with the same condition would receive; recent policy changes to how the assessment is calculated should expand the eligibility of foreign nationals with health issues to obtain temporary visas or permanent residence to Australia. Specifically, the threshold at which a foreign national's temporary visa or permanent residence will be denied if they exceed the financial threshold for "significant costs" was recently increased to AUD 49,000 from AUD 40,0000. Additionally, the method in which costs for a person applying for permanent residence are calculated has changed. Currently, costs of services are capped at those of a similar person during a 10-year period, which is assessed based on factors including the applicant's age, predictability of the disease and reduced life expectancy; previously, the costs were assessed over a "lifetime" cost assessment period. This should lower the overall costs, making the foreign national more likely to meet the financial threshold for "significant costs". MARN: 1798314

Australia: Global Talent Scheme to Become Permanent Program – In a press release, the Minister for Immigration, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Industry, Science and Technology announced that following a successful 12-month trial, the pilot Global Talent Scheme will become a permanent and ongoing program known as the Global Talent – Employer Sponsored Program (GTES). The GTES is for highly skilled, niche occupations and allows employers to sponsor overseas workers for positions that cannot be filled by Australian workers and through other standard visa programs. The GTES has two streams – one for accredited sponsors and the other for start-ups. Key features of the GTES include access to highly-skilled roles for trusted employers without restrictions to occupation lists; Temporary Skills Shortage visa validity of up to four years; and access to permanent residency pathway and priority processing arrangements, among other benefits. Before seeking to access the GTES, the employer must demonstrate that the position cannot be filled by an Australian worker and is unable to be facilitated through existing skilled visa programs. Fragomen worked with the Department of Home Affairs by providing input on the design of the pilot scheme as a member of an Industry Advisory Group that has been advising the Minister on the pilot scheme. Those interested in learning more about the benefits of the GTES can contact their Fragomen immigration professional or Fragomen's specialist Advisory and Compliance Practice at auadvisory@fragomen.com. MARN: 1798314

China: Online Application System of Foreign Expert Bureau Experiencing Technical Issues – The Foreign Expert Bureau's online application system experienced a temporary outage which prevented work permit applications from being filed August 13-14. Though the system is functioning now, applicants may experience delays and technical issues as a result of the outage. Affected applicants should contact their immigration provider for support.

Colombia: Colombian Citizenship Will Be Granted to Some Children Born in Colombia To Venezuelan Parents – The Colombian president signed a resolution that will grant citizenship to those children born in Colombia to Venezuelan parents on or after August 19, 2015. The resolution will take effect on August 20, 2019 and will be valid for two years from the date the resolution is officially published. Currently, children born in Colombia to foreign nationals are not granted automatic citizenship by birth unless at least one parent is domiciled in Colombia. Additionally, although Venezuelan law automatically confers citizenship to children of Venezuelan nationals, Venezuelan nationals in Colombia are currently unable to register births or request Venezuelan passports for their children since all Venezuelan consulates in Colombia are closed due to the ongoing political situation. These documents are needed in order to prove their children's Venezuelan citizenship to a foreign government. As a result, the Colombian government is adopting this resolution to prevent such children from being stateless and to assure them fundamental rights in the country, including access to public health and education programs and child protection services.

Czech Republic: New Appointment System in New Delhi Released for Some Nationalities – Effective August 14, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in New Delhi has opened a new appointment scheduling system for Employee Card applicants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka. Applicants should email a new email address (Zamkarta_NewDelhi@mzv.cz) to schedule their appointment. Significant appointment scheduling delays are likely on the new system due to the expected high volume of applications and the limit to 73 appointments per month. Applicants should discuss postponing work start dates with their employers and immigration providers accordingly.

Poland: 2019 Government Audit Results Announced – The Polish Audit Office (NIK) has published a report on the 2019 audit of the immigration offices in Poland. The main conclusions indicate that: average processing times have increased more than threefold over the last four years, from 64 to 206 days; immigration offices do not provide efficient, reliable and timely service; and the Polish government has no coherent migration policy. It is likely that the audit conclusions could bring legal changes to reduce immigration processing times and enhance the efficiency of the government offices adjudicating immigration applications.

Russia/Maldives: Mutual Visa Waiver with the Maldives Implemented – Effective immediately, Russian nationals are eligible for visa-free entry into the Maldives for stays of up to 90 days for business and tourism; the same policy also applies to nationals of the Maldives entering Russia. Nationals of Russia or the Maldives who seek to stay in the other country to perform work, study or obtain permanent residence will be required to apply for an appropriate visa or permit.

Russia: Relaxation of Visa Requirements for Artists, Scientists – Foreign nationals entering Russia for 30 days or less for artistic tours or based on the invitation of government culture institutions to participate in art, educational, scientific or pedagogical work can now enter Russia on a business visa valid for 30 days. This is expected to streamline the visa application process as these foreign nationals no longer need to apply for a work permit and their employers do not need to apply for a corporate employment permit, which was previously required.

Russia: Reminder: Penalties Enforced for Employers Hiring Foreign Nationals without Local Employment Contracts – As a reminder, employers who do not hold local employment contracts for their foreign nationals are subject to fines of up to RUB 1 million (USD 15,250) and possible suspension of activities for up to 90 days. Most employers without local contracts with their employees hire their workers through third-party staffing agencies. Employers should hire their foreign nationals directly under local contracts to avoid potential penalties. The Russian Ministry of Interior is more strictly enforcing penalties for companies that do not have local employment contracts for their employees following a resolution penalizing an employer for failing to sign a local contract and instead outsourcing its employees through third-party staffing agencies.

United Kingdom: Home Office Corrects Some Minimum Salaries – The Home Office has issued a correction to minimum occupational salary requirements for some job positions in the Tier 2 (General) category. The incorrect salary requirements were the result of an issue with the source data. Sponsors should ensure they use the updated salary levels listed on the addendum to the Home Office guidance. The impact is unlikely to be significant in most cases, as the corrected minimum occupational code for most roles remains lower than the GBP 30,000 minimum salary for the Tier 2 General category which must be met.

United Kingdom: Biometric Residence Permit Now Accepted as Proof of National Insurance Number – According to newly-issued guidance, the Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is now acceptable as a document that proves a foreign worker's National Insurance (NI) number. The NI Number is a social security number that must be recorded by sponsors and is now automatically printed on all foreign workers' BRP cards. This is expected to make the document maintenance process easier for employers of foreign nationals as they only need to maintain the BRP and not separate NI number documents.

United Kingdom: Changes to Tech Nation Application Process Forthcoming – Proposed to start from October 1, 2019, applicants for an endorsement by Tech Nation for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa will be required to provide three letters of recommendation, whereas currently only two are required. The format of the letters will remain the same. In addition, all fast track options will be closed starting October 1, 2019, except the Accelerator Participant fast track route, which will remain open. Foreign nationals who apply on or after October 1, 2019 will be subject to these changes, whereas applicants who submit their application before this date will have their applications processed under current rules. Foreign nationals who are in the process of gathering documentation to apply with two recommendation letters or intending to use one of the existing fast track routes should submit their applications prior to October 1, 2019. Updated legislation and policy guidance have not yet been released by the Home Office. Fragomen will follow with guidance when available.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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