Worldwide: Weekly Immigration Update: October 18-24, 2019

Last Updated: November 7 2019
Article by Fragomen  

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: In November, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services will accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Dates for Filing listed in the State Department's November Visa Bulletin.
  • Costa Rica: Foreign nationals applying for a short-stay visa or an accredited-company temporary residence may now work in Costa Rica while their applications are being processed.
  • Saudi Arabia: New regulations on the recruitment and employment of individuals in leadership positions in the financial sector have been issued by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA). SAMA also issued a list of professions in the financial sector that are now restricted to Saudi nationals.
  • Qatar: The Council of Ministers has endorsed draft legislation that seeks to improve the rights and mobility of foreign nationals by eliminating exit permits and introducing a higher minimum salary level, among other changes. Details on the new legislation are expected to be announced in the coming months.
  • Germany: Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum annual salary for EU Blue Card applicants will increase by 2.9 percent from last year.
  • United Kingdom: Eligible applicants to the EU Settlement Scheme can now verify their identity by using the EU Exit: ID Document Check App, available for use on Apple iPhone models 8 and above.

In Brexit news this week:

  • United Kingdom: Following a UK Parliament vote on the amended Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the United Kingdom requested another Brexit extension until January 31, 2020 to implement the amended Withdrawal Agreement. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to seek UK elections if an extension is granted, which would be subject to UK Parliament approval. Access Fragomen's guide on this week's Brexit happenings and impacts.

These items and other news from Botswana, Canada, Chile, Croatia, the European Union, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Spain, and the United Kingdom follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

Germany, October 24, 2019

Minimum Salary Level to Increase

Effective January 1, 2020, the minimum annual salary for EU Blue Card applicants in Germany will increase to EUR 55,200, or EUR 43,056 for shortage occupations, up 2.9 percent from last year.

To view entire article, click here.

Thailand, October 24, 2019

Medical Certificate Officially No Longer Required for Some Work Permit Applications

  • The Employment Department in Thailand has officially announced that Work Permit applications filed under the Board of Investment, Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand and the Petroleum Act no longer require a medical certificate.
  • This action reverses a policy implemented in August 2019 and is based on feedback from the business community, which urged the government to review this requirement to streamline the Work Permit process.

To view entire article, click here.

Saudi Arabia, October 24, 2019

New Rules in Financial Sector Focused on Increasing Local Worker Participation

  • The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) issued regulations by which companies under its purview (including banks, insurance and financial technology firms) must abide when recruiting and employing individuals in leadership positions.
  • The regulations aim to ensure that skilled individuals are employed in executive positions and to increase the employment of skilled Saudi nationals.
  • SAMA also issued a list of professions in the financial sector that are now restricted to Saudi nationals.

To view entire article, click here.

Mexico, October 21, 2019

Administrative Changes in Mexico City Causing Long Wait Times for In-Person Applications and Further Immigration Processing Delays

  • The National Immigration Institute is relocating part of its operation from its central office to the regional branch in Mexico City. In preparation, the INM is currently conducting remodeling work at the regional branch, resulting in reduced workspace and staff.
  • As a result, foreign nationals attending appointments for in-person applications for renewal, change of status to permanent residence, resident card replacement and post-arrival registrations can expect up to four-hour wait times at the INM regional branch, instead of the previous 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Additionally, foreign nationals and employers should expect processing delays for immigration applications filed at the regional branch in Mexico City over the next few months while cases are re-distributed and personnel are transferred.
  • Previously reported delays have not subsided, including up to eight to twelve-week processing times for post-arrival registrations, which continue to delay foreign nationals' payroll start dates in Mexico.

To view entire article, click here.

Qatar, October 21, 2019

Additional Relaxed Immigration and Labor Reforms Announced

  • The Council of Ministers endorsed draft legislation that would further reform the immigration and labor environment in Qatar and would complement the proposals announced earlier this month.
  • Main changes would include the elimination of the exit permit and a higher minimum salary for foreign workers, among other changes.
  • Details on the new legislation, including implementation dates, are expected to be announced in the coming months.

To view entire article, click here.

United Kingdom: 'EU Exit: ID Document Check App' Available on Apple iPhones

  • The EU Exit: ID Document Check App is now available to use on Apple iPhone models 8 and above. Software updates on the device may need to be up to date to access it. The app is used to digitally verify identity as part of EU Settlement Scheme applications.
  • The app will make the application process easier for applicants with eligible iPhone devices as they will no longer need to find access to an Android device to verify their identity.
  • Two million applicants have already applied to the EU Settlement Scheme. The release of the app on Apple devices is likely to result in an increase from applicants who have been waiting to apply on their Apple product.
  • Applicants without a biometric passport and family members of European Economic Area, EU or Swiss nationals who do not have a biometric residence card issued under the European regulations will not be able to use the app. These groups will still need to continue to submit physical identity documents either via post or by attending an in-person appointment.
  • Applicants with iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models will be able to use the app following an upcoming iOS software update, but applicants with older Apple models or iPads will not be able to use their own device. However, they can use another Apple iPhone model 8 and above, or an Android device to access the app as information taken by the app is not stored on the individual device used. We understand that this is a beta test by the United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI) so the app may become available on other iPhone models in due course though there is no immediate visibility on a timeline from the UKVI.

To view entire article, click here.

Chile, October 22, 2019

Protests May Cause Immigration Processing Disruptions

  • Amid violent protests in Santiago, Chilean president Sebastián Piñera has declared a state of emergency, resulting in road closures and partial shutdown of the public transportation system to ensure public safety.
  • Chile's Immigration Department in Santiago has closed at least one of its branches through October 25; other branches, as well as other governmental agencies, will likely operate with reduced staff and office hours during this time.
  • Closures or limited accessibility to immigration or other government offices may prevent foreign nationals from attending their registration, visa stamping, or identification card issuance appointments. Additionally, although foreign nationals can continue to file visa or residence applications by mail or online (as applicable), foreign nationals and employers can expect processing delays for all immigration-related applications until the situation normalizes.
  • Fragomen is contacting affected clients with case-by-case advice.

To view entire article, click here.

Costa Rica, October 18, 2019

Certain Foreign Nationals Will Become Work and Payroll Ready More Quickly

  • Foreign nationals applying for a short-stay visa or for accredited-company temporary residence may now work in Costa Rica during the processing of their applications, due to a new rule published by the Costa Rican government. Previously, applicants had to wait until their short-term visas (which take approximately four to five weeks to process) or residence applications (which take approximately four to five months to process) were approved.
  • Upon filing their immigration applications, foreign nationals are generally issued an application filing receipt, which will now provide sufficient evidence for eligible foreign nationals to begin work and for employers to enroll their workers in the local payroll.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, October 18, 2019

November Visa Bulletin Update: USCIS to Again Honor Dates for Filing Next Month

In November, USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Dates for Filing listed in the State Department's November Visa Bulletin.

To view entire article, click here.

Brexit News and Related News Briefs This Week

European Union/United Kingdom, October 18, 2019

Revised Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Reached by European Union/UK Government; UK Parliament Scheduled to Vote Tomorrow

  • The European Union and the UK Government have agreed to a revised Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
  • The revised deal addresses the issues pertaining to the Irish border that kept the prior agreement from being approved in the UK Parliament. The sections of the agreement that cover the free movement of people remain the same.
  • The UK Parliament is scheduled to vote on the revised deal on Saturday, October 19, 2019.
  • If the deal is not approved, UK law requires that an extension to the Brexit date be requested. Any extension must also be formally approved by the European Union.

To view entire article, click here.

European Union/United Kingdom: Further Brexit Extension Likely – Following a UK Parliament vote on the amended Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the United Kingdom requested another Brexit extension until January 31, 2020 to arrange the necessary legislation to implement the amended Withdrawal Agreement. European Council President Donald Tusk has endorsed the extension, since backed by the Irish Prime Minister and European Parliament President, but the final decision remains with the 27 EU countries. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to seek UK elections if an extension is granted, which would be subject to UK Parliament approval. Access Fragomen's guide on this week's Brexit happenings and impacts.

Many EU countries have published contingency plans for UK nationals in case of a no-deal Brexit. Fragomen will provide updates on the situation as they become available.

Please contact a Fragomen immigration professional for assistance in planning contingency arrangements in a single project. For more information, please visit Fragomen's dedicated Brexit site, which contains news, FAQs, and analysis/commentary in the form of blogs, videos, webcasts and events.

Other Weekly News Briefs

Canada: Trudeau's Liberal Party Wins National Election – Justin Trudeau will remain Prime Minister of Canada with his Liberal Party winning the most seats in Parliament in the October 22, 2019 national election. However, it appears that the Liberal Party did not win an overall majority of seats, which may result in the Liberal Party having to form a coalition government with another party. Despite the loss of seats, the Liberal Party will likely be able to implement their immigration election platform, including allowing communities, chambers of commerce and local labor councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants. This is seen as a continuation of recently implemented pilot programs under the previous Liberal Party government, such as the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.

Croatia/Schengen Area: Progress on Accession to Schengen AreaAs an update, the European Commission has determined that Croatia meets the criteria to join the border-free Schengen Area. The European Council must now decide whether Croatia can join the Schengen area, which is likely to happen in the beginning of 2020. Some Schengen countries have thus far opposed accession due to unresolved border disputes between Croatia and its neighboring countries and concerns surrounding illegal immigration at its borders with non-EU nations, which could potentially halt the accession process. By joining the Schengen Area, visa nationals would need to include the days spent in Croatia toward the 90 days in a 180-day period limitation imposed under Schengen rules, whereas currently their time in Croatia does not count toward the Schengen visa limitation. Additionally, Croatia would be able to issue Schengen visas to visa nationals instead of Croatian visas. Schengen visa holders benefit from visa-free travel within the Schengen member states for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.

European Union: European Labour Authority Begins Operating – The European Labour Authority (ELA) has commenced operations. This new EU agency seeks to improve access to relevant information on labour mobility and social security coordination; consolidate access to services such as translation and administrative support; enhance the exchange of information through seconded national experts; assist national authorities in organizing joint inspections and provide a forum for mediation and dispute resolution. EU countries' participation in most ELA activities would be voluntary, thus allowing countries to opt out. The ELA is scheduled to be fully operational in 2023. Fragomen will monitor this topic and will report on relevant developments as they occur. For questions, please email

European Union: Border Controls Extended Until MayAs an update, some EU countries in the Schengen area that instituted temporary internal border controls have extended these controls, with further extensions expected. Austria and Germany have extended mutual border controls until May 11, 2020. Denmark has extended its border controls towards Sweden until May 11, 2020. Although not yet formally confirmed, Fragomen expects France (current border controls until October 31, 2019), Norway (current border controls until November 12, 2019) and Sweden (current border controls until November 12, 2019) to also extend controls. All listed countries are part of the Schengen area, where internal border controls are in principle not allowed, except for temporary national security measures. The current controls have been in place since late 2015; in 2016 and 2017, the European Council recommended prolonging the checks due to migration flows and intra-EU security at that time.

Hungary: Stricter Permanent Residence Permit Process – Hungarian migration authorities now conduct a residence visit for most permanent residence permit applications, where these were previously rarely conducted. Additionally, refusal rates for this permit type have increased. In case of refusal, applicants must cease work until alternative work authorization is secured, which can take around 50-70 calendar days. Potential permanent residence permit applicants are advised to consult on eligibility prior to filing a permanent residence permit application. If eligibility is uncertain, applicants are advised to file a work authorization application simultaneously (such as a Single Permit application, the main work authorization category) to prevent having to cease work, an approach which is allowed under Hungarian law.

Hungary: New Document Requirement for Renewal Applications – Foreign nationals seeking to renew their Single Permit (the main Hungarian work authorization type) must now submit a declaration confirming that they were not absent from Hungary for more than 90 days in any rolling 180-day period from their arrival on a work visa. Although this travel restriction has been in place since January 2019, the official document requirement was recently introduced by the Hungarian Immigration Office. Applicants who do not meet this travel restriction are advised to consult an immigration professional.

Iceland: Dependents Now Eligible for Expedited Processing – Dependents accompanying foreign nationals to Iceland are now eligible for expedited processing if their applications are filed simultaneously with an expedited principal application. Previously, only principal applicants qualified for expedited processing. Expedited applications are currently processed in seven to 10 calendar days instead of the standard 170-180 calendar days. The new policy should enable applicants to travel together under expedited processing, where previously principal applicants using expedited processing would be separated from their dependents for several months due to the longer processing of dependent applications.

Ireland: Reminder: Critical Skills Employment Permit Minimum Salary Level to Increase January 1, 2020 – Foreign nationals and employers are reminded that all Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) applications filed on or after January 1, 2020 will be subject to higher minimum annual salary levels. Specifically, the minimum annual salary for CSEPs will increase to EUR 32,000 (approximately USD 35,533) for roles requiring a degree on the Critical Skills Occupation List and EUR 64,000 (approximately USD 71,067) for all other cases where the applicant has relevant experience and the role is not on the ineligible list of occupations. Employers should consider this significant increase of 6.7% when budgeting for 2020.

Panama: Temporary Delays in Adjudication of Work Permit Applications – Foreign nationals applying for a Work Permit in Panama are currently experiencing delays in the adjudication of their applications due to restructuring within the Ministry of Labor following the government changeover, that has resulted in adjudication backlogs. Processing time is currently four months, up from the normal three months. To alleviate the delays, the Ministry of Labor has announced it will only accept applications for registration, appeals, and scheduled marriage interviews on October 25, November 1 and November 8 to focus on backlogged applications. Foreign nationals and employers should expect delayed work start dates during the next several weeks. Fragomen will contact affected applicants if appointments during the closure dates need to be rescheduled.

Papua New Guinea: Government Fee Changes Currency and Premium Processing Now Available – Starting November 1, 2019, all government fees for Papua New Guinea (PNG) visas will be charged in U.S. Dollars instead of local Papua New Guinea currency. Government fees can now be paid via Papua New Guinea Immigration and Citizenship Authority (ICA)'s new online payment website. Once the payment is made, the applicant or third-party vendors on behalf of clients can print a copy of the fee receipt and attach it to their application. All overseas PNG consular posts will no longer accept cash payments for Migration Service Fees and applicants will need to attach the fee receipt when lodging applications. This removes the additional administrative burden to obtain an original fee receipt in Papua New Guinea, which required payments to be made over the counter. Additionally, ICA has also announced a new Priority Processing fee that may be utilized to expedite applications. It is unclear at this time how much faster this service would be compared to the regular processing time.

Qatar: Family Residence Visa Applications Must Be Submitted Through Online Portal – The Qatar Ministry of Interior is now requiring Family Residence Visas applications to be submitted through an online portal called Metrash2. Previously, sponsoring foreign nationals submitted applications in person at the main immigration office, which allowed them to submit all supporting documents and explain the circumstances of any missing information; the new system will not allow for this same flexibility. In order to use Metrash2, the sponsoring foreign national will need to purchase a SIM card and install the mobile application in order to access the system, which can take one to two weeks. Once the applicant has access to the system, they can apply to sponsor their family members. If an application is deferred or rejected, sponsoring foreign nationals can utilize the regular appeal process. This new application process does not apply to the Qatar Financial Centre, where sponsoring applicants are still subject to the in-person application process.

Russia / Botswana: Visa Waiver Implemented – Botswana nationals no longer require a visa to enter Russia for business or tourism trips up to 30 days per trip, not exceeding 90 days in a 180-day timeframe. Travellers seeking to work, study, or stay for longer durations must obtain an appropriate visa before travel. Russian nationals were already visa exempt for short-term business or tourist trips to Botswana.

Singapore: New Educational Qualification Proof Required for Some Applicants – The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has implemented new documentary requirements for new and renewal Employment Pass, S Pass and Training Employment Pass applicants. The new rule now requires applicants with Diploma qualifications from China to submit a verification report from the China Higher Education Student Information and Career Center (CHSI); and applicants with University Degree and higher qualifications from China to submit a verification report from the China Academic Degrees & Graduate Education Information (CDGDC) or Global verification agencies such as Dataflow and Risk Management Intelligence. Applicants whose higher education institution is not on the Ministry of Manpower's standard drop-down list must submit proof of their educational credentials from verification agencies such as Dataflow and Risk Management Intelligence. Previously, the rule required only applicants with Diploma and higher qualifications from China to submit proof of their educational qualifications. Based on this new rule, the MOM is reinforcing the message that employers are responsible for verifying the authenticity and quality of their employees' qualifications. The verification process may take up to a month, or longer in some cases, so affected employers and applicants should factor this extra time into their work authorization timeline for new and renewal applications. Fragomen can assist in confirming and assessing the requirements and can provide support with the verification process.

Spain: Delays in Scheduling Appointments for Initial Residence Cards in Madrid – Appointments for foreign nationals applying for residence cards under the General Immigration Framework at the Madrid police station located on Avenida Los Poblados are already fully booked until December 2019. The delays most significantly affect foreign nationals applying for residence cards whose current residence card or multiple-entry visa has expired and who seek to leave Spain during the processing of the residence card. These foreign nationals require a re-entry permit to re-enter Spain, which can only be obtained after completing a fingerprinting process that occurs at the residence card appointment. Since foreign nationals must apply for the residence card at the police station in their place of residence, affected foreign nationals should not exit Spain until they receive their re-entry permit upon completing their residence card appointment. These delays do not apply to foreign nationals applying for residence cards under the Entrepreneurs' Act.

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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