In immigration news this week:
- United States: Congress has passed two appropriations bills that will fund the federal government, including immigration functions, through September 30, 2020. E-Verify and the EB-5 Regional Center Program will be extended through the same date. According to the State Department's January 2020 Visa Bulletin, there will be modest employment-based cut-off date advancements for most countries. EB-1 worldwide is projected to advance rapidly and could become current in the coming months, while EB-3 worldwide is expected to retrogress.
- Japan: Foreign nationals who hold Temporary Visitor Visas can no longer apply to change their status to a Long-Term Work Visa except where the application is based on humanitarian reasons.
- Poland: On November 21, the minimum salary levels for foreign workers increased by an average of 7.2 percent from the previous quarter.
- Australia: The Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business released a bulletin that identifies the list of occupations that are under consideration for a change in status on the Skilled Migration Occupation Lists. Certain occupations may be removed or moved between these lists following government review, impacting employers' ability to utilize the employer-based temporary and permanent visa programs.
In Brexit news this week:
- United Kingdom: Following the win by the Conservative Party in the general election, it is expected that the Withdrawal Agreement will pass through Parliament. If passed, there will be a 'transition period' and free movement will continue in the United Kingdom and the European Union until December 31, 2020.
These items and other news from Bolivia, Chile, India, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, and Switzerland follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.
Important Updates in Immigration This Week
United States, December 19, 2019
Congress Passes FY 2020 Spending Bills
- The spending bills fund the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Labor and other federal agencies through FY 2020.
- The package reauthorizes E-Verify, the EB-5 Regional Center program and other expiring immigrations through September 30, 2020.
- The President is expected to sign the bills.
To view entire article, click here.
January 2020 Visa Bulletin, December 19, 2019
Modest Employment-Based Cut-Off Date Advancements for Most Countries; EB-1 Worldwide Could Become Current in Coming Months, but EB-3 Worldwide Expected to Retrogress
- All EB-1 countries except for China and India will advance by 2.5 months to October 1, 2018. China will advance by one week to May 22, 2017, while India will remain at January 1, 2015.
- EB-2 China will advance by one week, to July 1, 2015, and EB-2 India will advance by three days, to May 18, 2009.
- EB-3 China will advance by one month, to December 1, 2015 and EB-3 Philippines will advance by two weeks, to March 15, 2018. EB-3 India will remain unchanged.
- EB-1 Worldwide is expected to advance rapidly in the coming months and could become current by April 2020, while EB-3 Worldwide is expected to retrogress by March 2020.
To view entire article, click here.
Poland, December 18, 2019
Minimum Salary Level Increased
- Effective November 21, 2019, Poland has increased its minimum salary levels for foreign workers by an average of 7.2 percent from the previous quarter.
- Additionally, effective January 1, 2020, the minimum monthly salary for locally hired foreign workers in Poland will increase to PLN 2,600, up 15.6 percent from 2019.
- The new thresholds apply to current permit holders, pending applications and new applications. Employers should check foreign workers' salaries to ensure compliance.
To view entire article, click here.
Australia, December 16, 2019
Skilled Occupation Lists to Change; May Affect Eligibility for Certain Visas
- The Australian government has released a bulletin identifying the list of occupations that are under consideration for a change in status on the Skilled Migration Occupation Lists, which are lists used to determine eligibility for the country's skilled visa programs.
- Following the government's review of this bulletin, certain occupations may be removed or moved between these lists, which would impact employers' ability to utilise the employer-based temporary and permanent visa programs.
- Specifically as it relates to the Temporary Skill Shortage visa program, occupations that are moved to the Short-term Skilled Occupation List are subject to more restrictive grant periods, and importantly, do not provide visa holders with a pathway to permanent residency.
- The next steps of the review include a formal submission period for commentary that will open February 2020, and the publication of the lists in March 2020.
To view entire article, click here.
Japan, December 13, 2019
Change of Status Applications Now Only Accepted Under Limited Circumstances
- Foreign nationals in Japan who hold Temporary Visitor Visas can no longer apply to change their status to a Long-Term Work Visa except where the application is based on humanitarian reasons (such as medical emergencies, childbirth, etc.).
- Change of Status applications under such circumstances can only be filed by foreign nationals who enter Japan under Temporary Visitor Visa status who obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) in Japan.
- If the application is rejected, the applicant's COE would be cancelled and the applicant would need to restart their work authorization process.
- The government is working to eliminate this immigration practice to standardize the work visa application process and to streamline the process.
To view entire article, click here.
Brexit News This Week
United Kingdom, December 16, 2019
How Election Results Affect Brexit
- The Conservative Party has won the United Kingdom's general election.
- It is expected that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill paving the way for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union on January 31, 2020 will pass through the new Parliament on or approximately December 20, 2019.
- If the Withdrawal Agreement is passed in Parliament, there will be a 'transition period' and free movement will continue in the United Kingdom and the European Union until December 31, 2020.
- EU nationals residing in the United Kingdom by December 31, 2020 will have until June 21, 2021 to apply to remain in the United Kingdom under the EU Settlement Scheme. UK nationals residing in the EU by December 31, 2020 will have until June 21, 2021 to register or apply for residence, according to the process adopted in the EU country where they reside.
To view this article, click here.
Weekly News Briefs
Bolivia: Visa Waiver Implemented for Israeli and U.S. Nationals – Effective immediately, nationals of Israel and the United States will no longer require a visa to enter Bolivia as tourists for up to 90 continuous or cumulative days in a 12-month period. Previously, Israeli and U.S. nationals required a consular tourist visa to enter Bolivia as tourists for up to 30 days, extendable in country twice for a total of 90 days.
Chile: Expedited Airport Process for Special Work Permit for Tourists Currently Unavailable – In a sudden process change, the Chilean Immigration Department is not currently accepting Special Work Permit for Tourist applications at its Santiago airport branch. Instead, all applications should be filed online through the Immigration Department's system once the foreign national is in Chile. Applications are being adjudicated in approximately five to ten business days. Previously, foreign nationals arriving in Chile with connecting flights for the same day or for the next morning could apply for and obtain the permit at the airport upon arrival, allowing them to begin working in Chile immediately instead of waiting the five to ten business days or more for an online application approval. Given this option is no longer available, foreign nationals and employers with urgent cases should work with their immigration specialist for case-by-case advice and alternative filing options.
Chile: Visa Requirement for Nationals of Australia Postponed – According to immigration authorities, the visa requirement for nationals of Australia entering Chile for tourism, business or transit that was set to take effect on December 17, 2019 has been postponed to May 2020. Currently, nationals of Australia can continue entering Chile for tourism, business or transit under a visa-exempt status for up to 90 days.
India: Clarification on Overseas Citizenship of India Card Application Policy – Due to client inquiries, Fragomen seeks to clarify a provision of the new rule implemented December 10, 2019 that requires some Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Card applicants to maintain six months consecutive residency prior to submitting their application. Importantly, the rule applies only to OCI Card applicants not residing in their country of citizenship (e.g. a U.S. citizen residing in the United States seeking to apply for an OCI Card is not required to maintain six months residency in the United States prior to submitting their OCI Card application). As explained in the related alert, if an affected OCI Card applicant leaves the country of application (if different from country of citizenship), the six-month period resets and they must again maintain the six months residency period if they want to apply for an OCI Card.
Kazakhstan: Reminder: January 5 to be Business Day – As a reminder, Sunday January 5, 2020 will be a business day in Kazakhstan to compensate for the December and January holiday closures. Employers and foreign nationals can register with the Migration Police on this day, as is required by law. As before, employers must notify the government of the foreign worker's arrival within three business days of the foreign workers' arrival, and foreign nationals must notify the government of their arrival within five calendar days. January 5 will be included as a business day in this calculation. As before, failure to register carries significant penalties for the employer and employee.
Netherlands: Relaxed Rules to be Implemented Regarding Work and Residence Permits – Certain relaxed rules proposed in September concerning work and residence permits will go into effect on January 1, 2020. Foreign students will be able to participate in certain work activities without a work permit; foreign students attending the six Academy of Architecture universities will be allowed to work more hours than currently allowed; and family members of foreign nationals holding residence permits for self-employed persons will be allowed to work in paid employment without a work permit for the duration of their dependent residence permit.
New Zealand: Skilled Migrant and Essential Skills Remuneration Thresholds to Increase - On February 24, 2020, the remuneration thresholds will increase 2% across the board based on the New Zealand median salary and wage rate of NZD 25.50 per hour, equivalent to NZD 53,040 per year. The Skilled Migrant Category threshold for skilled employment in an occupation at Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) skill level 1-3, or in an occupation at ANZSCO skill level 4-5 that is treated as an exception, will be NZD 25.50 per hour or above. The threshold for skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO skill level 4-5, or which is not included in ANZSCO, will be NZD 38.25 per hour or above. The threshold to earn bonus points for being highly paid will be NZD 51 per hour or above. For the Essential Skills Category, the threshold for higher-skilled employment in any occupation (including those at ANZSCO skill level 4-5) will be NZD 38.25 per hour or above. The threshold for mid-skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO skill level 1-3 will be NZD 21.68 per hour or above. The threshold for mid-skilled employment in an occupation at ANZSCO skill level 4-5 that is treated as an exception will be NZD 25.50 per hour or above.
Philippines: Upcoming Closures and Application Acceptance Limitations – The Department of Labor and Employment, National Capital Region (DOLE NCR) will not accept Alien Employment Permit (AEP) applications on December 23, 26 and 27, 2019 due to limited staffing on these dates. The release of AEP cards will continue on these dates. Further, on December 19 and 20, 2019, the DOLE NCR Office will only allow 150 applications per company to be submitted. Normal operations are expected to resume after December 27 unless DOLE NCR issues a further advisory.
Russia: Measles Immunization Monitoring Extended – Russian authorities have extended the measles immunization monitoring program for foreign workers until December 31, 2020. To comply with this year's requirement, the company representative must personally submit a list of foreign worker immunizations to their territorial department of Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being (Rospotrebnadzor) by December 31, 2019. Registrations will be accepted on a daily basis until this deadline. The company representative will receive a stamp once they complete this filing. In 2020, employers must report foreign worker immunizations for employees hired in 2020 and existing employees in 2020 by December 31, 2020. It is expected that the same December 31 deadline will apply in future years as well. As a reminder, employers are required to follow specific rules to ensure their foreign workers are immunized against measles, including reporting the results of immunizations to the local Rospotrebnadzor. Employers found to have insufficiently documented a foreign worker's immunization status during an audit, or those who fail to send the report by the deadline may be fined RUB 10,000-RUB 20,000 or be subject to an administrative suspension of the company's operations for up to 90 days.
Switzerland: Stricter Labor Market Test for EU Nationals – Effective January 1, 2020, vacancies for locally hired EU/European Economic Area (EEA) nationals in Switzerland must be posted for all sectors with over 5% unemployment, up from sectors with over 8% unemployment. As before, employers must post affected vacancies with the regional employment office for seven calendar days. Different vacancy posting and labor market test requirements apply to non-EU/EEA local hires and assignments.
United States: U.S. House of Representatives Approves Revised USMCA – On December 19, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), after the White House and Congressional Democrats agreed on revisions to the pact on December 10. The Senate is expected to vote on ratifying legislation in 2020. Until the USMCA is ratified by all three countries, the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will remain in effect, including labor mobility rules and related immigration procedures.
The leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States signed the USMCA in November 2018, moving the three countries close to replacing NAFTA. The labor mobility provisions of the USMCA – which ease the cross-border movement of businesspersons, certain professionals, intracompany transferees, traders and investors – are largely the same as those of NAFTA. At the time the USMCA was signed, House Democrats expressed concerns about some of its provisions, including those related to labor and environmental standards. Further negotiations in recent months have resulted in revisions on those issues. The labor mobility provisions of USMCA were not affected by the revisions.
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