China - Expedited Permit Processing for Highly-Skilled Foreign Nationals in Shanghai and  Coronavirus Related Travel Restrictions

Effective immediately, certain Category A (highly-skilled) applicants seeking permission to work in Shanghai can apply for their work and residence permits simultaneously under a new "single window" procedure, decreasing the processing time. Under the standard process, work permit applicants must submit supporting work permit documents to the Shanghai Foreign Expert Bureau, and after approval of the work permit application can then submit their residence permit application at the Public Security Bureau. The new "single window" process will allow these two applications to be submitted simultaneously.

Under the new system, Category A applicants whose prospective employers are registered at qualifying Shanghai Expert Bureau service centers can submit these two applications in one visit, and the work and residence permits can be collected simultaneously within a maximum of seven days. The new system is currently available at the Shanghai Foreign Expert Bureau Service Centers in Meiyuan (Minsheng Road) and in Xuhui District, and is expected to be extended to all districts in Shanghai later this year.

Coronavirus Related Travel Restrictions

The government of Wuhan in Hubei province suspended all public transport and canceled rail and air departures from the city.  Hundreds of flights to and from Wuhan were canceled. The travel ban has since been extended to several provinces. This includes restrictions on trains and flights leaving the city, as well as subways, buses, and ferries within it. Taxis and ride-share services are suspended as of noon on Friday January 24th, 2020.   Hong Kong denies entry for residents of Hubei, and anyone who has visited Hubei in the last 14 days.  Shanghai and several other provinces have announced that all non-essential enterprises will remain closed until February 9, 2020.  Additionally, major cities including Beijing have banned large gatherings over the Lunar New Year festival as efforts to contain the outbreak increase.  

Several countries decided to either quarantine travelers from the Hubei province or even deny entry. Countries like Mongolia, Nepal and Russia closed their borders and several countries in the region suspended  issuance of visa upon arrival for travelers from this province. Travelers entering the U.S. from Wuhan will be routed to five major U.S. airports for screenings: Chicago's O'Hare, New York's John F. Kennedy, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, and Los Angeles's and San Francisco's international airports. 

Denmark - New Positive List, Salary Requirements, and Government Fees

The Danish immigration authorities have published a new Positive List (Denmark's occupation shortage list), effective January 1, 2020 and valid until June 30, 2020.  Government application fees and the minimum salary requirements for the Pay Limit Scheme have also been updated.

Minimum salary requirements for the Pay Limit Scheme have been changed to DKK 436,000 per year or DKK 36,333.33 per month as of January 1, 2020.

Government application fees have been reduced for all applications submitted after January 1, 2020. The relevant fees for common case types are as follows:

  • Initial or extension application to the Pay Limit or Fast-track scheme (principal applicant): DKK 2,990;
  • Initial or extension application for dependent family member: DKK 1,470.

France - New Measures to Facilitate Talent Passport Applications and ICT Residence Permits and Minimum Salary Increases

The Ministry of Home Affairs has published a notice to the Prefectural authorities recommending measures to expedite applications for Talent Passport and Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) residence permits.  These new measures require the Prefectures accept initial and renewal Talent Passport applications within 15 business days from the request for an appointment, and process applications within 15 business days of the filing. This will also apply to dependent family members of such applicants.  Additionally, Prefectures must provide companies with dedicated email addresses for requesting appointments, and grant access to online Talent Passport procedures by the end of 2020.

The Ministry has also announced it will release a reduced list of required documents for Talent Passport and ICT applications, and will no longer require birth certificates.  The new reduced list of required documents has not yet been published.

As of January 1, 2020 the French authorities have increased the minimum legal salary requirements (SMIC) for all workers in France to EUR 1539.42 per month (up 1.2% from EUR 1521.22 per month in 2019).  This increase will impact the salary threshold for certain work permit types such as Passeport Talent – Salarié En Mission and Passeport Talent – Salarié Qualifié.

Germany - Minimum Salary Increases for EU Blue Cards

The German authorities have increased the minimum salary requirements for European Union (EU) Blue Cards as of January 1, 2020.

The new salary requirements are as follows:

  • Regular Blue Card holders in Germany must be paid at least EUR 55,200 per year (up from EUR 53,600 in 2019).
  • Blue Card holders in shortage occupations must be paid at least EUR 43,056 per year (up from EUR 41,808 in 2019).

Ireland - Increase in Employment Permit Applications Causes Processing Delays, Changes to Employment Permit System

A recent surge in applications for Employment Permits has led to backlogs and delays in processing. The delays are affecting both standard and Trusted Partner applications, causing an increase in processing times of 2-3 weeks.  The spike in the number of filings at the end of 2019 causing the delays is likely due to the increased salary thresholds and advertising requirements which went into effect on January 1, 2020.

The Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation announced changes to the employment permits system, which become effective on January 1, 2020, to address immediate labor shortages in key sectors such as hospitality, construction, health, and road haulage.  The changes reflect the fact that the labor market demand in many sectors in Ireland is currently outstripping supply.  Salary thresholds for Critical Skills Employment Permits and time periods for advertising vacancies for labor market testing have increased as part of these announced changes. 

Israel - Short-Term Assignment Update and Increase in Government Fees for Work Visas

The Israeli Ministry of Interior advised that all short-term assignments will be limited to not more than 90 days within a 180 day period.

The short-term visa categories affected by this change are the following:

  • Short Expert Assignment (SEA) 45 days;
  • Short Term Employment Authorization (STEP) 3 months;
  • Hi-Tech 90 day visa (HIT 90)

Until recently, companies were able to apply for a new work visa valid at the start of the next year for assignees that were employed during the last 3 months of the calendar year in Israel (September – December).  In so doing, the company was able to retain the assignees for a continuous 6-month period (referred to as "the Continuity Effect").  In an effort to avoid the Continuity Effect, the Ministry issued this directive to take effect immediately, by which the stay of an assignee on a SEA, STEP, or HIT 90 visa is limited to the maximum of 90 days within the six-month period starting from the date of entry.

Additionally, the Ministry of the Interior has recently published new government fees for 2020. Government fees for a B-1 work visa for more than 6 months will be increased to NIS 10,000 (up from NIS 9,970 2019).  Further, work permit filing fees will be increased to NIS 1,210 (up from NIS 1,190 2019).

Schengen Countries - Upcoming Schengen Visa Code Amendments (Reminder)

Effective February 2, 2020 amendments to the Schengen visa codes implement changes such as more flexible procedures, longer visa validities, and higher fees.

Changes in procedures will include:

  • Applicants will be able to submit applications no later than 15 calendar days before their planned trip and no earlier than 6 months in advance (rather than the current 3 months in advance).
  • In some instances, electronic signatures and forms will be acceptable.
  • Minor applicants between the ages of 6 and 18 years of age will not have to pay filing fees.
  • The standard visa fees will increase by approximately EUR 20.

Further, frequent travelers with a positive visa history will be eligible to receive a multiple-entry visa with a gradually increasing validity period from one year to a maximum of five years, saving time and costs for applicants and member states.

Singapore - Increased Penalties for Discriminatory Employers

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has strengthened the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) to implement greater deterrence against workplace discrimination.

The MOM has raised the administrative penalties across the board for all discrimination cases:

  • The minimum period of work pass debarment has increased from 6 months to 12 months. For more egregious cases, the debarment period can be up to a maximum of 24 months.
  • The debarment scope has expanded to include work pass renewals in addition to new work pass applications.

In addition, MOM will prosecute errant employers or key personnel who make false declarations that they have considered all candidates fairly.  Employers convicted of false declaration under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act will face imprisonment of up to 2 years, or fine up to SGD 20,000, or both.

Switzerland - Stricter, More Standardized Language Requirements in Place

Effective January 1, 2020 recognized language diplomas/certificates from accredited institutions must  be provided as evidence that applicants meet the required level of language proficiency.  The language proficiency criteria affects applicants for new non-EU/EFTA temporary residence permits (type B) for family reunion, and applicants for permanent residence permits (type C).  The changes do not apply to holders of short-stay L permits, 120-day permits, or those coming to work in Switzerland with just an online notification, nor to spouses of EU/EFTA nationals.  No proof of language skills is required for applicants whose native language is the one spoken at their place of residence in Switzerland, or who have completed primary school, secondary school, or university in the language spoken at their place of residence in Switzerland.  Citizens of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain are also exempt.

United Kingdom - Recent Brexit Update, Withdrawal Agreement

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill received Royal Assent on January 23, 2020 and the European Parliament ratified the arrangements on January 29, 2020. This removed any further obstacles to the UK's departure from the EU. At 11 p.m. GMT on January 31, 2020, the UK will no longer be a member of the EU. The "transition period" will then begin, which is currently scheduled to end on December 31, 2020. During this time, the immigration rights of EU nationals in the UK, and vice versa, will remain unchanged.

As previously reported, EU nationals who enter the UK by the end of the transition period must submit an application under the auspices of the new Settlement Scheme - the deadline for doing so under that scheme is June 30, 2021. The rights and requirements for UK nationals residing in other EU countries after the transition period will be determined on a country-by-country basis.

At the end of the transition period, the new UK immigration system will (in all likelihood) take effect on January 1, 2021. It will be a single system for all nationalities, including EU citizens, modeled on the Australian points based system.

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