In immigration news this week:

  • Worldwide: Many jurisdictions around the world have expanded their coronavirus-related travel restrictions and quarantine measures outside of the original areas subject to such policies. Visit Fragomen's coronavirus-related news page for the latest immigration updates.
  • United States: Employers and their immigration counsel may register foreign nationals for the FY 2021 H-1B cap lottery until Friday, March 20 at noon ET. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Yemen has been extended for 18 months, through September 3, 2021. Current Yemen TPS beneficiaries have until May 1, 2020 to re-register.
  • Singapore: Effective May 1, 2020, the minimum qualifying monthly salary for Employment Passes will increase by 8.34% percent from the current amount. The job advertising requirement and qualifying salary for locals to be counted toward the S Pass quota will also increase on that date.

These items and other news from Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia, the European Union, India, Ireland, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

Singapore, February 4, 2020

Minimum Salary Level for Employment Pass to Increase

  • Effective May 1, 2020, the minimum qualifying monthly salary for Employment Passes in Singapore will increase to SGD 3,900, up 8.34% percent from the current amount.
  • The minimum monthly salary for older and more experienced Employment Pass applicants will also increase, depending on the foreign national's age.
  • Renewal applications will only be subject to the new minimum requirement starting May 1, 2021.
  • The job advertising requirement and the qualifying salary for local workers to be counted toward the S Pass quota will also increase May 1, 2020.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, March 2, 2020

Yemen TPS Re-Registration Period Opens

  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Yemen is extended for 18 months, from March 4, 2020, through September 3, 2021.
  • Current Yemen TPS beneficiaries have until May 1, 2020 to re-register to maintain status through September 3, 2021.
  • Current Yemen TPS employment authorization documents with an expiration date of March 3, 2020 or September 3, 2018 will automatically be extended through August 30, 2020.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, March 2, 2020

Coronavirus Update: U.S. Imposes Travel Restrictions on Certain Foreign Nationals with Recent Iran Travel

  • The U.S. government has expanded travel restrictions related to the coronavirus to include certain foreign nationals who have been present in Iran within 14 days of their attempted entry to the United States, according to a new presidential order.
  • Exempt foreign nationals include lawful permanent residents, immediate family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and certain others.
  • The order takes effect at 5 pm EST on March 2, 2020.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, February 28, 2020

FY 2021 H-1B Cap Registration Begins Sunday, March 1

  • Employers and their immigration counsel may register foreign nationals for the FY 2021 H-1B cap lottery between Sunday, March 1 at noon ET and Friday, March 20 at noon ET.
  • USCIS is expected to receive a very large number of online registrations during this period. Technical slowdowns are possible as a result.
  • Before an H-1B cap registration can be submitted by immigration counsel, employers must promptly review, approve and e-sign the registration.

To view entire article, click here.

Other Weekly News Briefs

Azerbaijan: Details of the Labor Market Test for Oil and Gas Sector Released - The government has released details of the labor market test which is now required for employers seeking to send foreign workers to Azerbaijan for employment in the oil and gas sector. Employers in the oil and gas sector will have to post job vacancies online at the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR)'s new website, which will list the job title, role and description for the vacancy. The job posting will remain on the website for 30 days, after which time the post will automatically be taken off the website. During the recruitment process, if a local worker is not found, employers can interview foreign workers by applying for an Endorsement Letter and Work Permit. After the recruitment process is complete, the employer must provide documents detailing the process to SOCAR, without which SOCAR may reject the Endorsement Letter application. Affected employers should work with their immigration provider to ensure compliance with other recruitment timing rules.

Belgium: Single Permit Processing Times to be Reduced - In an effort to reduce the prolonged processing times for Single Permit applications, following Fragomen's memorandum to the Belgian authorities outlining the current issues, the Federal Immigration Office has added 20 additional staff members and simplified the internal procedures to process such applications in the Immigration Office. Single Permit processing times are at best expected to be one to two months. Additionally, a new online system expected to be implemented in the second quarter of 2020 may further reduce processing times by allowing document sharing across government agencies, among other improvements. Fragomen will report on developments with the expected reduced processing times.

Belgium: Flanders Switches to Electronic Filing - Since March 1, the Flanders immigration authorities are allowing all Work Permit and Single Permit applications to be submitted by email instead of by regular mail. Renewal applications via an electronic platform and online access to and correction of pending applications will be allowed in the next few weeks. The authorities have set strict requirements on application and email format. Applications that do not meet the requirements will be refused. The new process applies to applicants whose primary work location is in Flanders. During a transition period until June 30, applicants will still be able to submit documents by registered mail, though mailed applications may take longer to process. Applications submitted by mail will require justifying why an online application cannot be filed. Email applications should expedite the application process by removing post and scan wait times. However, Fragomen expects delays and additional document requirements during a transitional phase of several weeks. An online immigration platform including federal immigration and social security services, as well as other Belgian regions, is scheduled to launch in January 2021.

India: Deadline Extended for Persons of India Card Holders to Convert to Overseas Citizen of India Card - The deadline for all Person of India (PIO) cardholders (machine and non-machine-readable) to obtain Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards has been further extended to September 30, 2020, from March 31, 2020. It is likely that those who fail to convert their PIO cards by March 31, 2020 will be denied entry/exit while traveling to and from India. The extension of revised deadline until September 20, 2020 is subject to the condition that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) does not notify a new deadline in the meantime. This is in continuation of the deadline set by the ICAO for mandatory machine-readable documents for entry into India. All PIO cardholders (machine and non-machine-readable) are advised to convert their PIO cards to OCI cards by the deadline.

Netherlands: Application Details Can No Longer be Changed After Decision - In a change of policy, the Dutch Immigration Authority (IND) now requires a new application if application details change after a decision has been made, for all application and permit types. Relevant details include visa pickup location, preferred in-country immigration office, employment / assignment start and end dates, and cancelling a de-registration. Previously, such changes were typically allowed both during application processing and after approval. As before, changes can be notified to the IND while the application is being processed. Employers and foreign nationals are advised to plan visa pickup locations and IND office locations in advance, and scrutinize applications to minimize the need for corrections.

Peru: Delays in Adjudication of In-country Initial and Renewed Resident Worker Visa Applications - Foreign nationals applying for an in-country initial or renewed Resident Worker Visa are currently experiencing application adjudication delays due to an increase in immigration applications received by the National Superintendence of Immigration. Processing time is currently 3.5 months for initial in-country applications (which in practice has been 1.5 months on average, though the legal standard processing time is three months), and one month for renewal applications (up from the usual seven days). Foreign nationals and employers should expect delayed work start dates during the next several months. As a reminder, foreign nationals need to obtain an Exit and Re-Entry Permit for each trip outside Peru during the processing of their in-country initial or renewed Resident Worker Visa application.

Philippines: Special Work Permit Regulations for Consultants/Specialists Clarified - Further to last week's clarification for experts applying for a Special Work Permit (SWP), new guidelines were released by the Bureau of Immigration for foreign nationals applying for a SWP as a consultant or specialist. Such foreign nationals must submit a certified copy of their diploma or certificate of completion attested by the appropriate company representative and a certificate of training, course completion or resume attested by the appropriate company representative. Applicants must be at least 25 years old at the time of filing of the application.

Russia: Eligible Professions Expanded for Early Citizenship Qualification - The Russian government has expanded the list of professions foreign nationals must be in to qualify for Russian citizenship sooner. Permanent residence permit holders who have worked for at least one year in a profession on this list qualify for citizenship immediately, instead of after five years of residence under a permanent residence permit, which is the standard.

Russia/Qatar: Visa Waiver in Effect - Effective February 23, 2020, Qatari nationals can enter Russia with a visa for 90 days in a 180-day period for tourism and business. Qatari nationals must apply for a work permit to conduct any work activities in Russia.

Saudi Arabia: Revised Employment Visa Quota Mechanism Introduced for Newly-Established Companies - Companies that have obtained their Commercial Registration in Saudi Arabia in the last six months are now assigned an employment visa quota based on their location and business activities instead of the requirement to submit a formal quota request to the Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD). The quota will be granted based on the company's commercial activities, location and overall readiness to recruit workers. Specifically, a minimum quota will be granted instantly; a medium quota will be granted after the MLSD has assessed the employer's location and business activities; and a maximum quota will be granted after the MLSD has conducted a site inspection and assessed the employer's business activities and premises. It is not yet clear how many visas will be granted at each quota level or how this number will be determined. Additionally, according to an initial announcement, these employers may be exempt from complying with certain Saudization requirements for up to one year, but no further information has been provided on this exemption.

Switzerland: Reminder:2021 Plans for UK Nationals - As a reminder, UK national residents in Switzerland and their family members seeking to continue to reside and work in Switzerland after December 31, 2020 should obtain an appropriate national residence and work permit before December 31, 2020. Since Switzerland is not an EU member state, EU nationals require residence and work authorization for stays over 90 days. As a result, obtaining residence authorization - which UK nationals must complete as an additional step to account for Brexit in most EU countries - is standard for eligible UK residents in Switzerland. The status of UK national residents in Switzerland is regulated by a separate bilateral agreement, and no further national measures are required (or will be published) to account for the current 'deal' Brexit.

Turkey/Croatia/Ireland/Malta/Norway/Portugal: Unilateral Visa Waiver Expanded - Turkey has expanded a unilateral visa waiver to nationals of Croatia, Ireland, Malta, Norway and Portugal, for tourist and business trips to Turkey for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. The visa waiver took effect March 2, 2020. Previously, these nationals had to apply for an e-visa and pay the corresponding fee.

Ukraine/North Macedonia: Visa Waiver Extended Indefinitely - Ukraine and North Macedonia concluded a visa waiver agreement which removes the annual expiry date from a mutual visa waiver. Previously, a mutual visa waiver expired March 15 each year and had to be extended annually. Under the new agreement, nationals of North Macedonia with biometric passports can travel to Ukraine visa-free for tourist and business trips, among other types of trips, for up to 90 days in a 180-day period; and vice versa. No expiry date applies to the current agreement. Notably, the new agreement also exempts North Macedonian nationals from having to obtain a D visa for stays over 90 days for employment, study, family reunion or immigration in Ukraine. For other purposes of stay, no fees apply to D visa applications.

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.