In immigration news this week:

  • United States: EB-3 immigrant visa categories are immediately unavailable and will remain so through September 30, according to a State Department announcement. USCIS should continue to accept EB-3 adjustment of status filings that are current in the Visa Bulletins for August and September, but will hold them in abeyance until this category becomes current again.
  • Israel: Multiple trips are now allowed under the STEP B-1 90-day work visa.
  • Thailand: All initial and renewal work permit applications must now include a medical certificate.
  • Ireland: A newly launched pre-clearance process aims to make it easier for Irish emigrants to return to Ireland with their de facto partners.
  • Philippines: Applicants for the 47(a)(2) Special Non-Immigrant Visa seeking to start work during the processing of their long-term work visa must now apply for a Provisional Work Permit instead of a Special Work Permit.
  • Russia: The government has clarified that employers must follow specific rules to document and ensure foreign workers are immunized against measles.

These items and other news from Australia, Ecuador, Israel, Kenya, Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

Russia, August 22, 2019

Clarification of Employers' Obligations in Monitoring Measles Immunization

  • In response to the rising rate of measles across the region, the Russian government has clarified that employers must follow specific rules to ensure their foreign workers are immunized against measles, including by seeking proof of their employees' immunizations and maintaining the records until December 31, 2019.
  • The government has issued a list of roles and occupations which cannot be performed by those who have not been correctly immunized.
  • Employers who, during an audit, are found to have insufficiently documented a migrant worker's immunization status may be fined from RUB 10,000 to RUB 20,000 or be subject to an administrative suspension of the company's operations for up to 90 days.

To view entire article, click here.

Thailand, August 21, 2019

Medical Exam Now Required for Initial and Renewal Work Permit Applications

  • Effective August 19, 2019, all initial and renewal work permit applications to Thailand, including those filed under the Board of Investment (BOI) the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) and the Petroleum Act, must include a medical certificate.
  • Previously, applications filed under the BOI, IEAT and the Petroleum Act did not require the certificate.
  • This will add an administrative hurdle for applicants under these schemes and could add an extra day to the in-country document-gathering process before a work permit application can be filed.

To view entire article, To view entire article, Multiple changes to Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) and Permanent Residence Permit (PRP) processes which were considered earlier this year will be implemented November 1, 2019.

  • In addition, eligibility for a TRP outside of the government's annual quota will be expanded, which will streamline the residence process for qualifying nationals, and free up more spaces from the quota for other applicants.
  • The changes are part of the wider reform to the TRP and PRP permit process which aim to simplify the application process and to encourage foreign nationals to apply for permanent residence in Russia, which offers the right to reside and work in Russia as well as the possibility to apply for Russian citizenship.
  • To view entire article, click here.

    Philippines, August 21, 2019

    Provisional Work Permit Replaces Special Work Permit for Work Visa Applicants

    • In the Philippines, applicants for the 47(a)(2) Special Non-Immigrant Visa seeking to start work during the processing of their long-term work visa must now apply for a Provisional Work Permit (PWP) instead of a Special Work Permit (SWP).
    • Because of this restriction, 47(a)(2) visa applicants will no longer be allowed to obtain an SWP.
    • Since both categories have similar processing times and validity periods, there is no apparent impact on timeframes or stay rules; the only differences are the sequence in which the applications are filed and documentary requirement variances between the two categories.

    To view entire article, click here.

    Ireland, August 20, 2019

    New Pre-Clearance Process Launched for de Facto Partners of Irish Citizens

    • Effective August 19, 2019, a new pre-clearance process has been launched for de facto partners of Irish citizens, who can now apply for pre-clearance overseas.
    • If pre-clearance is granted, de facto partners will be able to register with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) and work in Ireland upon arrival in Ireland, whereas previously they could only apply for registration after entry and work after approval, which could take up to one year.
    • However, due to the need for a new out-of-country step, de facto partners may face additional waiting time overseas before they can enter Ireland while they wait for a pre-clearance decision. The INIS has stated that the new process aims to reduce processing times but has not yet released guidance on the expected time frame for a pre-clearance application submitted from overseas.
    • The new process is only applicable to de facto partners of Irish nationals who are unmarried and does not currently apply to spouses of Irish nationals. Further guidance is being sought on provisions for married couples.

    To view entire article, click here.

    Israel, August 20, 2019

    Multiple Trips Now Allowed Under STEP Visa

    • The STEP B-1 90-day work visa can now be split into more than one period, whereas previously only one STEP visa application could be filed per calendar year.
    • Employers can now send foreign nationals who may not meet the required salary threshold for a Hi-Tech Visa to Israel multiple times a year using the STEP visa, provided that the total number of days in Israel does not exceed 90 days in one calendar year.

    To view entire article, click here.

    United States, August 19, 2019

    EB-3 Unavailable Through September 30

    • EB-3 immigrant visa categories are immediately unavailable and will remain so through the remainder of fiscal year 2019.
    • USCIS should continue to accept EB-3 adjustment of status filings that are current in the Visa Bulletins for August and September.
    • Cases in unavailable categories or subject to backlogs cannot be approved until a visa number becomes available.

    To view entire article, click here.

    Weekly News Briefs

    Australia: Global Talent Independent Programme Announced – The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs announced a new program - the Global Talent Independent (GTI) programme - that will involve the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) recruiting up to 5,000 highly skilled migrants per year for Australia's high growth industries. The DHA will scout from several overseas locations, including Berlin, Dubai, Santiago, Shanghai, Singapore, and Washington, and will work with the world's top universities, professional associations and other institutions to market the GTI programme to exceptional candidates. Fragomen has provided input on the programme's design as part of the Industry Advisory Group (IAG) that has been advising the Minister and will provide further guidance about the new GTI programme when additional information is available.

    Ecuador: Visa Exemptions Revoked for Nationals of 11 Countries – Effective immediately, the Ecuadorian government has revoked visa exemptions for nationals of Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iraq, Libya, Sri Lanka, and Syria who enter Ecuador for tourism and business. Nationals of these countries must now obtain a consular Tourist/Business Visa to enter Ecuador, which typically allows an initial stay of 90 days, extendable in-country for an additional 90 days at the discretion of immigration authorities. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the visa requirement has been implemented in response to the unexpected increase in the number of nationals of these countries who have entered Ecuador and overstayed their allowed stay during the last few years.

    Israel: Processing Delay Expected Due to Holidays – Government application processing will likely be delayed between September 29, 2019 and October 22, 2019 due to the upcoming holiday season. All public offices in Israel will be closed September 29-30, October 1-2, 8-9 and 13-21 due to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkoth. No appointments can be scheduled for these dates. Israeli consulates will work with limited staff and reduced opening hours during these dates. Applicants should account for additional processing time and initiate processes in advance. Fragomen worked closely with Kan-Tor & Acco Law Firm to prepare this alert.

    Kenya: Work Permit Delays Expected Due to Tax Certificate Issuance Delays – Initial and renewal work permit applications are likely to be delayed for a prolonged period of time as the Kenya Revenue Authority is not issuing Tax Clearance Certificates (TCC). The TCC is a mandatory document that must be submitted with initial and renewal work permit applications; applications submitted without the TCC will be rejected. This delay will have a large impact on renewal applications as foreign nationals will be required to apply for a TCC farther in advance of their work permit expiration than the usual three months. The delay will have less of an impact on initial applications as employers are required to renew their TCC annually.

    Netherlands: New Startup Pilot Forthcoming In 2020 – A new pilot program is expected to be launched in 2020 which would help small startups hire skilled workers from outside the European Union who do not meet the minimum salary requirements necessary for a Highly Skilled Migrant permit in the Netherlands. Companies are likely to be required to file an application with the Dutch immigration authorities to use the pilot, and admission to the program would be based on innovative capital, financial capacity and shareholder structure. Companies intending to use the pilot may not have more than 15 employees and would only be able to hire five non-EU nationals under the pilot. It is likely that the lowest salary threshold of the skilled migrant scheme (EUR 2,364 per month) will apply. Further details, including the qualifying criteria and the draft legislation, are expected to be released between May-June 2020. Fragomen will continue to report on further developments.

    Saudi Arabia: Mandatory Registration Forthcoming for Employees in Finance and Accounting Professions – The Ministry of Labour and Social Development has issued a list of professions for which foreign nationals must register with the Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants before they can obtain approval for a work permit in Saudi Arabia, starting August 31, 2019. There are 19 affected job titles in finance and accounting, including general accountant; senior financial auditor; finance clerk; and director of financial reports department. The other professions are listed here. Registration is mandatory for those foreign nationals who renew their existing work permits, those who apply for new work permits, as well as those changing their job title to one on the list.

    Switzerland: Increased Schengen Fees Forthcoming – Starting February 2, 2020, Schengen visa fees to Switzerland will increase from EUR 60 to EUR 80 for adults. Switzerland will also introduce a mechanism to assess if visa fees need to change every three years. In addition, a series of changes to make the visa application process easier and more streamlined will be introduced. For example, multiple-entry visas with longer validity periods may become available for frequent travelers and additional provisions will be made for touring athletes and artists. Switzerland is the first Schengen Member State to raise fees for this visa type; other countries may also raise fees following the European Council's formal adoption of revised rules on Schengen visas earlier this year, which allows Schengen Member States to introduce more flexible procedures and increase the visa fee by EUR 20.

    United Kingdom: Official Migration Statistics Inaccurate – The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released the official Migration Statistics Quarterly Report for August 2019 (the report typically used by the UK government to formulate migration policy). However, the ONS has confirmed that it may have under-estimated levels of migration from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia; and over-estimated migration from outside the European Union. As a result, ONS statistics have been downgraded and reclassified as 'experimental' and further analysis of the correct figures is expected. The exact figures are not yet clear, but the ONS estimates that net migration until March 2019 may have been 16% higher than previously estimated. Although there is concern over the accuracy of previous figures, EU net migration has continued to decrease since 2016 as a result of Brexit, adding to employer concerns over staffing issues and labor shortages in the longer term. The government has not committed to the previous government's aim to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, suggesting that increased migration may be required to fill labor shortages after Brexit.

    This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.

    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.