Mayer Brown’s Global Directions is a summary of recent immigration and mobility trends arising in key jurisdictions around the globe. This high-level overview alerts recipients to select changes in law and practice that may affect their global mobility programs.

Americas

United States: US Department of State Proposes Eliminating Visa Page Insert Service

  • The United States Department of State proposed elimination of its visa page insert service, posting a notice in the Federal Register. The proposed service elimination would take effect January 1, 2016, coinciding with the introduction of the Next Generation Passport. The comment period ends June 29, 2015.
  • The Next Generation Passport will include updated security features designed to protect US passports against fraud and misuse. An interagency working group determined that visa page inserts may reduce the effectiveness of the new enhanced security features on the Next Generation Passports.
  • In order to reduce the need for visa page inserts, the Department of State began issuing 52-page passports to all overseas applicants at no additional cost in October 2014. Domestic applicants may request a 52-page passport on the application form at no additional charge.

Asia

China: Shanghai To Introduce New Programs and Lower Entry Threshold for Foreign Nationals

  • The Ministry of Public Security announced the introduction of 12 new programs, effective July 1, 2015, that are designed to attract foreign talent to Shanghai. The programs lower the entry and exit thresholds for foreign nationals.
  • Foreign nationals who qualify under these new programs will receive preferential treatment in the processing of their visa and residence permit applications, as well as exit and entry convenience. Other benefits will include extended visa validity for foreign entrepreneurs.

Europe

Italy: Online Filing Required for Certain Citizenship Applications

  • Beginning June 18, the following types of citizenship applications may only be submitted online: residency, marriage for Italian residents and residents abroad, and employment with the Italian government for residents abroad. Applications for citizenship based on ancestry will continue to be processed in hard copy.
  • Applicants must first register with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which administers the online system, and may file an application as soon as they meet the eligibility and document requirements.
  • The new online system is expected to reduce the long waiting periods to secure an appointment with the Consulate or Municipality.

United Kingdom: Number of Restricted Certificates Limited

  • Effective June, UK Visas and Immigration has limited the number of restricted certificates of sponsorship that will be available each month. Restricted certificates must be obtained for each foreign worker in the Tier 2 (General) category who is paid less than £153,500 per year.
  • For the month of June, only 1,658 restricted certificates are available, and applicants will be evaluated on a points scale of 32 to 105. Those applications having a higher point value are more likely to be approved.
  • If an employer’s restricted certificate application is not approved due to the limited number available, the employer will need to submit a new application the following month.

Middle East

Qatar: Abolition of Residence Permit Labels in Passports

  • Effective June 15, 2015, foreign nationals will no longer be issued residence permit labels affixed in their passports. These residence permit labels will be replaced by new Residence Cards.
  • The new Residence Card will also serve as an identity card, and will include both a photo and biometric information of the card holder.
  • The same application documentation previously required for a residence permit label will be accepted for residence card applications.

Regional: Ramadan Begins

  • Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic calendar, begins after sundown June 17. During Ramadan, government and business working hours will be reduced across all Muslim countries. This will result in longer processing times for work permit or visa applications filed with various government ministries or departments. Employers are advised to plan accordingly and build in additional lead time for securing government approvals.