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

Canada: Open Work Permit Program Extended for Spouses and Common Law Partners

  • The one-year pilot program allowing spouses and common law partners to apply for an open work permit while their application for permanent residence is pending has been extended through December 22, 2016. In order to be eligible for an open work permit, a spouse or common law partner must hold valid temporary resident status and reside at the same address as their spouse or partner.
  • Spouses and common law partners who received open work permits under the pilot program in 2015 may renew their work permits in 2016. A work permit extension application must be submitted before the current permit expires.

United States: Visa Waiver Program Changes Become Law

  • Effective December 18, 2015, changes to the Visa Waiver Program became law when President Obama signed the omnibus spending bill. Under the amendments, individuals who in the past five years have traveled to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan or any other country designated by the Department of State as supporting terrorist activities are now ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program. This restriction does not apply to individuals who traveled to these countries as part of the military or in an official capacity as an employee of a Visa Waiver Program country government.
  • Dual nationals who are citizens both of a Visa Waiver country and of either Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan are now also ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program.
  • Countries that do not adhere to new security and screening processes may be suspended from participating in the program.

Asia

Australia: Review of Subclass 457 Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold

  • On December 23, 2015, the Ministry of Immigration and Border Protection announced a review of the Subclass 457 Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT). The threshold defines the minimum salary for jobs that may be filled by a subclass 457 visa holder in an effort to protect Australian workers and ensure that the visa holders are undertaking skilled employment.
  • The review is expected to be concluded by the end of April 2016. Until the conclusion of the review, the current TSMIT of AU$53,900 will be retained.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong/France Working Holiday Scheme Quota Increased

  • Effective January 1, 2016, the reciprocal annual quota for the Hong Kong/France Working Holiday visas will be increased from 400 to 500. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 30 and hold a valid Hong Kong or British National Overseas passport. The program allows applicants to stay in France for up to 12 months, during which time they may work for no more than six months with the same employer or engage in short-term courses lasting up to six months.

Europe

Czech Republic: Amendments to the Act on Residence of Foreign Nationals

  • Effective December 18, 2015, the following amendments to the Act on Residence of Foreign Nationals took effect:
    • Long term visas may now be issued for up to one year;
    • Applications for the extension of a long term visa or long term residence permit may be submitted up to 120 days before the end of the current validity period;
    • The temporary residence permit becomes invalid if an extension is not filed by the last day of its validity; and
    • An application for a change of employer or job submitted within 30-120 days prior to the end of current validity period will also be considered an application for the extension of the employee card.

France: New Regulations on Employers with Posted Workers

  • Effective December 4, 2015, French authorities may suspend international service agreements if posted workers’ fundamental rights related to wages, hours, working conditions and accommodations are found to have been violated. Serious violations may result in the suspension of business operations and potential fines of up to €10,000 per violation.

Netherlands: New Income Requirements For Residence Permits

  • Effective January 1, 2016, there are new minimum income requirements to qualify for a residence permit. Highly skilled workers over the age of 30 must have a monthly income of at least €4,240. Highly skilled workers under the age of 30 must have a monthly income of at least €3,108. Highly skilled workers who have recently graduated must have a minimum monthly income of €2,228 and European Blue Card holders must have a minimum monthly income of €4,968.
  • These monthly income requirements do not include the holiday allowance.

Middle East

Israel: New Regulations for the Employment of Foreign Experts, B-1 Work Permits and Changes to Processing Fees

  • New regulations have been published regarding the employment of foreign experts. The maximum validity period for the initial period of employment has been increased to two years. Foreign experts, however, must maintain a bank account in Israel and receive their salary through direct deposit into that bank account.
  • Individuals who qualify to participate in Israel’s visa waiver program will now need to undergo a medical exam and obtain a police clearance prior to the issuance of a B-1 work visa. The regulations include a stipulation that persons suffering from or carrying AIDS are inadmissible to Israel on medical grounds.
  • Processing fees for foreign expert visas, work permits and B-1 visas have all be reduced. The annual foreign expert fee is now NIS 9,5000; the work permit application fee is now NIS 1,190; and the B-1 visa processing fee is now NIS 350.

Qatar: Changes to Driver’s License Conversion Policy

  • Effectively immediately, the Qatari Traffic Department will no longer convert the driver’s license of expatriates from other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries into Qatari licenses. Only citizens of the GCC will be eligible to convert their licenses. The GCC is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Further, direct driving tests will no longer be available for holders of licenses from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, Egypt, Somalia, Mauritania, Sudan, Ghana, Eritrea, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia and North Korea. Holders of driver’s licenses from these countries will now be required to take at least a half course at a Qatari driving school and pass all the required tests.