This Alert highlights recent developments in global immigration and employment law in Canada, Egypt, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Malaysia, Romania, Singapore, Turkey, United Kingdom and Vietnam.
Following the implementation of the Express Entry Program in January—a program aimed at fast-tracking the best and brightest applicants for permanent residency in Canada (for more information on the program, clickhere)—the first draw from the applicants' pool was held on January 31. All selected candidates have either a valid job offer with a Canadian company on the basis of a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or hold a Provincial Nomination in addition to meeting the language, education and skills requirements. Selected candidates have 60 days from January 31 to file their permanent residence applications.
In addition, effective February 21, work permit applications filed under categories that are exempt from LMIAs are facing new requirements aimed at increasing government scrutiny of LMIA-exempt work permits to the same level as in effect for LMIA-based work permits. As such, the employer filing for an LMIA-exempt work permit is required to complete an additional form and pre-file it with an additional $230 filing fee before the applicant can lodge his or her work permit application. The purpose of this new requirement is to ensure that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has information on file directly from the employer about the position. This information can then be used during future inspections by CIC or other government agencies to ensure that employers are compliant with the rules and requirements of the program.
To combat the unemployment rates in Egypt, the Ministry of Manpower is now enforcing a labor market test before employers can sponsor foreign nationals for work authorization in Egypt. Unlike in other countries where the sponsoring entity has to provide evidence of having concluded a labor market test, in Egypt, the ministry will handle the actual testing. Based on the job description provided, it will determine if a local worker can fill an open position. Details on how the ministry will test the local labor market and on the time frame to conduct this test are as of yet unknown.
The German authorities are increasing their efforts to enforce compliance with work and residence permit regulations. This is evidenced by several actions. There is a noticeable increase in the volume of site visits by the authorities during which employers are asked to evidence the legal work and residence status of their employees. Meanwhile, additional scrutiny during extension applications has focused on remuneration inconsistencies. Extension applications where it is not apparent that the employee was paid full remuneration as disclosed on the original application are being denied. Applications for an extension where the offered wage during the extension period is lower than during the initial work permit period are firmly challenged.
Effective January 15, the Hong Kong Government has suspended the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES) until further notice. The authorities clarified that CIES, which was implemented in 2003 when Hong Kong's economy was in recession, was aimed at attracting new capital to stimulate economic growth. In view of the latest economic situation in Hong Kong, attracting capital investment entrants is no longer the country's priority. Instead, the focus in Hong Kong, as elsewhere, is on attracting talent, professionals and innovative entrepreneurs to contribute to the country's economy. In this regard, the authorities have started implementing measures to relax the immigration policy that attaches to the various employment-based work permit processes. For more details on these measures, the authorities have prepared a FAQ document.
Effective January 9, the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Card has usurped the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Card, resulting in the use of one card only. The change has broadened the scope of eligible applicants for the OCI card to include categories that were originally eligible only for the PIO card. Those currently holding PIO cards are deemed to hold OCI cards, and OCI benefits extend automatically.
After suspending the program in December 2014, Israel has reinstated its Short Employment Authorization (SEA) program by which qualified employees may be issued a 30-day (in aggregate over a 12-month period) work permit. The program reinstatement is for a six-month trial period. Open to visa-waiver nationalities only, any foreign national issued an SEA permit will still also need to apply for a B-1 work visa through the Ministry of Interior within 48 hours of arrival in Israel.
A rapid issuance of news alerts has commenced following back-to-back releases by the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) governing the development of Multimedia Super Corridor-Malaysia (MSC Malaysia) vis-à-vis Employment Pass validity and Dependent Pass eligibility for family members of those employees working at MSC-status companies with a salary of less than 5,000 RM per month. Employment passes for employees paid less than 5,000 RM per month are capped at a total of six years—an initial grant of two years with the option of two two-year extensions. New applications adjudicated starting January 1 leave limited options for applicants with dependents as the employment pass holder can no longer sponsor his family for dependent passes.
Romanian authorities both released their annual work permit quota for non-EU employees—set at 5,500 with an internal allocation to the various work permit categories—and have started to enforce the requirement that employers must register non-EU employees with the Romanian Labor Authorities prior to their starting work. Non-compliance with the registration requirement may lead to the employer's being barred from sponsoring non-EU nationals for work authorization in the country.
Starting March 16, foreign nationals must await the issuance of their Employment Pass (EP) and notification letter before being eligible to start work. This is a departure from the current practice where the beneficiary of an EP application can start while the EP and notification letter are still pending.
Turkey's Assembly Maintenance and Service (AMS) visas (used by those engaged in the assembly, maintenance and service of equipment/products sold to a company in Turkey by the visa holder's employer) are now available for multiple-entry as opposed to a single-entry stay. The permitted stay of an aggregate of 90 days within a year has not changed.
Starting in March 2015 and to be fully rolled out by July 31, the UK is implementing a new procedure by which non-EEA nationals seeking to enter the UK for more than six months will be required to apply for and collect a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) after arriving into the country. Currently applicants are issued Entry Clearances (visas) for the proposed length of stay. The change will start with applicants no longer being issued full-length Entry Clearances, but rather a 30-day valid travel "vignette," and will require the applicants to collect their BRP within 10 days from arrival in the UK from a pre-selected local post office. Though this move will bring the UK in line with EU law, these changes will likely affect employers conducting mandatory right-to-work checks.
The government has advised employers to encourage foreign employees to collect their BRP card before they commence work, to remove the need for an additional right-to-work check—however, in practice, this may prove challenging where an employee is urgently required to commence employment prior to collecting their BRP.
In addition, Tier 1 General status holders should be aware that effective April 6, they are no longer eligible to apply for an extension under this category. This is the date that the Tier 1 General category will officially close. Tier 1 General status holders will have until April 5 to file for a last extension under this category. Those eligible to file for an extension may apply for an additional three-year term. This additional term then coincides as well with the deadline that eligible Tier 1 General status holders have to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) under this status.
Current Tier 1 General status holders who will become ineligible for further extensions and/or cannot apply for ILR should consider the ramifications to their status in the UK when their status expires.
A recent change in Vietnam's visa issuance regulation is requiring business travelers to apply for and obtain their multiple-entry business visas through the Vietnamese Consulate prior to travel. Visas issued at the port-of-entry are for tourism purposes only. The change in the regulations is not affecting work permit holders who are not eligible for a residence permit to extend their multiple-entry business visas in-country.