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

Proposed Legislation Would Ease Citizenship Requirements for International Students

  • On February 25, 2016, the Canadian Immigration Minister introduced legislation that would ease citizenship requirements for international students studying in Canada. First, the legislation would restore the ability of international students to count 50 percent of their time as a student toward the residency requirement for citizenship. Second, the legislation would reduce the physical residency requirement from four of the previous six years to three of the previous five years. A vote on the proposed legislation is expected by the end of this year.

2016 Target Immigrant Admissions Announced

  • On March 8, 2016, the Canadian government announced its 2016 target immigrant admissions. The 2016 plan calls for between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents, a 20,000 increase from 2015. The increase will accommodate a larger number of refugees and family reunifications.

United States

DHS Releases Final STEM OPT Rule

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the final STEM OPT rule in the Federal Register on March 11, 2016. The new rule takes effect on May 10, 2016. The major components of the final rule include the following:
    • Foreign students in a STEM field now qualify for an additional 24 months of OPT beyond the initial 12 months that all foreign students are eligible for upon graduation, for a total of 36 months. The previous rule granted foreign students in STEM fields an additional 17 months.
    • New reporting requirements for students, Designated School Officers and employers.
    • A requirement that the employer develop a training program for the foreign student.

Asia

South Korea

Tuberculosis Test Required for Certain Foreign Nationals

  • Foreign nationals residing in countries with a high risk of tuberculosis who apply for a long-term visa will now be required to submit a Certificate of Health as part of their application as proof that they are not infected. High-risk countries include Nepal, Russia, East Timor, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, India, Indonesia, China, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Thailand

Visa Overstay Will Lead to Ban from Re-Entry

  • The Ministry of Interior has issued an order that enhances the penalty for overstaying a visa.  Under the order, foreign nationals will be banned from re-entering the Kingdom of Thailand for one, three, five, or 10 years depending on the period of overstay and whether or the not the foreign national surrenders to the authorities or is arrested for the visa overstay.
  • Currently foreign nationals are only subject to a fine upon exit of up to 20,000 baht (appx. USD 570).

Middle East

Qatar

Additional Requirements for Legalizing Education Documents

  • The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instituted a new policy relating to its attestation of educational diplomas, a required step in the work permit process. Attestation requests must now include the diploma and a university letter confirming the diploma’s authenticity, both legalized by the Qatari embassy or consular in the country of issuance. Without this legalized university letter, the Qatari Ministry reserves the right to not accept the educational diploma.

Saudi Arabia

Stricter Penalties for Overstaying Visas

  • The General Directorate of Passports has announced that, going forward, it will impose harsher penalties for visa overstays in Saudi Arabia.  The new policy follows a “three strikes” approach and will include:
    • SAR 15,000 (appx. US$4,000) for a first violation;
    • SAR 25,000 (appx. US$6,700) and imprisonment for up to three months for a second violation; and
    • SAR 50,000 (appx. US$13,300) and imprisonment for up to six months for a third violation, followed by possible deportation and up to a five-year ban from entering the Kingdom for that third violation.

The General Directorate of Passports has the authority to impose harsher penalties if and as it deems fit (including for first time violations).  As such, this announcement by the General Directorate serves as a guide to practice, rather than as a statutory cap, on what penalties and other sanctions would be imposed for visa overstays in Saudi Arabia.