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
DHS Considers Elimination of Approval of “Per Country” H-1B Extensions Past the Sixth Year of Status
Media reports indicate that the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) is considering new measures that would potentially reduce or eliminate certain H-1B extensions granted under the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000 (“AC21”). The AC21 extensions at issue are provided to H-1B workers in the permanent resident (“green card”) process who have completed their sixth year in H-1B status, but who are not yet able to obtain permanent resident status because of a per-country immigrant visa quota (including nationals of China, India, and the Philippines). For example, Indian nationals qualified in the employment-based second-preference (applicable to holders of advanced degrees and persons of exceptional ability) and third-preference (applicable to professionals and skilled workers) categories must wait approximately 9 and 11 years, respectively, for an immigrant visa to become available after submission of an application for PERM labor certification.
The Trump administration has not provided any statement in response to the media reports. There is accordingly no confirmation that DHS is planning to take action to restrict or eliminate the per-country exemption at this time.
China Approves Long-Term Visa for Certain Foreign Talent
In an effort to accommodate an increasing demand for foreign talent, the Chinese government recently announced that it will begin issuing long-term, multiple-entry visas to qualifying foreign nationals. Qualifying foreign nationals include scientists, technology leaders, multinational entrepreneurs, specialists, and highly skilled professionals.
The visas would be valid anywhere from 5 to 10 years, would allow a 180-day period of stay at a time, and would accommodate multiple entries. In addition, spouses and children would be eligible for dependent visas.
It is estimated that approximately 50,000 foreigners would benefit from the new talent visa.
Visa Processing Between Turkey and the United States Resumes
Following a stoppage in visa issuance between Turkey and the United States in October 2017, the two countries have recently announced that regular visa processing will resume. Effective immediately, Turkish and US consular posts will begin issuing nonimmigrant visas to US and Turkish nationals. The disruption in visa processing came after the US expressed concerns over the safety and security of its diplomats in Turkey. While diplomatic relations remain icy, visa processing has been incrementally restored, first in November and again now.
Italian Government Establishes Quota for Work Authorization Approvals
On December 15, the Italian government signed a decree limiting the number of work authorization approvals (“quotas”) that will be available in 2018 for foreign nationals seeking to work in Italy. The total number of work authorization approvals for 2018 is 30,850—the same number as last year.
In Italy, employment-based immigration is subject to a quota system fixed every year by means of a decree. For certain categories of workers, the decree puts in place a numerical limit for the number of foreign nationals allowed to apply for a work permit.
Of the 30,850 work authorization approvals, 18,000 are reserved for foreign nationals performing seasonal work; the remaining 12,850 approvals are reserved for a) foreign nationals who already possess an Italian residence permit (for example, students or seasonal workers) and who intend to convert it into a full-time work permit, b) foreign nationals who are self-employed in Italy, and c) special categories, such as South Americans with Italian ancestry or specially trained workers.
The decree will be effective after it is published in the Official Gazette, expected in mid-January.
Demand for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship Exceeds Annual Quota
In December 2017, for the first time in more than two years, demand for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship ("RCoS") exceeded the number available from the monthly quota. As a consequence, a significant number of RCoS applications from licensed sponsors were refused.
As part of the drive to reduce net migration and to limit demand for sponsored workers from outside the resident labor market, the UK government imposes an annual quota of 20,700 RCoS available to assign under Tier 2 (General) across all sponsor licenses.
The annual allocation of 20,700 is released in batches each month in order to spread availability throughout the year.
The RCoS scheme only applies to sponsored workers entering the United Kingdom from overseas on a "new hire" basis. The following categories of workers under Tier 2 are exempt from the RCoS arrangements: intra-company transferees; sponsored workers already in the UK under Tier 2 and applying for an extension or change of employer; and those who will be paid a salary in excess of a higher earner threshold (currently set at £159,600).
If demand exceeds supply, RCoS are allocated on the basis of a points-scoring matrix. A higher number of points will be awarded to jobs on the shortage occupation list, jobs in occupation codes requiring a Ph.D., jobs that meet provisions in the immigration rules for "new graduate" jobs or internships, jobs that are defined as key "public service occupations," and positions that offer the highest salaries.
Affected employers should consider whether the role is eligible for additional points in the sub-categories outlined above. Alternatively, employers may consider increasing salary offers, within any salary bands set out in external adverts, in order to have a greater chance of success.