Recent developments regarding immigration across the globe include changes to temporary and permanent resident application procedures in Canada, an increase in the minimum salary for S Pass applicants in Singapore, and the Migration Advisory Committee’s published report of recommendations for immigration in the United Kingdom, among others.
Minimum Salary Raised for S Pass Applicants
As of January 1, 2020, the minimum qualifying salary for S Pass applicants was increased from SGD 2,300 to SGD 2,400. Current S Pass holders whose status will expire before June 30, 2020, may renew their passes based on the previous salary requirement, but as of July 1, 2020, renewals will be subject to the higher salary requirement.
Foreign Knowledge Worker Projections for 2020
Companies registered with the Expatriate Services Division (ESD) in Malaysia are now able to apply for their 2020 Foreign Knowledge Worker (FKW) projection for Employment Passes (EP) and Professional Visit Passes (PVP) for this year. The FKW projection processing time is around 5-10 business days, and companies may not submit any new EP or PVP applications to the ESD until the projection has been approved. Please note that a current unused balance from 2019 projection cannot be carried over into the new calendar year.
Transfer of Endorsement
An FKW or dependent who holds a valid Employment Pass, Dependent Pass, or Long-Term Special Pass is now required to transfer his/her endorsement immediately after obtaining a new passport. Transfer of Endorsement (TOE) is not required for renewal, change of designation/position, or change of employer processes, if the pass will expire within seven days.
Failure to carry out a TOE may lead to issues at ports of embarkation, and in some cases, pass holders will not be allowed to exit the country until completing the TOE procedure.
Special Pass Application Payment Update
All fees in connection with Special Pass applications filed with Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) must be in bank draft form. Cash is no longer acceptable.
New Restrictions Affecting PRC Nationals Holding Passports with Nine-Dash Lines Map
Sometimes referred to as the 10-dash line or the 11-dash line, the nine-dash line refers to the undefined vaguely located line of separation used by the governments of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan for their claims of the major part of the South China Sea. In light of the ongoing turbulence between Vietnam and the PRC regarding territorial disputes in the South China Sea, PRC nationals with the nine-dash lines map in their passports applying for Vietnamese work permits and local police clearance certificates in Hanoi have faced issues. Some PRC nationals with the nine-dash line map have been refused work permits at the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs in Hanoi. Others have been refused local police clearance certificates for work permit purposes by the Department of Justice. While these new restrictions could be temporary, they are unpredictable in nature.
Visa Nationals No Longer Eligible for Hi-Tech Visa Process
Visa nationals can no longer apply for a one-year Hi-Tech (HIT) B-1 work visa under the fast-track process. Accordingly, visa nationals working for high-tech companies must apply under the traditional B-1 Foreign Expat visa process, which takes significantly longer.
Visa nationals with pending HIT visa applications will have their applications automatically redirected and adjudicated under the traditional, lengthier process. Visa nationals who currently possess HIT visas can remain on these visas until their expiration, but will not qualify for extensions under the fast-track process. Employers can expect delays in start dates due to the additional time required to obtain the visa.
Additionally, spouses of visa nationals are no longer eligible to apply for or extend their Employment Authorization for Spouse (EAS) B-1 work visa, and must obtain work authorization based on their own eligibility.
Migration Advisory Committee Report
In June 2019 the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was commissioned to review the Australian system and other international comparators to determine best practices for a post-Brexit UK immigration system. The MAC is an independent, nondepartmental public body sponsored by the UK Home Office that advises the government on migration issues.
The MAC has now published its report; key recommendations follow:
Tier 2 (General)
- Retain the existing framework for Tier 2 (General) for migrants with a job offer in the United Kingdom
- Remove the Resident Labour Market test
- Expand Tier 2 (General) to include medium-skilled occupations (RQF3+)
- Remove the annual limit on new entrants (currently set at 20,700 per year divided into monthly allocations)
- Reduce the minimum salary from £30,000 to around £25,600
- Exclude allowances and bonuses from the salary threshold
- Retain a single national salary threshold rather than introducing regional salary thresholds
- The minimum salary for new entrants’ should be a 30% reduction applied across both the general experience worker threshold and the occupation-specific threshold as set out in the relevant code of practice (if the general minimum salary were set to £25,600, the new entrant threshold would be £17,900)
- The salary rate should apply for five years (an extension from the current three year entitlement)
- Widen the definition to include individuals who are working toward recognized professional qualifications and who are moving directly into postdoctoral positions
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
- Pause the proposed annual increases to the minimum salary threshold required for an ILR application
- Review the requirements for settlement to establish a clearer picture of how it is currently working and possible changes that could be made
New Points-Based System
- Modify the current Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category to focus more on exceptional promise and remove the requirement for endorsement from a governing body
- Retain an overall annual cap on visas issued in this category
- The route should operate on an expression of interest basis, creating a pool of migrants interested in coming to the United Kingdom; there should be a monthly draw from this pool with those selected invited to submit a full application
- The selection of those invited to apply should be based on those who have the highest number of points in the pool using a points-based system with tradeable points (including a minimum number of points)
- Points should be given for characteristics that the government wants to attract through this route and for whom other routes are not suitable
- Characteristics that the government might want to consider in assigning points are:
- Qualifications (with a rigorous process to assess the quality—not just level—of qualifications)
- Extra points for having studied in the United Kingdom
- Priority areas such as STEM and creative skills
- Introduce a pilot visa to attract foreign talent to “remote” areas, i.e., lower salary thresholds
- Review whether the Shortage Occupation List is necessary after the new immigration system has been fully introduced
The UK Home Office will now consider these recommendations and is expected to publish a White Paper in March 2020 setting out policy guidelines for the new immigration system. The new immigration system is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2021.
Poland Joins US Visa Waiver Program
Polish nationals who intend to visit the United States for the purposes of tourism or business are now eligible to apply for a visa waiver through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The ESTA application is an online-based application requiring the traveler’s passport and other personal information, in addition to payment of a US $14 fee for processing. An ESTA application can take up to 72 hours to process, and if approved, the foreign national is eligible to travel to the United States for 90 days or less for the purposes of tourism or business. ESTA approvals are normally granted for two years or until the date the foreign national’s passport expires, whichever comes first. If the foreign national obtains a new passport, a new ESTA approval is required before traveling.
Immigration Quotas Announced
The Czech government can now set a maximum number of visa applications for business purposes, long-term residence permits for investment purposes, or employee cards. The change comes after an amendment to the Act on the Residence of Aliens. The quotas are set by the government regulation and utilization of the quotas can be found on the respective embassies’ websites.
Skilled Immigration Act to Come into Force on March 1, 2020
Germany’s Skilled Immigration Act will come into force on March 1, 2020, facilitating international hiring and immigration for non-EU highly skilled workers.
Third-country nationals are eligible for skilled employment residence/work permits if they hold recognized university degrees or vocational training and have concrete job offers in Germany on domestic employment contracts for skilled jobs that their qualifications enable them to do. A job offer cannot offer less favorable working conditions than for comparable domestic employees, and the national must hold a professional license if the job requires it.
2020 Salary Thresholds Announced
The Belgian 2020 annual gross salary thresholds for non-EEA and non-Swiss employees to obtain work authorization have been published. The salary thresholds are relevant for work permits (up to 90 days) and single permits (more than 90 days). For the Brussels’ Region and the Walloon Region they are as follows:
- Highly skilled employees: EUR 42,869 gross
- European Blue card: EUR 55,431 gross
- Leading personnel: EUR 71,521 gross
- Artists: EUR 35,761 gross
The Flemish Region has not yet published its 2020 annual gross salary thresholds.
Upcoming Changes to the Corporate Immigration Regime
The Irish government has recently introduced new legislation to consolidate the existing employment permit system and facilitate greater flexibility in the labor market. Key provisions of the bill include the following:
- A Seasonal Employment Permit to facilitate recurrent and short-stay employment in the tourism, horticulture, and farming sectors
- A Special Circumstances Employment Permit to cover roles that do not fit into the existing employment permit system, but that would be socially or economically beneficial to Ireland
- Amendments to the existing Labour Market Needs Test
- Waiving of the 50:50 rule for sole employees, though the employer must demonstrate efforts made to first recruit from within Ireland and the EEA
- Streamlining of the Trusted Partner and renewal application processes
- A refund of fees where the permit cannot be taken up
- Simplification of the requirements and definition of “remuneration”
Introduction of Pilot Scheme for Startup Companies
The conditions of the current Knowledge Migrant scheme in the Netherlands can be difficult for startup companies to satisfy, i.e., the salary threshold for employees. The Dutch government has therefore announced that it intends to relax the rules for startups by introducing a new pilot scheme. The conditions of the pilot scheme are set out below:
- The startup can have a maximum of 15 employees, and no more than five of these employees may be non-EU nationals.
- The financial capacity of the company must not yet be able to bear the salary levels required for a Knowledge Migrant employee. The financial capacity of the company, including any investments it has received, and the employee salaries will be reviewed.
- A salary threshold of EUR 2,364 gross per month, increased with 8% holiday allowance, will apply.
- Non-EU national employees must participate in the share capital of the startup (e.g., through stock options, depositary receipts of shares, or nonvoting shares).
- There will be no specific education requirements to be able to benefit from the pilot procedure.
- The pilot is intended to start in the summer of 2020 and last for three years.
Increased Government Filing Fees for 2020
The Dutch Immigration Department has increased the government filing fees for visa and residence permit applications in the Netherlands from 1 January 1 2020.
Changes to Temporary and Permanent Resident Application Procedures
On December 3, 2019, the final phase of Canada’s biometrics collection program was put into place, allowing applicants applying from within Canada to provide their biometrics in-country. Foreign nationals applying from within Canada for temporary or permanent residence, or to extend or renew a visitor visa, work permit, or study permit, will now be able to provide their fingerprints and have their photograph taken at one of 58 designated collection locations across Canada. Applicants applying from outside of Canada may continue to provide their biometrics at any one of the 160 visa application centers around the world.
Foreign nationals who are reaching six months of residence in Argentina are now required to provide noncriminal records from the countries in which they have resided for at least one year in the last three years. This is applicable for transitory residence extension applications. The noncriminal records must be apostilled in the countries in which the records were issued. This process can be lengthy and foreign nationals are advised to start this process as soon as possible.
Changes to Application Process
All Permanent Residence applications must now be submitted online through the Department of Foreign Affairs website. This excludes applications for citizens of Brazil, China, Cuba, Haiti, and Peru who must submit applications in person at “Chile Atiende” offices.
All Permanent Residence applications must include noncriminal record certificates.
Foreign nationals can now request Permanent Residence certificates online by using their registration code received from the Department of Foreign Affairs. If the registration code has not been received, it can be requested from the Civil and Registration Service office.
Chile has also introduced an online application system for certain types of visa extensions. Applications for Mercosur Temporary Visa and Democratic Responsibility Visa for Venezuelan citizens can be submitted online through the Department of Foreign Affairs website. An extension can be requested only once, and can be granted for one year.
Australian citizens traveling to Chile for tourism purposes are now required to secure visas through a Chilean consulate/embassy prior to traveling to Chile. The visa allows stays of up to 90 days.
New regulations have amended the Colombian immigration regime, including introducing new categories of entry and stay, biometric ID for Colombians, and a Border Mobility Card for citizens of neighboring countries.
Resolution 3167 of 2019 introduces new regulations regarding the entry of foreigners into the country, and came into effect on December 1, 2019. Key changes include the following:
- New classification of entry and stay permits, as well as amended scope of permissible activities
- The implementation of the Border Mobility Card for foreign nationals from neighboring countries as an alternative travel document to the passport
- The implementation of the CAN-MERCOSUR Electronic Migration Card as an alternative travel document to the passport
- The implementation of Biometrics authentication (BIOMIG) for Colombian nationals
- The advantages of visa-free entry for nationals of the MERCOSUR, CAN, and Pacific Alliance countries have been extended to foreign nationals who have permanent residence in those countries
New Online Registration Requirements for Foreign Nationals
Beginning December 27, 2019, all foreign nationals entering Peru for any purpose must update and validate their personal data that was registered with the National Superintendence of Migrations, in addition to providing additional information or documents as requested by the government.
This new requirement also applies to all foreign nationals who were in Peru prior to the rule being implemented or those who are not registered, including Venezuelan citizens who have applied for, or have obtained, a Temporary Residence Permit (PTP).
Registrations may be reviewed and updated by entering the individual’s passport information. Failure to update and verify this information may result in penalties.
Changes to Application Fees
Effective January 1, 2020, Mexico’s Ministry of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación) and the National Immigration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM)) published new government fees for immigration procedures for foreign nationals/expatriates.
The fees published by the Ministry of the Interior and the INM are as follows: