In these global immigration updates, we provide brief details on key changes to immigration rules in global jurisdictions.

Please note that all immigration rules are subject to change and whilst correct at the time of publication, they should not be relied upon as legal advice or a statement of accuracy at a later date.

Europe

BELGIUM – COMBINED SINGLE WORK PERMIT IMPLEMENTED ON 1 JANUARY 2019 

From 1 January 2019, non-EEA nationals only need to apply for one permit if they wish to work and reside in Belgium for longer than 90 days. This new combined procedure simplifies and speeds up the administrative process, and reduces the current unequal treatment between non-EEA and EU employees by establishing a common set of rules.

The single permit is a document authorising work and residence for more than 90 days. The applicant’s future employer must apply to the competent Region for a single application for a work permit and a request for authorisation to work. The current application system will continue to apply for non-EEA nationals wishing to work or reside for less than 90 days.

Employers are advised to factor in additional time for delays caused by the new system, especially as employees cannot commence work until their single permit has been issued. 

North America

UNITED STATES – UPDATES TO THE H1-B VISA APPLICATION PROCESS 

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last month announced plans for a new H1-B visa application process for speciality workers.  

Under the proposed amendments, employers will have to register candidates online for a H1-B visa two weeks before the application deadline of 1 April. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will first randomly select the required number of applications to meet the 85,000 visa cap. Employers then have 60 days to submit a full H1-B visa application for the candidates they have registered online. USCIS will then select 65,000 visas from the cumulative pool of regular as well as advance degree holder applicants (those with a master’s degree or higher). The remaining 20,000 applications would be processed and issued to applicants with an advance degree.  

There are fears that this new policy change will favour advance degree holders, which some believe could lead to a hit on IT companies’ profitability. 

The DHS has not set a launch date for this new process.

COSTA RICA – DECREE SIGNED TO DIRECT GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TO GUARANTEE EQUAL RIGHTS TO SAME-SEX COUPLES 

Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court has ruled that same-sex marriage will be legalised by 26 May 2020. Following this ruling, President Carlos Alvarado signed a decree directing government agencies to guarantee equal rights to same-sex couples, including for immigration purposes.

The General Directorate of Immigration concluded a public consultation to recognise foreign same-sex partners of Costa Rican citizens whose relationship is legally recognised in their country of origin. This recognition of foreign same-sex relationships will benefit LGBT employees seeking to work and live in Costa Rica with their partner or spouse.

Asia-Pacific

NEW ZEALAND – GOVERNMENT AIMS TO SIMPLIFY TEMPORARY WORK VISA SYSTEM 

The New Zealand Government have recently announced that it is consulting on proposed changes to employer assisted temporary work visa settings, as a result of record unemployment rates. This will ensure that work visas issued reflect genuine regional skill shortages and should streamline the process and make it easier for employers to fill any job gaps.

The consultation, which is open until 18 March 2019, will look at:

  • Introducing a new employer-led temporary work visa system, which will include checks for employers, jobs and migrants;
  • Introducing sector agreements for sectors heavily reliant on low skilled migrant workers; and
  • Replacing the Essential Skills in Demand Lists with Regional Skills Shortage Lists by April 2019.

The proposals could mean that employers would have a higher responsibility to provide information when employing migrant workers. Employers would also have to meet new accreditation and labour market testing standards in order to process temporary work visas.

The proposals are open for public consultation over the next two months and the final decisions will be announced by mid-2019.

SINGAPORE – NEW WORK PASS INTRODUCED 

The Ministry of Manpower in Singapore has introduced a new work pass called the Pre-Approved Letter of Consent (‘PLOC’).

The PLOC allows eligible Long Term Visit Pass holders (LTVP/LTVP+) to work in Singapore without first having to find a job. Applicants will need to be a spouse or unmarried child (under 21 years old) of a Singaporean or permanent resident. Foreign nationals who are eligible to apply for a LTVP/LTVP+ will also be able to apply for a PLOC at the same time. The duration of the PLOC will be the same as the LTVP/LTVP+, and you can renew the PLOC when renewing your LTVP/LTVP+.

If you are not eligible to apply for a PLOC, then you will need a Letter of Consent if you wish to work in Singapore.