Worldwide: Weekly Immigration Update: October 25-31, 2019

Last Updated: November 4 2019
Article by Fragomen  

In immigration news this week:

  • United States: Effective December 2, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is increasing the Form I-907 premium processing fee to $1,440, from $1,410. The State Department has updated its guidelines for adjudication of blanket L visa applications, instructing consular officers that blanket L visa applicants must demonstrate that their case is clearly approvable by "clear and convincing evidence." Under a U.S.-El Salvador agreement, work authorization for Salvadoran Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries will be extended through January 4, 2021. Fiscal year 2021 Diversity Visa lottery entrants have until November 5 at noon EST to register online at the State Department's official lottery website.
  • Australia: On November 16, the Australian government will implement several expansions to the regional migration program, including adding 2,000 spots to the program, adding a second Temporary Graduate Visa for regional international students, creating two new temporary regional visas, and expanding the definition of 'Regional Australia' to include Perth and the Gold Coast.
  • Germany: Employers can now prorate allowances—funds employers pay in addition to the salary—for all work permit types based on the number of days an employee spent in country.
  • Indonesia: A new Ministry of Manpower regulation expands and consolidates the lists of permitted job titles available to foreign workers, including those that were not included under previous individual decrees.
  • Saudi Arabia: Foreign nationals are unable to obtain short-term work authorization through a Work Visit Visa at this time, as the immigration authorities unexpectedly replaced Work Visit and Commercial Visit Visas with a uniform Visit Visa for Business.
  • China: Effective December 1, nationals of 53 countries who are already eligible under the 144-hour transit visa exemption will be eligible to enter through more ports of entry.

In Brexit news this week, on October 29, UK Parliament decided that a general election will be held on December 12, 2019. This follows this week's agreement between UK and EU government representatives to further postpone the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union until January 31, 2020.

These items and other news from Antigua and Barbuda, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Malawi, Namibia, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, and the United Kingdom follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

United States, October 31, 2019

State Department Clarifies Standard of Review for Blanket L Visa Applications

  • In new instructions to consular officers, the State Department reminds officers to require that blanket L visa applicants show their eligibility by "clear and convincing evidence" and directs officers to deny applications where questions about the applicant's eligibility cannot be resolved quickly.
  • Though blanket L visa applications have long been subject to a heightened standard of review, the new State Department guidance to consular officers could result in even greater scrutiny and higher rates of application denials.

To view entire article, click here.

Australia, October 31, 2019

Regional Visa Policy Expansion Ahead

On November 16, 2019, the Australian government will be implementing several expansions to the regional migration program including:

  • Adding 2,000 spots added to the program;
  • Expanding the definition of 'Regional Australia' to also include Perth and the Gold Coast;
  • Creating two new temporary regional visas; and
  • Improving Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visas for international students studying in regional areas.

To view entire article, click here.

Germany, October 31, 2019

Allowance Prorating Policy Expanded

  • Effective immediately, employers can prorate allowances for all work permit types based on the number of days an employee spent in Germany.
  • This should reduce costs for allowances since the previous policy required employers to pay an allowance throughout the whole duration of the assignment.

To view entire article, click here.

Thailand, October 31, 2019

Additional Documents Required to Renew and Extend Long-Term Visas

  • Immigration authorities at both the One Stop Service Center and the Immigration Bureau in Chaengwattana are requesting additional documentation to support long-term visa extensions and renewals.
  • Employers should ensure that they provide their foreign national employees with the required corporate documents as foreign nationals who do not provide these additional documents will have their applications denied.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, October 31, 2019

USCIS Clarifies That Premium Processing Fee Will Increase on December 2

  • The Form I-907 premium processing fee will increase to $1,440, from $1,410, on December 2.
  • Applications postmarked on or after the effective date of the change must include the higher fee.
  • USCIS originally announced a November 29 start date for the new fee, but has since issued a correction.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, October 30, 2019

Reminder: FY 2021 Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Ends November 5

  • Entrants have until Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at noon EST to register online at the State Department's official lottery website.
  • Lottery applications must conform to the State Department's strict requirements.

To view entire article, click here.

China, October 30, 2019

Transit Visa Exemption Policy to be Further Expanded

  • China will be expanding its 144-hour transit visa exemption policy to more ports and areas on December 1, 2019.
  • Under the policy, nationals of 53 countries who are already eligible under the transit visa exemption will be eligible for entry to more areas through more ports of entry.

To view entire article, click here.

Singapore, October 29, 2019

Stricter Educational Verification Requirements for Some Applicants

  • The Ministry of Manpower in Singapore has implemented stricter documentary requirements for foreign nationals applying for initial and renewal Employment Passes, S Passes and Training Employment Passes, which now require the verification of educational certificates in some cases.
  • Since the verification process may take up to a month, or longer in some cases, affected employers and applicants are advised to factor this extra time into their work authorization timeline for new and renewal applications.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, October 28, 2019

U.S.- El Salvador Agreement Results in 12-Month Extension of TPS Work Authorization

  • Work authorization for Salvadoran Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries will be extended through January 4, 2021 under the bilateral agreement.
  • The Administration has also agreed to provide Salvadoran TPS holders with at least 365 days to repatriate after the conclusion of lawsuits challenging its decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador and other countries.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is expected to provide further information on the work authorization extension.

To view entire article, click here.

Colombia, October 28, 2019

Degree Validation Process Streamlined

  • The Colombian Ministry of Education has published a resolution that reduces processing times and simplifies requirements for foreign nationals applying for validation of their foreign university degrees.
  • Foreign nationals with validated university degrees or degrees from accredited institutions will also benefit from new exemptions from administrative requirements.
  • Affected applicants should benefit from the elimination of administrative hurdles involved in obtaining documents from universities or institutions, and significantly reduced document gathering and government processing timeframes.

To view entire article, click here.

Indonesia, October 28, 2019

More Permissible Job Titles for Foreign Workers

  • The Indonesian Ministry of Manpower has issued a regulation expanding and consolidating the job titles available to foreign workers.
  • Employers should review the new regulation to ensure that their current and prospective foreign workers' job titles are in line with the lists.

To view entire article, click here.

Czech Republic, October 28, 2019

Consular Quotas Take Effect Alongside Changes to Streamline Immigration Processes

  • The Czech Republic has introduced an annual quota for business visas and Employee Cards from visa-required countries.
  • Although this change may reduce consular processing times, applicants will face longer overall waiting times once the quota is filled.
  • The law also streamlines application fee payments, simplifies the change of employer process and makes student/researcher permits more attractive, among other changes.

To view entire article, click here.

Saudi Arabia, October 28, 2019

Suspension on Work Visit Visas Restricts Foreign Nationals Seeking Short-term Work Authorization

  • Immigration authorities in Saudi Arabia have unexpectedly replaced Work Visit and Commercial Visit Visas with a uniform Visit Visa for Business, which states "not permitted to work" on the visa sticker.
  • As a result, foreign nationals are unable to obtain short-term work authorization in Saudi Arabia at this time, as the only method for doing so was through a Work Visit Visa.
  • It is unclear what, if any, impact there is for current Work Visit Visas holders whose visa was issued before the regulation came into effect.
  • Fragomen is discussing the impact of the change and potential solutions for short-term work with Saudi consular authorities and relevant ministries to determine, among other issues, which activities are permissible and prohibited under the uniform Visit Visa for Business.

To view entire article, click here.

Brexit News and Related News Briefs This Week

European Union/United Kingdom, October 28, 2019

Brexit Date Moved to January 31, 2020; United Kingdom Will Not Hold General Election

  • UK and EU government representatives agreed to further postpone the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union until January 31, 2020.
  • This could change if both the United Kingdom and the European Union ratify the Withdrawal Agreement before then. In that case, the United Kingdom would leave the European Union the first day of the following month.
  • During the extension, the United Kingdom will remain a member of the European Union and UK nationals will continue to benefit from the rights provided to EU nationals, meaning they will not need work permits to work in EU countries.
  • As a result of the extension, the UK Parliament has again rejected the Prime Minister's request for a general election on December 12, 2019.
  • Last week, the UK introduced legislation before Parliament to regulate entry to and stay in the United Kingdom for European Economic Area nationals which would go into effect in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The legislation specified that it would come into force on October 31, 2019, however this is highly unlikely since Brexit has been postponed.

To view entire article, click here.

Norway: Open-Ended Transition if No-Deal Brexit – Norwegian authorities have introduced an open-ended transition period for UK nationals and their family members in case of a no-deal Brexit. Under the new rules, UK national workers, self-employed persons and their family members maintain their current residence and work rights until the authorities introduce alternative measures.

United Kingdom: General Election to be Held December 12 – On October 29, UK Parliament decided that a general election will be held on December 12, 2019. This follows this week's agreement between UK and EU government representatives to further postpone the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union until January 31, 2020, and the rejection of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's most recent push for an early election, which he has been advocating for weeks. On the day of the election, the public will choose 650 constituents as members of Parliament.

Many other EU countries have published contingency plans for UK nationals in case of a no-deal Brexit, with more expected soon. Fragomen will provide updates on the situation as they become available.

Please contact a Fragomen immigration professional for assistance in planning contingency arrangements in a single project. For more information, please visit Fragomen's dedicated Brexit site, which contains news, FAQs, and analysis/commentary in the form of blogs, videos, webcasts and events.

Other Weekly News Briefs

Austria: Maximum Penalties Set for Employers Failing to Maintain Records – The Austrian Supreme Administrative Court has ruled that the recent European Court of Justice ruling regarding fines for employers who fail to maintain wage-related records must be interpreted to mean that the Austrian authorities may not impose minimum sentences or substitute custodial sentences related to these offences. As a result, employers in Austria who fail to maintain wage documents can be fined up to EUR 20,000, regardless of how many employees are affected; and up to EUR 50,000 for repeat offenses. It is expected that the Austrian legislator will soon change the law to allow for higher penalties. Fragomen will report updates to this law as they occur.

Belgium: Certain Residence Permit Holders May Qualify for Reimbursement of Government Fees – Following a Belgian court ruling which found certain government fees for initial residence registration in Belgium to be disproportionate, certain applicants who paid these fees may be eligible for reimbursements. Specifically, individuals who applied for residence authorization between March 2, 2015 and June 26, 2016 are eligible for a full reimbursement and individuals who applied between March 1, 2017 and January 2, 2019 are eligible for a partial reimbursement. All other applicants who applied in other timeframes are not eligible for reimbursements. Affected individuals are advised to consult with an immigration professional on their eligibility for reimbursement.

Canada: Value Test Forthcoming for Immigrants in Quebec – Starting January 1, 2020, immigrants and their accompanying family members seeking to settle in Quebec will be required to pass a provincial values test. Immigrants will need to take the test before or after they apply for a Quebec Selection Certificate to prove they have learned "democratic values and Quebec values". The Quebec Selection Certificate is the first step toward permanent residency for immigrants seeking to live in the province. Those who score less than 75% can re-take the test after two weeks. Those who fail it again can either take a course in Quebec or take the test a third time while forfeiting the opportunity to take the course. The test will not apply to immigrants seeking entry to Quebec as refugees or through family reunification.

Chile: Immigration Department Open but Delays Expected – Although Chile's Immigration Department in Santiago is currently open and functioning as usual, ongoing civil unrest continues to cause road closures and irregular operating hours for some governmental agencies, notary offices, banks, etc. Foreign nationals and employers can expect processing delays for immigration related applications until the situation normalizes. Fragomen continues to work with affected clients with case-by-case advice.

Egypt: Extended State of Emergency May Delay Residence Permit Processing – A state of emergency, which has been in place in Egypt since June 2018, was recently extended for an additional three months, through January 26, 2020. As a result, foreign nationals seeking employment and residency in Egypt should expect extensive security screening that may delay their immigration process. The security clearance is the first stage of the application process for work and residence permits.

Israel: Strike at Israeli Consulates Worldwide – Worldwide Israeli consular services are suspended as employees of all Israeli consular posts are on an indefinite strike. Applicants with consular applications should expect processing delays during and after the strike and should contact their immigration professional for case-by-case advice.

Kuwait: Visitor Visa Holders Can Now Change Status In Country – Effective immediately, foreign nationals holding Kuwaiti visitor visas are now able to change their immigration status in country and obtain residence permits without having to first exit Kuwait. Previously, foreign nationals who held visitor visas, including visas for tourism and those issued for dependents of Kuwaiti residents, were required to exit Kuwait and obtain a consular visa before returning to Kuwait to obtain residence status. The new rule will significantly reduce the time and cost to obtain residence status for foreign nationals on visitor visas in Kuwait. At this time, it is not yet clear if foreign nationals seeking employment in Kuwait are also allowed to change status in country. Fragomen will report on these details when they become available.

Malawi: E-Visa Program Launching – Effective November 1, 2019, foreign nationals traveling to Malawi for business and tourist purposes can obtain a visa through a new e-visa portal. The portal will allow applicants to submit the application, upload the required documents and pay government fees. Thereafter, applicants will be able to access their account and print their visa within three business days. The e-visa program is meant to make the issuance of business visas for Malawi more efficient as the process previously took seven to 10 business days to complete. Malawi is the 22nd African country out of 49 to implement an online portal for business visa applications.

Namibia: Visa-on-Arrival Now Available at Walvis Bay – Namibia has expanded its visa-on-arrival pilot project to include the seaport entry in Walvis Bay. Namibia previously expanded its visa-on-arrival program to include several new countries through a pilot project at Hosea Kutako International Airport. The Katimo Mulilo border post will be added to the pilot program at the end of November 2019, and more entry points are expected to be added in the first quarter of 2020. The visa-on-arrival is available for stays of up to 90 days for tourism or business activities.

Namibia: Committee Established to Streamline Visa Process – Due to growing demands for short-term employment visas in the Erongo Region of Namibia, the Ministry of Home Affairs has established an Immigration Selection Board Committee to adjudicate applications in this area. The Erongo Region is made up of Arandis, Daures, Karibib, Omaruru, Swakopmund, Walvisa Bay Rural and Walvis Bay Urban. The committee is expected to process work visas faster than the current seven to 28 calendar days, though it has not published the expected processing times. Fragomen will provide an update when more information is available.

Russia/Antigua and Barbuda: Reciprocal Visa Waiver Implemented – Effective immediately, nationals of Antigua and Barbuda are eligible for visa-free entry for tourist and business stays up to 90 days within a 180-day period to Russia and vice versa (though it is not clear if Russian nationals can perform business activities in Antigua and Barbuda). Travelers should check with their immigration professional for case-by-case advice.

Russia: New Address Registration Forms and Grounds for Refusal Confirmed – Foreign nationals completing address registration in Russia must now use new forms, according to a new regulation that eliminates the previously-used forms. The forms have new fields, including a confirmation that the foreign national has the right to use the premises. A related regulation also lists the grounds under which registration document can be refused by authorities, including failure to meet the requirements of the form, an expired identification document, and unreadable or corrected text on the form.

Russia: New Law Under Review Regarding Property Ownership and Registration – A new bill under review by the Duma would grant rights to foreign nationals who own property in Russia to register themselves and their family members under the address of the property. Currently, only highly qualified specialists and permanent residence permit holders have this right. The law would also allow the inviting party to send address registration notifications through a government internet portal (Gosuslugi.ru) instead of by mail; and would require inviting parties registering temporary residence permit and permanent residence permit holders to register the foreign national's address within seven business days from the date of arrival. Most importantly, the new bill would allow the inviting party for foreign nationals who live abroad who sign a lease with a Russian citizen to obtain a power of attorney to complete the responsibilities they would need to perform for the foreign national. Currently, landlords and inviting parties cannot complete registration with a power of attorney; a personal appearance is required or rights to complete registration must be granted to the foreign national. Fragomen will issue an update when these bills pass.

Russia: Bill to Introduce New Work Visa Category for Innovative Development Zone Workers – A bill is under review with the Duma that would introduce a new category of foreign workers – workers of special innovative socio-economic development zones in the Far Eastern Federal District and free port Vladivostok who are hired in relation to an investment agreement. The bill would allow foreign nationals seeking to enter Russia to conduct negotiations related to investment agreements with residents of the special innovative socio-economic development zones in the Far Eastern Federal District and free port Vladivostok to be eligible for expedited processing of work or business visas, with favorable terms such as longer validity periods and multiple-entry options, depending on the terms of the investment agreement. Fragomen will issue an update when the bill passes.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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