May 2021 Global Immigration Alert

Seyfarth Shaw LLP
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[co-author: Ryann Stout]

Please note: while we address some country-specific updates related to the COVID-19 outbreak, the below contains information regarding global restrictions and closures as they stand today. Given the constantly changing nature of this situation, we highly recommend reviewing any global mobility inquiries on a case-by-case basis, including any consulate-specific or immigration authority resources, in “real-time” before traveling internationally. Please reach out to our Global Mobility Team in advance of any international travel.

Canada - New Travel Restriction and Immigration Regulation Updates

COVID Based Travel Restrictions: Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases and concerns about COVID-19 variants, the Canadian federal government has recently imposed a 30-day ban on all direct passenger flights from India and Pakistan to Canada. Air passengers who depart from India or Pakistan, but arrive in Canada via a third country, will need to produce a negative COVID-19 molecular test result taken at their last point of departure prior to boarding their flight to Canada.

Pathway to Permanent Residence: Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada has announced a pathway to permanent residence for essential workers and international graduates who are already in Canada and intend to reside outside the Province of Québec. The focus of this new pathway will be on temporary workers employed in healthcare professions, or other pre-approved essential occupations, as well as international graduates who have completed an eligible Canadian post-secondary program.

Québec Pilot Program: Immigration, Francisation et Intégration Québec has introduced a new immigration pilot program for workers in artificial intelligence (IA) information technology (IT), and visual effects (VFX) who want to become permanent residents. The pilot program targets AI, IT, and VFX workers who are either currently employed in Québec or who have a job offer from a Québec employer. This program includes a stream for French-speakers and a stream for non-French-speakers. This pilot program is designed to help Québec meet its labor force demands. Successful applicants will be able to apply for Canadian permanent resident status along with their accompanying family members.

EU Council - Guidelines for Technical Specifications

In March the EU Commission had proposed the implementation of a “Green Certificate” to facilitate travel within the EU. On April 22, 2021 Member State representatives in the eHealth Network agreed on guidelines describing the main technical specifications for the implementation of the system. This is a crucial step for the establishment of the necessary infrastructure at the EU level. In parallel the Member States are encouraged to implement the required technical solutions at the national level. The EU Commission points out that it is of utmost importance to move forward with the technical implementation as well so that roll-out of the Digital Green Certificates across the EU may be possible by June 2021.

The agreed technical specification covers data structure and encoding mechanisms, including the QR code, which will ensure that all certificates, whether digital or on paper, may be read and verified across the EU.

The guidelines also describe the EU gateway. Set up by the Commission, it will allow sharing of electronic signature keys so that the authenticity of Digital Green Certificates may be verified across the EU. No personal data of certificate holders will pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary for the verification. Please see further details here.

France - New Requirements for Certain Non-EU Travelers

New travel requirements for travelers from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, and India are now in place for France. Travelers from these countries will face stricter requirements in order to obtain travel certificates for “compelling reasons.” These measures are implemented in order to reinforce the French authorities’ discouragement of non-essential travel and to limit travel from designated “high risk” countries. Please see here for more information.

South Korea - Electronic Travel Authorization System

A new Electronic Travel Authorization system, called K-ETA, will begin its pilot testing period on May 3, 2021. Travelers eligible for visa-free entry (visa waiver nationals) will be required to obtain a K-ETA prior to travel to Korea. Currently due to the pandemic, the K-ETA pilot program is only available to travelers from 21 countries. The Korean government plans for the system to be fully implemented for all visa-waiver countries by September 2021. K-ETA applications must be submitted at least 24 hours in advance of travel and may be valid for up to two years upon approval. Please see here for more information.

UK - COVID-19 Adjusted Right to Work Check Update

The UK Home Office has released updated information regarding right to work checks during lockdown (see here).

The Home Office has confirmed that the temporary adjustments which allowed right to work checks to be completed with copies of documents via video conference due to COVID-19 will end on May 16, 2021.

Starting on May 17, 2021, employers must either:

  • check the applicant’s original documents, or
  • check the applicant’s right to work online.

Right to work checks done via video call will no longer be acceptable for compliance purposes.

The online right to work check system may be completed when an employee provides access to their UK immigration documents (BRP, EU settled status, or EU passport).

The Home Office has also confirmed that employers do not need to carry out retroactive right to work checks for employees who had a COVID-19 adjusted video check done between March 30, 2020 and May 16, 2021 (inclusive), provided that employers have undertaken right to work checks during this period in the prescribed manner as set out in the COVID-19 adjusted guidance.

We recommend to review and follow all Home Office guidance regarding right to work checks on an ongoing basis to ensure full compliance (see here).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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