Seyfarth Global Immigration Update: March 2020

Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Australia - Changes to Working Holiday Maker Visas for Bushfire Recovery

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has accepted the recommendation of the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) to relax and broaden the conditions for holders of Subclass 417 and 462 Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visas. These new conditions will allow Working Holiday visa holders to perform activities to assist with recovery efforts following the recent bushfires without breaching visa conditions.

Foreign nationals holding WHM visas may work for the same employer for a period of twelve months (extended from six months) when assisting with bushfire recovery efforts. Additionally, the definition of “specified work” for the purposes of the WHM visa applications will be broadened to include construction work in disaster-declared areas, as well as both paid and volunteer work in areas impacted by the fires.

Canada - New Obligations for Employers Hiring Temporary Foreign Workers in Québec

New immigration provisions are effective for employers hiring temporary foreign workers in the province of Québec under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Employers are now subject to new obligations for Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) submissions under the newly implemented Act Respecting Labour Standards. Previously, there was no obligation for employers to submit specific information to the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), the supervisory body overseeing such applications. The new policy will require additional obligations for employers when hiring temporary foreign workers. An Employer Declaration to the CNESST is now required and may be submitted online or by mail.

China - Coronavirus Policy and Response Updates

In order to strengthen the prevention and control of the coronavirus outbreak (2019-nCoV), the National Immigration Administration, the National Science and Technology Commission, and the Exit-Entry Administration of the Public Security Bureau in the People’s Republic of China have recently issued new measures to facilitate swift online immigration, work permit, and residence permit applications and help reduce cross-border movement. As many offices and urban centers are still under quarantine with limited transportation, these measures demonstrate the Chinese government’s efforts to reduce administrative burdens on organizations during the epidemic.

Applications at local immigration authorities will continue to be processed so that permits and visas may be extended. Expedited processing measures are also being implemented for urgent cases. The authorities may waive or reduce penalties for foreign nationals who are in China and unable to leave the country prior to the expiration of currently held visas or work permits due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Both Chinese nationals and foreign nationals planning to depart China should familiarize themselves with the special border measures in place in destination countries, as some countries are continuing to implement corresponding entry control measures.

Germany - New Immigration Law for Highly Skilled Professionals

On March 1, 2020, a new immigration law for highly skilled professionals, Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz (FEG), takes effect. It will help highly skilled professionals to obtain work authorization. The authorities will, for example, provide assistance with degrees validation, centralized immigration centers will be involved, and expedite procedures can be requested by making payment of an expedite processing fee. New application forms will be available as well.

Ireland - National Minimum Wage Increase

As of February 1, 2020 the national minimum wage in Ireland has increased from €9.80 per hour to €10.10. This increase has implications for employers of foreign nationals in Ireland as several types of employment permits will be affected. Employment Permits are among those impacted by the change, with the new base salary threshold being increased to €20,482.80 in order to meet the new minimum wage standards. This new rate applies to new Employment Permit applications as well as Employment Permits that are currently in place. Employers are required to raise wages and salaries where applicable to comply with new regulations.

Netherlands - IND Implements New Biometric Photo Requirements

As of January 1, 2020 the IND will now require new passport-style photos to be taken at an IND desk or Expat center for each new residence permit application, including extensions and dependent applications. Previously, the most recent application photo on file was used for subsequent applications from the same individual. This change has been implemented to comply with recent European regulations, which require that proof of identity be verified with a recently taken passport-style photo. There is a transition period in effect until April 2020, after which no previous photos will be used. Applicants who have pending applications filed after the change was implemented will be sent notices to visit an IND desk or Expat center to have new photos taken.

Russia - Free Port Vladivostok Countries List Renewed

A new list of nationalities eligible to travel to Russia through the free port, Vladivostok, based on a single-entry business, tourist, or humanitarian e-visa has been released, effective January 24, 2020.

The following nationalities are eligible for this entry criteria: Austria, Andorra, Bahrain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Vatican City, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Qatar, Cyprus, China (including Taiwan), Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Northern Macedonia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Philippines, Finland, France, Croatia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Sweden, Estonia, and Japan.

Singapore - New Talent Access Program for Technology Companies

As of January 2, 2020, fast-growing technology companies who qualify may utilize a new scheme for talent access called Tech@SG. Qualifying companies may receive up to ten new Employment Passes (EPs) over two years for critical foreign talent who will be hired as part of the company’s main team in Singapore. The new program is jointly administered by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) in an effort to help technology companies in Singapore grow and expand regionally.

Company eligibility criteria includes the following:

  • The company must have incorporated as a business entity in Singapore with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA);
  • Have a digital or technology offering as their core business;
  • Received funding (no minimum amount) from a program-recognized investment firm in the past 36 months; and
  • Secured more than USD 10 million (cumulative) in investment funding in the past 36 months.

South Korea - New Process for Visa Issuance at Consulates

Starting February 24, 2020 consulates of South Korea will begin to phase out the process of stamping visas into passports. Instead, applicants will be required to check the status of visa applications online and, once the visa is issued, print out an approval notice to carry while traveling. The approval confirmation will grant entry and serve as the visa document upon arrival. This change is part of larger efforts to decrease administrative burdens and processing times for visa applications. Consulates in the United Kingdom are among those to stop issuing visa stamps based on this new policy. Currently held, valid visas will not be impacted by this new policy.

Switzerland - New Limitation of Employer Obligations for Assignee Expenses

The Swiss Federal Council announced an amendment to the ordinance on admission, residence and employment (Verordnung über Zulassung, Aufenthalt und Erwerbstätigkeit, VZAE) as well as the ordinance on employees posted to Switzerland (Entsendeverordnung) that will take effect on April 1, 2020. The amendment concerns the obligation of employers to bear the expenses of their posted employees in Switzerland. So far, expenses for transportation, accommodation, and meals had to be reimbursed for the entire duration of the assignment. In the future, the obligation to pay these expenses will be limited to a twelve month period. This means that employers are no longer obliged to pay expenses for travel, accommodation, and meals arising from long-term assignments (either as part of an inter-company transfer or of a cross-border service) after the posted worker has stayed in Switzerland without interruption for twelve months. These changes are not applicable in the case of posted workers for whom a minimum wage is guaranteed either on the basis of a collective bargaining agreement or on the basis of a standard employment contract according to Art. 360a of the Code of Obligations (i.e., employment contract in sectors where the authorities have imposed a standardized minimum wage).

United Arab Emirates (UAE) - New Rules for Work Permit Renewals

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) has released a new occupation list of permitted work permit occupations and introduced new rules for work permit renewals. Employers of foreign nationals in mainland UAE applying to renew work permits must now only select job titles available on the latest list of occupations. Previously, the job title did not have to be changed for renewals even if it was not in line with the most recent occupation list. Additionally, applicants renewing their work permit or amending their job title or salary information must provide legalized educational certificates if required for their job title (previously, legalized documents were only required for new work permit applications). Further, if the job titles of foreign employees’ work permits are updated and do not correspond with their previous visa stickers, the employer must update the foreign employees’ files with the immigration authorities or risk penalties.

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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