Don't miss: Immigration updates as of March 2015

Welcome to the March 2015 edition of Crown World Mobility's global immigration news bulletins. These bulletins provide readers with the latest global immigration news and developments.

Questions and comments are always welcome and can be directed to Angie Volz, Global Immigration Program Manager: avolz@crownww.com.

Immigration updates

Asia Pacific

Hong Kong

Implementation of "enhancement measures" on Admission Schemes for talent, professionals and entrepreneurs

According to the Hong Kong Immigration Service website, the following four Admission Scheme enhancement measures are expected to launch during the second quarter of 2015. The purpose of these measures is to meet the population challenges of an ageing and falling workforce in Hong Kong. Further details will be released closer to the official launch date.

  1. Top-tier entrants

    A newly-defined group for applicants under the General Employment Policy (GEP), the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP) or Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS) General Points Test (GPT) with permission to work or reside in Hong Kong for more than two years, and with a taxable income of no less than HK$ 2-million in the previous year of assessment, are eligible to apply as top-tier entrants. The entrant is not required to obtain permission prior to changing employer but is obligated to inform the Hong Kong Immigration Department of the change.

  2. Increment to initial and extension of stay

    For applicants under GEP and ASMTP:
    a. Initial stay – extended from one year to two years
    b. Extension of stay – extended from "2-2-3" years (this means the first extension is valid for two years, the second extension is valid for two years and the third extension is valid for three years) to "3-3" years (this means the first extension is valid for three years and the second extension is valid for three years) and one-off six years to be granted to top-tier entrants

    For applicants under QMAS:
    A. GPT
         a. Initial stay – extended from one year to two years
         b. Extension of stay – extended from "2-2-3" years to "3-3" years and one-off six years granted to top-tier entrants
    B. Achievement-based Points Test (APT)
         a. Initial stay – a stay of eight years may be granted upon entry
     
  3. Scoring system under QMAS is adjusted
    Under GPT, those with outstanding academic background at a renowned international institution and specialist level international working experience will be granted bonus points.
     
  4. Admission Scheme for the Second Generation of Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents (ASSG)
    This new scheme aims to attract the second generation of Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents to emigrate from overseas to Hong Kong. An applicant whose parent was a Chinese Hong Kong permanent resident at the time of their birth, age ranging from 18 to 40, born overseas, proficient in written and spoken Chinese (Putonghua or Cantonese) or English, good qualification background and with sufficient financial means to support their stay in Hong Kong without a burden to the public funds, is eligible to apply for the scheme without securing a job offer upon entry to Hong Kong.
     

More information can be found at the Immigration Department website.

India

Minors are no longer required to appear in person for registration at the Foreigners Regional Registration Offices (FRROs)

With immediate effect, minors under the age of 16 are no longer required to appear in person for FRRO registration. Previously, foreign children (intending to stay longer than 180 days in India) under age 16 were required to complete registration in person at the FRRO within 14 days of their arrival in India. According to a recent notice from India's Bureau of Immigration (BOI), this requirement has now been removed.

This new practice will be exercised by FRROs in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai, while Pune's office will take the endorsements on visas into consideration.

Notwithstanding the above change, minors are still required to appear in person for subsequent visa renewals or exit permits.

This new policy is beneficial to parents and will ease the registration process.

More information can be found at the Bureau of Immigration website.

Malaysia

Malaysian Immigration Department to issue special pass (gratis) to expatriates with an overstayed status due to certain conditions

The Malaysian Immigration Department has announced that the Expatriate Services Division (ESD) is currently upgrading its online immigration system. From March 10 to May 31, 2015, the department will issue a special pass (gratis) to expatriates with an overstayed status due to the below circumstances:

  1. Awaiting a second special pass approval from the Malaysian Immigration Department
  2. Pending approval on the ESD company registration process from the online portal
  3. Awaiting completion of inspection by the Malaysian Immigration Department
     

There is no penalty against expatriates who have overstayed due to the above conditions.

The special pass may be issued without charge, providing the sponsoring company can produce an acknowledgement of application acceptance, issued by the Malaysian Immigration Department.

Crown Malaysia advises its clients that the special pass is only available during the period of March 10 to May 31, 2015, and is only granted if the conditions are met.

"Permission to Work" stamp no longer issued to Dependent Pass holders

With immediate effect, Dependent Pass (DP) holders who wish to work in Malaysia must apply for a new Employment Pass (EP) under the sponsorship of their employer. Existing DPs must be cancelled before the endorsement of a new EP. If the dependent with the Employment Pass stops working but would like to stay in Malaysia as an accompanying dependent, then they must apply for a new DP.

Before the new policy takes effect, a "Permission to Work" stamp will be issued for the DP holder to allow them to work in Malaysia.

DP holders with the "Permission to Work" stamp are not affected by the new arrangement until their current pass expires.

Clients should be aware of this change in relation to DP holders who wish to work in Malaysia or stop working and continue their stay. Authorities may impose fines or other penalties for those who fail to comply with the new arrangement.

The Philippines

Simplified procedure for promoted 9(g) commercial visa holders

With immediate effect, 9(g) commercial visa holders promoted to a higher position in the same company are no longer required to downgrade to a 9(a) visitor visa and re-apply for a new 9(g) visa after promotion.

With respect to the above exemption, 9(g) visa holders are required to:

  1. Apply for a new Alien Employment Permit (AEP) – it must correspond with their new position
  2. Apply for the extension of their existing 9(g) commercial visa
  3. File a certified true copy of their newly approved AEP to the Bureau of Immigration
     

This new policy is only applicable to promoted foreigners within the same company. Shorter processing times are anticipated under the new change.

Certification of number of foreign employees in specified format

With immediate effect, the Philippines Bureau of Immigration has requested all employers to declare the latest number of foreign and local employees in a specified certification format at the time of filing the conversion or renewal of 9(g) visa applications.

The information must be reported in an annex labelled as Annex "A". This annex must be completed, signed and certified by a Notary Public (for example, a certified accountant). Failure to provide the annex may lead to the non-acceptance of the application.

The Crown Philippines team has adjusted its letter template according to this new change. Employers that prepare the application set on their own should be aware of the new requirement.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Asia, Kit Tang.

North America

Canada

Ten-year visas for Canadian travellers to China

China has begun issuing a new multiple-entry visa valid for up to ten years to Canadian business travellers and tourists. Effective immediately, Canadians travelling to China may submit applications for the new multi-entry visa to Chinese Consulates.

The new visa programme will reduce costs and benefit Canadian business visitors who regularly travel between the two countries. The visa will also promote tourism and make visiting family easier. 

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, the move will further promote exchanges and benefit people in both countries. Gao Ping, Consul General at the Chinese embassy in Canada, said China issued 230,000 visas to Canadians last year, with 80 per cent of them travelling to China for business, tourism or family visits.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.

The United States

USCIS announces premium processing begins no later than May 11 for H-1B cap cases

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that premium processing for H-1B cap cases will begin no later than May 11, 2015. USCIS has temporarily adjusted its current premium processing in anticipation of receiving the numerical limit for H-1B cap cases in the first five business days and in view of historic premium processing receipt levels.

On April 1, 2015, USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2016 cap. The congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas for FY 2016 is 65,000. The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed for individuals with a U.S. master's degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap.

USCIS anticipates that it may receive more petitions than the H-1B cap during the first five business days between April 1, 2015 and April 5, 2015. If USCIS receives more petitions than the cap quote during the first five business days, the agency will use a lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit.

USCIS will reject all unselected petitions that are subject to the cap as well as any petitions received after the cap has closed.

More information can be found at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.

Latin America

Bolivia

Bolivian Immigration's three standard routes

The Bolivian government has now implemented three standard immigration routes for work status in Bolivia. The three immigration routes consist of a short-term consular visa, a short-term post-arrival work authorization and a post-arrival, three-year temporary residence route. There are still separate routes for Argentinians and Mercosur nationals.

Short-term Consular Visa

The short-term visa (visa de objeto determinado), valid for 30 days, can now only be obtained by applying at a Bolivian consulate abroad. It was previously available post-arrival in Bolivia.

To extend the short-term visa, the traveler can apply for the new short-term authorization (permanencia transitoria, see below), whereas before they could extend their visa.

The applicant is now required to provide a letter of invitation legalized in Bolivia in support of an application for this visa.

Post-arrival short-term authorization

Replacing the old post-arrival short-term visa is the new short-term authorization (permanencia transitoria). It can be obtained after entering Bolivia as a tourist, or on a short-term visa (visa objeto determinado). The short-term authorization can also give access to temporary residence in Bolivia.

Post-arrival three-year temporary residence

Temporary residence (permanencia temporal, previously visa de residencia temporal) is now available after entering Bolivia as a tourist or on a short-term authorization, and not only on a short-term visa, as previously.

If applying for temporary residence while on tourist status, you will apply for or change your status from tourist to resident.

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.

Colombia

Certain Asian nationals can now enter Colombia visa-free

The Colombian government has exempted certain nationals of India, China, Thailand and Vietnam from obtaining a visa prior to entering Colombia.

Under the new program, nationals of India, China, Thailand and Vietnam may qualify if they hold a Residence Permit in a State of the Schengen area or in the United States; or hold a Schengen visa type C or D, or a visa to the United States (other than in the Class C-1 transit category).

Upon entering Colombia, qualifying nationals can receive a Temporary Visitor Permit (PIP) depending on the activities to be undertaken in Colombia. The PIP-6, issued to business visitors, is a single-entry permit that allows visits of up to 90 days and extensions for an additional 90 days. The PIP-6 does not allow work activities.

Travelers from the above countries, who do not have a Schengen or U.S. visa or Permanent Residence Permit must go through the regular visa application process. 

During the transition phase, there may be inconsistences in the program's application by immigration officers. Qualifying visitors under the new program, should carry their passports with their Schengen or U.S. visa or Permanent Residence Permit. They should be prepared to carry letters from the companies and information regarding their visit and departure from Colombia.

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.

Venezuela

U.S. citizens now require visas for Venezuela

U.S. citizens are now required to obtain an Entry Visa (tourist or business) before entering Venezuela. According to information published on March 3 to the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington website, U.S. citizens should plan to apply for a visa three months in advance of travel. U.S. citizens should expect to pay US$ 30 for a one-year, multiple-entry visa good for a 90-day stay in Venezuela.

U.S. citizens should contact the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. or Venezuelan Consulates currently located in Boston, New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, Houston, San Francisco, and San Juan, Puerto Rico with questions. The Venezuelan Embassy strongly recommends all U.S. citizens to check both the Venezuelan Embassy's English and Spanish web pages regularly for the most up-to-date information about visa application requirements and procedures before making travel plans.

You can find the most up-to-date information on the Venezuelan Embassy's web page in Spanish.

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.

Europe, Middle East & Africa

Denmark

Fast-track work permit available from April 1, 2015

As of April 1, 2015, a new fast-track scheme will be implemented in Denmark allowing companies whom obtain a certification to hire foreign nationals for a period of up to four years. Under this process, employees can commence employment as soon as the work permit application has been submitted using a temporary work permit before approval has been obtained.

The certification process that companies will need to complete in advance will take approximately 30 days and can be initiated prior to April 1 (when the first work permit applications will begin to be processed). Certification can be obtained for a maximum period of four years. The following conditions apply to companies in order to obtain the certification:

  1. Large companies with a need to recruit highly-qualified foreign employees
  2. The company must be certified by the Danish Agency for Labor Market and Recruitment
  3. The company must have at least 20 full-time employees, comply with Danish salary and employment standards
     

Employees under this scheme must meet the following criteria:

  1. Employed under the conditions of the Pay Limit Scheme (minimum salary of DKK 375,000 annual)
  2. Employed as a researcher
  3. Purpose of employment is a high-level educational stay (not for trainees)
  4. Employment is for a short stay of up to three months
     

Employees who obtain work permits under the fast-track scheme can obtain residence permits for a period of up to four years (unless the application is being made for a maximum three-month stay in Denmark). Three-month permits cannot be extended. If an employment contract is cancelled under this work permit the residence permit will also be cancelled within 14 days of termination of employment.

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

Nigeria

Re-entry visa no longer required for Resident Permit holders

Re-entry visas will no longer be a mandatory requirement for certain categories of individuals to gain re-entry into Nigeria. As of April 6, 2015, re-entry visas will no longer be required for:

  • Holders of a valid Combined Expatriate Resident Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC) and their dependents
  • Holders of temporary CERPAC receipts purchased for the purpose of processing their legal residence
  • Nigerian wife/Persons on special immigrant status
  • Expatriates who are employed by government institutions
     

Assignees who are in Nigeria on business visas and wish to travel out and later return within the validity of their visa should contact the office of the Comptroller General for possible issuance of a visa-on-arrival.
The above measures evidence the Nigerian government's encouraging approach to facilitate foreign investment and allow business visas to be obtained on arrival in January 2015.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

Romania

Work permit quotas for 2015 announced

The Ministry of Labor in Romania has confirmed its work permit quotas for 2015. The quotas are implemented at a national level and allow a total of 5,500 authorizations for 2015 (the same limit as in 2014).

The quotas are as follows:

  • 3,300 for local hires or professional athletes
  • 900 for assignees
  • 800 for highly-skilled workers (blue cards)
  • 200 for seasonal workers
  • 200 for interns
  • 100 for cross border workers
     

Companies should take note that once the quotas have been exhausted for a particular category, no more work permit approvals will be granted until the following year, unless an exceptional adjustment is made by the Romanian government. Please note that the quota limits for 2014 were not reached.

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

South Africa

Long-term business visas granted to business executives from BRIC countries

Business executives with passports from Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC countries), who apply for a visa to visit South Africa for short business trips, will now receive a long-term visa, allowing them multiple entries for a duration of up to ten years. Each visit cannot extend beyond a 30-day period.

Malusi Gigaba, Home Affairs Minister, advises that the South African immigration authorities will also continue to meet a processing time of five days for short-term business visas. In addition, the willingness of business people from BRIC countries to invest in South African companies played a crucial role in the decision to implement a streamlined entry process. While reciprocal arrangements are not currently in place with South Africa's BRIC partners, Gigaba advises that there is possibility to extend the agreement to additional countries who are making significant investments from within South Africa.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

The United Kingdom

Changes to Tier 2 and Tier 1 regulations

The UK Home Office recently issued a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, including a number of changes to Tier 2 and Tier 1 of the points-based system, which are due to take place from 6 April, 2015.

Main changes to Tier 2

  • Minimum salary thresholds
    The minimum salary thresholds and SOC code salary rates have been amended in line with changes to the average weekly earnings of settled workers, which have risen by 1.2 per cent in the 12 months up to November 2014.
    The Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (ICT – Short Term) minimum salary thresholds will increase by £300 per annum to £20,800 and £24,800 respectively, whilst Tier 2 (ICT – Long Term) will rise to £41,500, up £500 from the current minimum threshold.
     
  • Cooling-off period
    The 12 month "cooling-off period", which restricts applicants from obtaining a new Tier 2 visa if they have been in the U.K. as a Tier 2 migrant within the previous 12 months, will no longer apply to applicants who have held a previous grant of Tier 2 leave for three months or less, within the previous 12 months.
     
  • Shortage occupations
    Following the partial review by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), a small number of senior jobs in digital technology (limited to people with at least five years' experience) will be added to the shortage occupation lists of England and Scotland – including Product Manager, Data Scientist, Senior Developer and Cyber Security Specialist.
     

Main changes to Tier 1

  • Tier 1 (General) extensions to close imminently
    The Tier 1 (General) category will close to extension applications from 6 April, 2015. After 6 April, no further leave to remain in the Tier 1 (General) route will be granted.
    Migrants with a Tier 1 (General) visa who wish to remain in the U.K. may apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) until 6 April, 2018. Anyone who does not qualify for ILR will need to apply for further leave to remain before 5 April, 2015, or apply for a different immigration category.
    Due to the imminent closure of Tier 1 (General) extensions, the Home Office is no longer restricting extension applications to those with less than three months leave remaining.
     
  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
    As of 6 April, 2015, a change is being made to give applicants the option of the length of visa they wish to apply for (up to the current maximum of five years, or five years and four months in the case of entry clearance applications).
    This change is being made alongside the introduction of NHS surcharge payments, due to be implemented from Spring 2015, and means that Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) applicants who only wish to come to the U.K. for a short time in this category will not need to pay the maximum leave period surcharge payments.
     
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
    The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category caters for applicants coming to the U.K. to set up, take over, or be involved in the running of a business as directors.
    The following major changes are being made from 6 April, 2015:
    - Clarification that government funding by way of an intermediary public body may be accepted, providing that the body confirms the funds were made available by a U.K. or Devolved Government Department for the specific purpose of establishing or expanding a UK business
    - Use of the "genuineness" tests for extension and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) applications
    - Migrants in the Tier 1 (General) category will be restricted from switching into Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), unless they have already established a U.K. business before 6 April, 2015, or they have funding from a government department or endorsed seed funding competition
    - Clarification regarding how investment funds may be spent, and the restriction on engaging in businesses principally concerned with property development or property management
    - Applicants relying on funds they hold themselves must provide evidence of the third party source of those funds, if they have held the funds for less than 90 days before making an initial application
    - All initial Tier (1) Entrepreneur applicants will need to submit a business plan as part of their application. Previously this was not a mandatory document, but is often requested by caseworkers to help applicants demonstrate a genuine intention to set-up a U.K. business
     
  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
    The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category caters for graduates who have been endorsed by U.K. Higher Education Institutions or by U.K. Trade and Investment to establish one or more businesses in the U.K.
    As of 6 April, 2015, a change is being made to restrict applicants in this category from engaging in businesses principally concerned with property development or property management, for consistency with the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category.
     
  • Tier 1 (Investor)
    The Tier 1 (Investor) category caters for high net worth individuals making a substantial financial investment to the U.K.
    As of 6 April, 2015, the following major changes are being made:
    - Prospective investors will now be required to open a bank account regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) before making their initial application
    - The minimum age of applicants in this category is being increased from 16 to 18
    - Changes are being made to the requirement for applicants to maintain their investments. The changes will mean applicants will no longer need to invest additional capital if they sell part of their investments at a loss, but they will be required to maintain all their capital within their investment portfolios. Buying and selling investments will continue to be permitted, providing the investor does not withdraw any capital.
     

Other changes

  • Visitors
    The Home Office has announced changes to the Visitor visa category which will affect those wishing to visit the U.K. from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) from 24 April, 2015. The category will be consolidated into just four routes: visit (standard), marriage/civil partnership visit, Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) visit and Transit visit, in the anticipation that the new streamlined system will be easier to navigate than the current 15 routes available under the Visitor category. Visitor visas will still only be valid for a period of no more than six months, and visitors will still be prohibited from taking employment in the U.K.
     
  • Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
    As of 6 April, 2015, Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants who apply for ILR must not have had more than 180 days absence from the U.K. per year during the qualifying period (usually five years). A change is also being made to discount any absences from the U.K. from counting towards the 180 day limit, where the absence was due to the applicant assisting with the Ebola crisis which began in West Africa in 2014.
     
  • Changes to English Language Test
    The list of Approved Secure English Language Tests and Test Centres has been updated. Many of the previously accepted tests have been removed, and some new providers added to the list.
    The introduction of a list of approved test centres is to ensure appropriate security features in the booking, administration and invigilation procedures. Other changes will allow results to be rejected if the test was not taken at an approved centre. A transitional period of seven months has been introduced to help migrants who have taken their test ahead of these changes as part of their forthcoming immigration application. Providing that the test was passed before 6 April, 2015, the test results may be used as part of immigration applications until 6 November, 2015.
     

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

Meet the team: Rafael Pavanelli, Regional Immigration Coordinator – Latin America, Crown World Mobility

Rafael Pavanelli
Rafael Pavanelli

Rafael Pavanelli joined Crown World Mobility's São Paulo office as Regional Immigration Coordinator – Latin America (LATAM). He provides specialist advice on all Brazilian immigration work resolutions and related issues, including permanent visas as well as temporary work permits for various types of skilled labor. Rafael also coordinates immigration processes throughout the LATAM region, initiating Service Partners and communicating with immigration authorities in order to ensure the immigration process is accomplished as planned.

As part of his role, Rafael is also responsible for planning, monitoring and coordinating all aspects of immigration processes with primary HR and/or Global Mobility Managers, Service Partners and assignees to collect corporate and personal documents. He coordinates the legalization of documents worldwide, work permit and visa applications at Consulates and Local Immigration Authorities, organizes visa registrations and further local documents for all countries within the region.

Rafael has worked in the field of immigration since 2012 and has experience in both corporate and private client matters. In his position he is also responsible for ensuring compliance, taking corrective actions where required and providing regular client reports, summarizing service performance and assignee satisfaction.