Immigration updates during Ramadan

Welcome to the June 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.

 

Asia during Ramadan
Delays, shorter working hours and government office closures during Ramadan

Malaysia

Ramadan began on June 18, 2015, and will end on July 17, 2015. Government offices are expected to close at 4 p.m. during this period. Please note that the e-Xpats Service Centre will be closed on July 16, 2015 until July 19, 2015. Visa applications submitted after July 10, 2015, will be processed after July 19, 2015.

Visit e-Xpats Service Centre's website for further information on disruptions during Ramadan.

Indonesia

Ramadan began on June 18, 2015. Hari Raya Idul Fitri will begin on July 17, 2015. Government offices in Indonesia are expected to shorten their regular working hours during this period. Immigration processing delays should also be expected during this time.

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.

 

 

Australia
Visa fees increase from July 1, 2015

As of July 1, Australian Visa Application Charges (VAC) will increase.

The increases fall in line with inflation (2.3 per cent) for the Subclass 457 visa for temporary skilled work, and for certain employer-sponsored migration routes.

The full fee changes are listed here in Australian dollars.

The application fee for a Subclass 457 visa for temporary skilled work will increase from AU$ 1,035 to AU$ 1,060 for the principal applicant and any adult dependents. It will also increase from AU$ 260 to AU$ 265 for any child dependents aged under 18 years.

The application fee for the Subclass 186 Employer Nomination Scheme and the Subclass 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme will increase from AU$ 3,520 to AU$ 3,600 for the principal applicant, from AU$ 1,760 to AU$ 1,800 for adult dependents, and from AU$ 880 to AU$ 900 for child dependents.

Reorganization of immigration and border services

As of July 1, 2015, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) will be consolidated into a single Department of Immigration and Border Protection. At this time, the Australian Border Force, a single frontline operational border agency, will be established within the department.

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management’s 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, Asia, Kit Tang.

 

 

Malaysia
Malaysia Expatriate Talent Service Centre launches in June 2015

To enhance Malaysia's immigration services, the Malaysia Expatriate Talent Service (MYXpats) Centre located in the Klang Valley was launched in June by the Government of Malaysia.

MYXpats Centre is run by Talent Corporation Malaysia (TalentCorp) and the Immigration Department of Malaysia, and monitored by the Ministry of Home Affairs. MYXpats is responsible for processing and issuing passes, such as the Employment Pass, Dependant Pass, Long-Term Social Visit Pass (LTSVP) and all other related immigration services for expatriates, their families and employers.

Under this new arrangement, all Employment Pass applications are required to be completed by the employer. The employer must complete a one-time registration with the Expatriate Services Division (ESD). After registration, the employer can submit applications for their expatriate employees and upload documents via the ESD online system.  Hardcopy submission may be required subject to the department's discretion.

Services provided by MYXpats Centre

  1. Process relevant passes for expatriates and their families.
  2. Assistance during the application process.
  3. Issuance of immigration passes.

According to MYXpats' website, the center generally requires five working days to process an application after all the required documents are lodged. Decision will be informed via the system and approval letters can be printed on the system after the application has been approved.

A general document checklist can be found here.

You should be aware that:

  1. To facilitate the application process, online submission is required under the new arrangement.
  2. Employers must first open and register an account with ESD to submit an online application. 
  3. Crown Malaysia will continue supporting all relevant applications and submissions on its clients' behalf following this new procedure. Our consultants will liaise daily with MYXpats officers to ensure a smooth transition of cases.
  4. Crown Malaysia will remain in regular contact with its clients to provide updates on any additional requirements for each application. We will advise our clients if hardcopies of supporting documents are required by the MYXpats Centre.
  5. This new center is expected to enhance the service quality and speed up the application process. However, Crown would like to issue a warning that delays may happen during the new system and process implementation.
  6. Please contact Crown Malaysia should you need any further assistance:
    1. Francois-Xavier Groleau, Division Manager, World Mobility & Immigration, at fgroleau@crownww.com
    2. Ismadi Ismail, Immigration Manager, at iismail@crownww.com

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.

 

 

Singapore
Work pass classifications are required to be submitted online

With immediate effect, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore has stopped accepting the offline submission of most pass applications, including:

  • Employment Passes (EP)
  • S Passes
  • Work Permits
  • *Dependent Passes (DP)
  • Long-Term Visit Passes (LTVP)

These applications must now be submitted at Work Permit Online (WPOL) or Employment Pass Online (EPOL).

The following applications are exempt from the new online submission requirement:

  • EntrePass
  • Personalized Employment Pass (PEP)
  • Employment Pass (EP) with Third Party Sponsorship
  • Certain types of *Dependent Pass (DP)
  • LTVP of PEP, EntrePass and Sponsorship pass holder
  • Miscellaneous work pass

*The following DP applications can be submitted manually:

  • Dependents of Employment Pass (sponsorship) holders
  • Dependents of Personalized Employment Pass holders
  • EntrePass holders

It is recommended that employers review their immigration policies if they do not support DP applications of their Employment Pass employees.

To ensure an application is accepted under the new arrangement, a company must register for an online work pass account prior to filing the application. The registration process takes approximately two to three weeks. Delays may occur for new company accounts because there is no waiver for this group under the new policy. An application cannot be submitted until the registration process is complete.

Under this new arrangement, employers will benefit from shorter, online processing times of seven to twelve working days. Offline applications previously took approximately five weeks.

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.

 

 

The Philippines
Introduction of the Visa and Special Permits Task Force

The Bureau of Immigration has announced that the Visa and Special Permits Task Force (VSP TF) is now responsible for all visa and special permit applications in the Philippines. VSP TF will assess and provide advice on applications, and process pending cases that have been filed before June 1, 2015.

The following changes to documentation and procedures have been made:

  1. List of required documents

Changes on requirements for all types of visa applications have occurred, except for the 9(f) Student Visa, Temporary Visitor's Visa (TVV), Visa Upon Arrival (UVA) and Special Work Permit (SWP) – Artists & Athletes and Special Study Permit (SSP).

Updated information can be found at the Philippines Bureau of Immigration's website.

  1. Consolidated General Application Form (CGAF)

A new application form is available and applications lodged using the outdated version will be rejected.

To access the new form, visit the Philippines Bureau of Immigration's website.

  1. VSP TF provide one-stop

The applicant is required to lodge an application, attend an interview, and finger-printing and data-capturing session in the same room at the Bureau of Immigration's main office.

(i) Applicants should ensure they use the new form and review the new document requirements before filing their application.
(ii) This change aims to improve overall processing times. However, initial delays may be experienced during the transition period.

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.

 

 

Canada
Canada declares biometrics for all visa applicants

Canada has announced that biometric screening requirements will be expanded to all visa-required countries. All individuals applying for work or study permits (including persons from all non-visa-required countries except the United States) will be required to give their fingerprints and have their photograph taken as part of their application. These requirements are scheduled to come into effect in 2018/2019 after necessary regulatory and legislative amendments are finalized.

The Canadian government intends to greatly reduce immigration fraud and prevent criminals, deportees and failed refugee claimants from entering the country.

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.

 

 

The United States
DHS releases final rule on ESTA and the Visa Waiver Program

On June 8, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security issued a final rule to the Visa Waiver Program to implement the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program and the fee for use of the system.

ESTA is the online system where non-immigrants intending to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must obtain travel authorization in advance of travel to the United States.

The ruling adopts one change to the regulations that allow DHS to change the ESTA validity period on a country-by-country basis. The new regulations allow DHS to increase the validity period to the maximum period of three years or less. According to the final rule, "The DHS believes that this change enhances the Secretary's flexibility to recognize countries' bilateral information sharing and further promotes compliance standards for member countries' participation in the VWP."

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.

 

 

The United States
Online USCIS processing times available for International Operations

Information about processing times is now available for certain types of petitions processed at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) International Operations field or headquarters office:
"Not all form types processed by a USCIS International Operations field or headquarters office are reported. At this time, only processing times for Forms I-130, Forms I-131, and Forms I-730 are available online. In addition, if the USCIS office completed fewer than ten cases of one of these form types during the reported period, the average processing time will not be displayed."

Effective June 9, 2015, the USCIS will update this information on a quarterly basis.

Members of the public can access this information at the USCIS Processing Time Information for International Operations Offices page.

The new online processing information can be used by the public to better manage expectations for cases already being processed at USCIS offices. 

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 to suspend the premium processing of H-1B extension petitions from May 26 to July 27

On May 19, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would temporarily suspend premium processing of all H-1B extension of status petitions, effective May 26, 2015 until July 27, 2015.

What is premium processing?

The premium processing service permits employers to request USCIS to adjudicate (approve, deny or request additional evidence) petitions within 15 calendar days. Employers must submit Form I-907, a request for the premium processing service and an additional filing fee of US$ 1,225.00.

What petitions are affected?

During the suspension, petitions for H-1B extensions of stay via premium processing will not be accepted.

USCIS has stated that if an H-1B extension of status petition is submitted prior to May 26, 2015, via premium processing and USCIS does not act on the petition within the 15-day calendar period, it will refund the premium processing fee.

Premium processing requests will be accepted for H-1B cap petitions and for H-1B petitions requesting change of status or consular notification.

What is not entirely clear from the announcement is whether H-1B petitions requesting an amendment without an extension of H-1B status will be affected. An amended H-1B petition is filed with USCIS when there is a change in a term of employment, such as a change in position or worksite, or even a change in employer. There has been no request to extend the validity of the current H-1B expiration date.

Why suspend premium processing?

USCIS is being "proactive" in the anticipation of thousands of applications for employment authorization documents that may be submitted by H-4 spouses beginning May 26, 2015, based upon a regulation published earlier this year. USCIS states that this temporary suspension will permit them to adjudicate the applications for employment authorization for H-4 spouses who are married to H-1B employees and are in a certain stage of the permanent resident process.
It is important to note that this regulation could be negatively impacted if the court grants a preliminary injunction as the result of a lawsuit filed by a group of former Southern California Edison employees against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. If the court grants the preliminary injunction, USCIS will not be permitted to process the employment authorization documents/applications to be filed by H-4 spouses, making the announced suspension of premium processing unnecessary.

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.

 

 

Colombia/Peru
The European Union (EU) signs visa waiver agreement with Colombia and Peru

On June 10, 2015, the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and CitizenshipDimitris Avramopoulos, initialed bilateral visa waiver agreements with Peru and Colombia, on behalf of the European Union in an official ceremony in Brussels.

The signing of the two agreements will take place by the end of October. Once the agreements have been formally signed, the citizens of the two Latin-American countries will be able to travel without a visa to the EU for stays of up to 90 days. The same principle will be applied reciprocally to EU citizens traveling to those countries.

The Schengen area is made up of Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Monaco, Germany, Greece and Hungary.

Likewise Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland are part of this trade bloc.

The arrangement will facilitate travel and reduce time because citizens will not be required to obtain visas for stays of up to 90 days in a 180-day period. The final signing ceremony will take place after the agreement is translated into each EU member state's language. Peru will be required to begin issuing biometric passports before the agreement can take effect. Colombia has already cleared this 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, Americas, Laura Taggart.

 

 

Europe, the Middle East and Africa during Ramadan
Delays and government office closures during Ramadan

Immigration processing delays should be expected in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey from June 18, 2015, during the observance of Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr. There may be a backlog of applications after Ramadan due to government office closures and staff shortages during the month of Ramadan.

Algeria: Government offices will open at 10 a.m. and close at 3:30 p.m.

Middle East/North Africa (Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates): Government offices are expected to open from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Turkey: Government offices will be close for half the day on July 16, 2015, and close for the entire day on July 17, 2015.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this immigration alert 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, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

 

 

Ireland
Trusted Partner Initiative launched in Ireland

The Trusted Partner Initiative (TPI) has been launched by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Immigration (DJEI) in Ireland. The purpose of the TPI is to streamline immigration processes, reducing the amount of paperwork required from employers and European Economic Area (EEA) contractors applying for employment permits for foreign nationals.

Applicants granted Trusted Partner status will have access to a unique set of employment permit application forms where they must provide their Trusted Partner Registration number in lieu of their employer's details. In order to qualify, companies must register in Ireland and have not been convicted of any offence under Ireland's immigration/employment permit laws. Submitting applications in this way is expected to speed up processing times and provide a shorter application form (there is no need to provide company contact details, registered address, signature and latest P30 with every permit application).

An application to register as a Trusted Partner must be made on the official form, available on DJEI's website. The form must be signed by the Company Secretary, the Person of Compliance, Person of Process or the business owner. There is no fee and processing of this application takes approximately two days.

Trusted Partner status is valid for two years. A reminder to complete renewal will be sent two months before the expiration date.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this immigration alert 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, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

 

 

Luxembourg
New minimum salary levels for the information, communications and technology sector

Immigration authorities in Luxembourg have published a list of shortage occupations in the information, communications and technology sector to which a lower annual minimum salary of €57,566.80 will apply.
The lower threshold applies to eligible new or renewal EU Blue Card applications.

The following occupations have a shortage in the Luxembourg labor market (as defined by International Standard Classification of Occupancies codes):

  • System analysts
  • Software developers
  • Web and multimedia developers
  • Application programmers
  • Other unclassified software and applications developers and analysts
  • Mathematicians
  • Actuaries
  • Statisticians

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
Premium visa service for qualifying corporate accounts

On May 14, 2015, a new Corporate Account Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) Centre was opened in Johannesburg – a one-stop shop for quicker and more efficient visa applications, for foreign nationals employed by qualifying companies.

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) invited interested companies to apply for Corporate Account status by May 25, 2015. It is not clear at present whether the application window has or will be extended after this date.

The Corporate Account VFS Centre will only serve foreign nationals attached to companies that have been given Corporate Account status. The center will expedite applications and provide support and advisory services. It is likely that applications submitted at the new Corporate Account VFS Centre will be processed quicker.

Based upon the selection criteria in the points system outlined below, companies most likely to qualify for Corporate Account status are those which have, or which are planning to have, large numbers of foreign national employees.

Those with a relatively low number of foreign national employees (for example, 10 – 20) might not meet the selection criteria, but are welcome to apply.

As the new Corporate Account VFS Centre has been opened in Johannesburg, it will mainly benefit those businesses located in the Gauteng Province and neighboring provinces.

Selection criteria

The DHA will make use of the following points system in evaluating applications:

  1. The number of visas required in key positions – this will be counted in man-years over the coming three years (20 points).
  2. Size of the incremental capital expenditure (capex) over the coming three years (20 points).
  3. National priority/relevance of the visa requested to the development of national infrastructure (20 points).
  4. Critical skills component – percentage of visas contained in the notice contemplated in section 19(4) of the Immigration Act, 2002 (Act No. 13 of 2002) (20 points).
  5. Efforts by the corporate applicant to transfer imported skills to locals (20 points).
  6. Proof that at least 60 per cent of the total staff employed by the business are permanently employed South African nationals or permanent residents (20 points).

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management’s 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 enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

 

 

The United Kingdom
Restricted immigration laws planned for non-EU migrants

On May 14, 2015, a new Corporate Account Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) Centre was opened in Johannesburg – a one-stop shop for quicker and more efficient visa applications, for foreign nationals employed by qualifying companies.

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) invited interested companies to apply for Corporate Account status by May 25, 2015. It is not clear at present whether the application window has or will be extended after this date.

The Corporate Account VFS Centre will only serve foreign nationals attached to companies that have been given Corporate Account status. The center will expedite applications and provide support and advisory services. It is likely that applications submitted at the new Corporate Account VFS Centre will be processed quicker.

Based upon the selection criteria in the points system outlined below, companies most likely to qualify for Corporate Account status are those which have, or which are planning to have, large numbers of foreign national employees.

Those with a relatively low number of foreign national employees (for example, 10 – 20) might not meet the selection criteria, but are welcome to apply.

As the new Corporate Account VFS Centre has been opened in Johannesburg, it will mainly benefit those businesses located in the Gauteng Province and neighboring provinces.

Selection criteria

The DHA will make use of the following points system in evaluating applications:

  1. The number of visas required in key positions – this will be counted in man-years over the coming three years (20 points).
  2. Size of the incremental capital expenditure (capex) over the coming three years (20 points).
  3. National priority/relevance of the visa requested to the development of national infrastructure (20 points).
  4. Critical skills component – percentage of visas contained in the notice contemplated in section 19(4) of the Immigration Act, 2002 (Act No. 13 of 2002) (20 points).
  5. Efforts by the corporate applicant to transfer imported skills to locals (20 points).
  6. Proof that at least 60 per cent of the total staff employed by the business are permanently employed South African nationals or permanent residents (20 points).

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management’s 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 enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

 

 

Turkey
Changes to the residence permit process

As at May 18, 2015, residence permit applications in all Turkish cities must be made to the Migration Department Office (rather than the local Foreigners' Department Office – Police Authority) in the applicant's area of residence.

Applications for residence permits must be made using the Migration Department's online system and submitted at the main Migration Office in Istanbul.

Applicants with pending residence permit application appointments made at their local Foreigners' Department will now be required to submit their applications at the main Migration Department Office (at the appointed time and date).

Please expect delays for residence permit applications already being processed while they transfer from the Foreigners' Department to the Migration Department.

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: Hatice Ahmetagaoğlu, Senior Mobility Consultant


Hatice Ahmetagaoğlu
Hatice Ahmetagaoğlu
 

Hatice Ahmetagaoğlu joined Crown as a Senior Mobility Consultant and has over ten years' immigration experience. Having worked at the British Consulate General in Istanbul, Hatice understands how to support expatriates' immigration requirements.
Hatice also worked in a liaison office as part of a HR team. Working closely alongside Customs Clearance Officers she coordinated the travel and immigration process for foreign workers.
In her role at Crown, Hatice provides administrative support on all immigration/tenancy matters that assignees and client HR experience relocating. Support ranges from liaising with immigration vendors to regularly review immigration documents, to assisting with the review of tenancy agreements and signing lease documents.

Hatice works directly with the assignee to coordinate services according to their requirements and ensures any tenancy related issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently.