Immigration updates in Hong Kong and 10 other countries

Welcome to the September 2014 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 Pacific

Australia

457 Visa reform recommendations released

The Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison MP, has released the findings of an independent, four-month review of the Subclass 457 Visa. The report contains wide-ranging recommendations for the reform of this visa subclass, to ensure it is both more resistant to misuse and more responsive and efficient.

The principle recommendations for sponsors to be aware of are as follows:

  • No more Labor Market Testing
  • A 10% variance in the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), and the retention of the current salary minimum for two years
  • Current training options to be replaced by an annual contribution to a training fund by employers
  • More nationalities to be included in the exemption list for English language tests
  • Standard Business Sponsorship (SBS) to be approved for five years rather than the current three
  • End of employment notification to be extended from the current 10 days to 28 days;
  • Applicants for the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) Visa to be employed by their sponsor for two years before applying
  • Greater emphasis on monitoring and sharing information with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

Hong Kong

Germany offers Hong Kong electronic passport holders automated self immigration clearance

Effective September 1, 2014, Hong Kong electronic passport holders can register for EasyPASS at Frankfurt Airport. EasyPASS is an automated self-service immigration system. Once registered, the passport holders can progress their immigration clearance process via EasyPASS.

This automated clearance procedure offers an alternative immigration clearance process for Hong Kong passport holders upon entry to Germany. Note that only Hong Kong electronic passport holders can register for the EasyPASS system.

Malaysia

Important immigration procedural changes on Professional Visit Pass (PVP) and I-Card

Crown received *unannounced updates on the Professional Visit Pass (PVP) and I-Card on September 12, 2014. In light of these, clients should expect longer processing times for PVPs and I-Cards.

  • Company will need to submit PVP application via the ESD portal as early as September 30, 2014. The Malaysia Immigration Department (MID) will only accept applications submitted by the appointed representative of the company. The MID also retains the right to request any additional documents they deem necessary, for example the employee’s tax statement or director’s card.
  • Since June 15, 2014, the MID only accepts PVP applications submitted by the appointed representative by the employment sponsor. However, this rule has not been implemented in a consistent manner as the MID is still accepting submission from third party agents. Nevertheless, the update we received from MID is that by-hand submissions of PVPs will not be accepted once the change takes place.
  • Clients are advised to expect delays while the new process is being implemented. The processing time with the I-pass card may take longer; tranferees and their dependents may not receive their I-cards straightaway, as Immigration and the I-pass maker still have unresolved issues.

*Background: The Expatriate Service Division (ESD) launched an online application submission systems in May 2014. Companies in Malaysia are required to complete a one-time registration process with the ESD before they can submit any immigration applications. 

Philippines

Policy clarified on foreign nationals born in the Philippines

The Philippines Bureau of Immigration has clarified that individuals who were born in the Philippines of foreign nationality are subject to Philippine immigration laws, under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Immigration. A foreign national who enters the Philippines retains the nationality status he/she was born with.

The calculation of immigration dues are also clarified, the Bureau of Immigration confirming that if the foreign national was born in the Philippines, he/she is considered to have "entered" the country at the time of his/her birth. Therefore, if he/she is leaving the country for the first time under a foreign passport, he/she must present proof that all immigration dues have been settled.

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, Asia, Kit Tang: kittang@crownww.com

North America

United States

Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. no longer accepting third party submissions for long-term visas

Effective immediately, the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. will no longer accept third party submissions for long-term visas, including Z, S1, Q1 and X1 visa categories. The Consulate requires a personal appearance in order to apply for Z, S1, Q1 and X1.  The Consulate will provide a pick-up slip when the application has been processed and the passport is ready for collection. A third party can only pick up the passport once the visa is issued and ready for pick up.

EB-2 India category unavailable until end of fiscal year (September 2014)

The Chief of Visa Control and Reporting at the U.S. Department of State (DoS) has announced that, due to an extraordinarily high volume of employment-based, second preference (EB-2) visa cases for Indian nationals, the DoS will make the EB-2 India category unavailable until the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2014. Applicants can continue to file based on the original cut-off date listed in the September 2014 Visa Bulletin.

EB-5 quota reached for Chinese nationals

Charles Oppenhem, Chief of the Department of State Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division, announced that as of August 23, 2014, the EB-5 quota for China has been met for the fiscal year 2014. The quota re-opens at the start of the new fiscal year, October 1, 2014.

Ebola virus travel restrictions

The U.S. Department of State has issued an alert notifying U.S. citizens of increased screening procedures, travel restrictions and reduced aviation options in response to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), which will remain in effect until February 2014. The U.S. Department of State has issued travel warnings for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has issued Level 3 travel warnings for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and Level 2 travel warnings for Nigeria. Air travel to and from Ebola-affected countries has been reduced or temporarily suspended by some airlines.

The CDC has provided interim guidance to public health authorities, airlines and other partners for evaluating the risk of exposure to persons coming from countries affected by Ebola.

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

Canada

Changes to Canada's permanent residence programs

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has announced that, effective January 2015, Canada’s permanent residence system will undergo a complete overhaul and will work on an "express entry" model. This will have serious ramifications for foreign workers wishing to become permanent residents, as well as for the employers for whom they work, as set out below.

Background

Currently, in addition to provincial programs, there are three programs through which skilled workers can seek permanent residence. These programs are:

  • Canadian Experience Class (CEC) – an application which allows a foreign worker with at least one year of Canadian work experience to "convert" his/her work permit to permanent residence
  • Federal Skilled Workers (FSW) – a system by which an applicant garners points for factors including age, education, language, occupation, length of experience and arranged employment. If an applicant garners sufficient points, he/she will qualify for permanent residence
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) – this program allows skilled tradespeople an opportunity to obtain permanent residence based on experience, language and a job offer or provincial certification. In many ways, the considerations in this category are hybrids of the CEC and FSW, applied to skilled tradespeople

Within these programs, applicants make applications, and they are processed on a first in/first out system. The government does set quotas per year in each category, as well as "sub-caps" within some categories (e.g. X number of engineers within the FSW), but the process is applicant-driven. There may be various positive or negative aspects to each of the systems, but their outcomes have been based on the use of an established set of parameters, against which the facts of the case could be tested. This has created an element of certainty in the system.

The new "Express Entry" Model

Under the new system to be implemented in January 2015, the process will cease to be applicant-driven. Instead, the process will be government-driven. Full details are not yet clear, but the process would require applicants to file a profile, which signifies to the government that they are interested in permanent residence, and which would set out their backgrounds. CIC, on grounds which are also not yet clear, would then select those applicants it thought were "highest ranked" and who had arranged employment (or a provincial nomination). These applicants would be invited to apply for permanent residence, and would have 60 days to file their applications.

No longer will applicants be processed in a first in/first out system, and no longer can applicants know that they have met the criteria through clearly-established guidelines. Rather, as noted, the government will choose from among the pool of prospective applicants who it wants to process. Further, applicants who are not invited to apply for permanent residence will be removed from the pool of potential applicants after 12 months.

Impact

This new system creates uncertainty. No longer can an employee know if he/she can become a permanent resident, and no longer can an employer know that he would have the ability to retain a desired employee. Though further details may clarify some of the issues, it would seem apparent that the new system gives CIC a large degree of discretion, and as such, the inability for employers/employees to plan for their immigration issues.

What companies should do now

Given the doubt and insecurity surrounding the new system, the net effect of the above is that it is better to utilize the certainty of today’s system, rather than take a chance on the uncertainty of the future system. If a Canadian company has a non-Canadian employee on a work permit, and that employee intends to seek permanent residence, or if indeed the company wishes to secure permanent residence for that person, preparation and submission of the application should occur now. January 2015 is not that far away, and failure to lodge the application before then could mean an inability to seek permanent residence. There are various preparations involved in the filing of permanent residence cases, including the need for an English test, so now is not too early to start.

Employers and employees alike should take necessary measures now, if they wish to secure permanent residence for the future.

This summary was prepared by Kranc Associates, Canadian Corporate Immigration Counsel.

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: ltaggart@crownww.com

Latin America

Brazil

New procedures for permanent residency applications

Effective September 1, 2014, new procedures will be applied in the permanent residency process-based Family Reunion, Children, Marriage, Stable Union and Transformation of temporary into permanent status under MERCOSUR agreement.

The requests must be made ​​directly to the Federal Police in the jurisdiction of the foreign address with the immediate collection of biometric and biographic data. Once the documents have been reviewed and analyzed, the process will continue to foreign registration and issuance of the national foreigner Identification Card (RNE). If the documentation is incomplete, the foreigner will have 10 days to correct or complete the process.

In the event where it is not possible to evaluate the documents during the first visit, the Federal Police will notify the foreigner within 30 days for completion of the process, providing the applicant with 10 days’ notice for compliance.

The foreigner must return to the Federal Police within 60 days to receive the RNE.

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: ltaggart@crownww.com

Europe, Middle East, Africa

Cyprus

Biometrics now required for new combined Work and Residence Permit for non-EU nationals

Effective August 25, 2014, non-EU nationals employed by international companies in Cyprus must provide biometric data within seven days of arrival in Cyprus. Applicants in this category must also submit a new application form and pay updated fees. If the application is approved, the applicant receive a new combined residence and work permit. Previously, separate work and residence permit applications were required, and separate permits issued.

The changes represent Cyprus beginning to implement the EU Single Permit directive, passed into EU law in December 2011. The Cyprus Civil Registry and Migration Department (CRMD) has not yet rolled out the combined permit to other categories of non-EU temporary workers.

Biometric data

Once an applicant’s combined work and residence permit has been approved, he/she along with any accompanying dependents, must register at the appropriate District Office of the Aliens and Immigration Unit of the Police, or the Central Offices of the Civil Registry and Migration Department in Nicosia, within seven days of arrival in Cyprus. The principal applicant, but not the dependents, will also be required to have his/her photograph and fingerprints taken, and also to provide a signature.

Transitional measures

Applicants whose applications were pending on August 25, 2014 must submit an additional application and pay an additional €10 fee before October 25, 2014, otherwise the pending application will be rejected. Existing residence permits issued under the previous legislation are valid until their expiry.

International companies

This route, which is not subject to labor market testing and can lead to long-term or permanent residence. applies to executive directors, middle managers, executive staff and key personnel. International companies need to request blanket permission to employ foreign nationals from the Civil Registry and Migration Department (CRMD) and prove their eligibility.   To be eligible to transfer or hire workers using this process, more than 50% of the company’s shares should be foreign-owned.

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

France

Immigration medical no longer needed for some categories

A new decree passed in France on August 18, 2014 (Decree No. 2014-921), has made some amendments to existing immigration legislations, the most notable of which is the waiver of an immigration medical for a number of categories.

Who no longer needs a medical?

Following the ruling last week which has gone into effect immediately, applicants in the following categories of permits will no longer be required to have a medical following their arrival in France:

  • Intra-company transfers (Salarié en mission) and their family members
  • Skills and Talents (Compétences & Talents) and their family members
  • Family members of European Blue Card permit holders (European Blue Card permit principal applicants were exempt from this requirement before)
  • Artistic and Cultural professions and their family members
  • Scientists and Researchers and their family members

Note that applicants in the standard local hire and service provider permit categories will still need to book and attend an immigration medical.

Previously, applicants in the above listed categories had to attend a mandatory medical examination with the Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration (OFII) and receive clearance from a doctor before applying for a residence permit. Although an appointment date and time is scheduled, the visit often takes up to four hours, due to long waiting times. Applicants who are now exempt from the immigration medical requirement may enter France and apply for their Residence Permit (Titre de Séjour) directly.

Immigration applications already in process prior to the August 18 ruling will still need to complete the medical at the OFII before the residence permit application in France.

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

Ghana

New labor market rules for oil and gas sector

Ghana’s Petroleum Commission has implemented stricter requirements for companies employing workers in the energy industry. Effective 1 September 2014, the new requirements include compulsory job advertisements in specific newspapers, notifying the Petroleum Commission of any job vacancies and providing evidence of a transfer-of-skills plan.

Local labor market search

An advertisement for the position to be filled should now be posted in at least two local newspapers including "The Daily Graphic" and "Ghanaian Times". Previously, employers were not bound by any rules concerning the placement of adverts. There is still no specified duration for such job adverts.   Any responses to job adverts should be kept by the employer as evidence of effort made to recruit a Ghanaian, and presented with the work permit application.

Notification of vacancy

A vacancy now has to be notified to the Petroleum Commission by email as soon as an employer is aware that there will be a vacant position in the organization.

Succession plan
As part of the work permit application, an employer must now provide details of a succession plan designed to transfer skills to a Ghanaian national during the course of the assignment, along with full details of the Ghanaian employee(s) who will be understudying the applicant and replacing them after the assignment.

Ireland

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (DJEI) implementing changes to Employment Permit Legislation

The DJEI’s changes to Employment Permit legislation, targeted for mid-September 2014, will involve the name change for Work Permits (to be known as General Employment permits) and Green Card Permits (to be known as Critical Skills Employment Permits). At this time, the requirements/eligibility are expected to stay the same.

If an Employment Permit application is submitted before the changes take place then the current employment permit process/application will be in effect. However, if the application is submitted after the changes are implemented, the application will be impacted.  A new application form is expected to be issued along with the other legislative changes.

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 enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Crown’s Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA.

Meet the team: Introducing Laxmi Vikraman - UK & Ireland Visa Coordinator, Crown World Mobility London

Laxmi VikramanLaxmi Vikraman joined Crown World Mobility’s London office in August 2014. In her role as UK & Ireland Visa Coordinator, Laxmi supports CWM mobility consultants, local immigration specialists and our clients on complex UK and Irish immigration cases. Her responsibilities include third country applications and UK/Irish consular processes through liaison with local service partners and UKBA, INIS, embassies, consulates and other competent authorities. She also provides structured guidance on how to move application processes forward. Laxmi consults directly with the transferee and the corporate client to ensure an understanding of immigration processes and timelines.

Previously, Laxmi served as the Immigration Advisor at the University of Oxford where she provided specialist immigration advice on the employment of skilled workers, temporary workers and visitors through PPE, academic visitor or business visitor routes. Laxmi brings seven years of experience of providing bespoke immigration advice to corporate and individual clients and has a proven, invaluable, track record of success in the UK immigration arena.

Here is what Laxmi has to say about her interests: “While I am no Picasso, I do pursue painting as a hobby and because I am totally enamoured of books, plays, stand-up comedy and chat shows on TV, I have options to de-stress. To quell the wanderlust, I make it a point to travel to a different part of the world every year and the main agenda is to indulge in the cuisines of the world."