Immigration updates you need to know before traveling

Welcome to the February 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 Pacific

China

Beijing issues Work Permits with validity up to three-years

At the end of December 2014, Beijing authorities announced that in certain circumstances, alien Employment Permits may be issued with validity of up to three years, rather than the standard twelve months.

Foreign national employees of Foreign Investment Companies, including China-Foreign Joint Ventures and Cooperation Projects and Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises (WFOE), and Representative Offices, may be granted an initial or extension alien Employment Permit valid for up to three years, provided that certain supporting documents (see below) are valid for the requested period.

Supporting documents that require sufficient validity include:

  • The employment contract
  • The applicant’s passport
  • The employer’s business license (or Industrial and Commercial Registration Certificate)

Residence Permits in Beijing will still only be issued for no longer than twelve months. Therefore, Residence Permits still need to be renewed annually for an assignee holding a multiple-year alien Employment Permit.

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

Hong Kong

Government fee increase for Hong Kong visas

The Hong Kong Immigration Department has implemented government fee increases for 24 visa categories and services, effective immediately. This update comes after an eight year period without a review. Applications submitted prior to February 9, 2015, will be charged at the old pricing. Current fees can be found on the Hong Kong Immigration Department website.

Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES) is suspended with immediate effect

The Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES) was implemented in 2003 to attract capital investment into Hong Kong during its period of economic recession. In view of the latest economic situation, the Hong Kong government is now placing more emphasis on attracting talent and professionals. As a result, on January 14, 2015, the Hong Kong Chief Executive announced that CIES is suspended with immediate effect until further notice. The Hong Kong Immigration Department has stopped accepting new CIES applications. Applications submitted on January 14, 2015, or before will still be processed. For further information, please click here.

India

Person of India Origin (PIO) Cards will be phased out

The Indian Government has announced that Person of India Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) Schemes have been merged as of January 9, 2015, with the aim to phase out the PIO.

With immediate effect, PIO card holders will automatically be granted OCI status and entitled to OCI benefits, such as receiving lifelong multiple entry with multi-purpose visa with exemption from registration with the local police authority. All pending PIO applications will be treated as OCI applications.

Eligibility for OCI cards:

  1. Spouses of Indian citizens or OCI card holders whose marriage is legally registered and has lasted for not less than two years
  2. Children under the age of 16 whose parents are both Indian citizens
  3. Grandchildren or great-grandchildren of OCI card holders
  4. Nationals of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, Iran, Nepal and Sri Lanka may be eligible provided other criteria are met

The Indian Immigration authority may return PIO applications that are still processing. Applicants who are pending result for their PIO applications at the time of official announcement may need to re-submit their application as an OCI card application.

Malaysia

Updated salary rules for MDeC MSC Employment Pass and maximum duration

The Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) is a Special Economic Zone in Malaysia designed to promote development of the Malaysian ICT industry. The Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) administers Employment Passes for MSC status Companies and other ICT companies. Other Employment Passes and expatriate services are managed by the Expatriate Services Division (ESD), which launched its online application services in 2014.

The Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) has advised that applicants of an Employment Pass (EP) with a monthly basic salary below RM5000, for Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) status companies, can only apply for a maximum of two years, while the pass can only be renewed twice. The maximum stay in these cases is now six years.

Previously, an application could be made for an EP with a duration of up to three years, and there was no limit on the number of renewals. This remains true for EP applicants with a salary of more than RM5000 per month.

Dependant Pass application rules amended

Employment Pass holders at MSC Status companies with a basic monthly salary of less than RM5000 are no longer eligible to apply for a Dependant Pass (DP) for their family. This restriction has now been extended to the Social Visit Pass for children aged 18 and above, parents, parents-in-law and common-law spouses.

MDeC has advised of a slight relaxation on the policy for MSC companies as follows:

  • New applications where the EP was approved or endorsed before December 31, 2014, can still apply for a Dependant Pass (DP) or Social Visit Pass (SVP). An EP application submitted and approved after December 31, 2014, will not be eligible to sponsor DP or SVP applications.
  • For Dependant Pass and Social Visit Pass renewals approved prior to December 31, 2014, the applicants can proceed to have the relevant pass renewed. However, a maximum of two renewals are now allowed, counting from this date.

Enforcement of existing passes in new passports

The Malaysian authorities have reinforced the rule that a holder of an existing Employment Pass (EP), Dependant Pass (DP) or Social Visit Pass (SVP) who obtains a new passport must have the relevant pass transferred to the new passport before exiting or re-entering Malaysia.

New passport obtained in Malaysia

Transfer of the relevant pass must be done immediately upon obtaining the new passport, and must be completed before any travel to avoid difficulties at exit/entry points.

New passport obtained outside Malaysia

  • EP/DP/SVP holders who are visa-required nationals must now obtain a valid visa from their home-country Malaysian consulate to re-enter Malaysia. Upon arrival in the country, the relevant pass transfer to the new passport must be made immediately. Previously, it was possible to re-enter the country using old and new passports where the entry point authorities would stamp the new passport "Report to Immigration HQ", offering a certain number of days stay to complete the transfer process.

EP/DP/SVP holders who are visa waiver nationals can still enter the country with old and new passports where the entry point authorities may stamp their passport with "Report to Immigration HQ", offering a certain number of days stay to complete the transfer process. However, there may be difficulty at the entry points. The current processing time for the transfer of an Employment Pass or a Dependant Pass to a new passport is three to five weeks at the Expat Services Division (ESD) in Putrajaya and three to five working days at MDeC.

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

The Philippines

Requirements eased for promoted 9(g) visa holders

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has exempt 9(g) Commercial Visa holders promoted to a higher position in the same company, from the previous requirement of downgrading their 9(g) visas to 9(a) Visitor Visa, and then applying again to convert these back into 9(g) visas.

This change aims to avoid unnecessary inconvenience and expense. Board Resolution No. EED-15-01 (approved on January 29, 2015) sets out the following requirements for promoted 9(g) visa holders to qualify for the exemption:

  • Apply for a new Alien Employment Permit (AEP) corresponding to the new position
  • Apply for extension of their 9(g) visas coterminous with their new AEPs
  • Provide the Bureau of Immigration with a certified true copy of their new AEPs.

The 9(g) Commercial Visa is the work visa applicable to companies which are not registered with the Board of Investment (BOI) or Philippines Economic Zone (PEZA) to fill executive, technical, managerial or highly confidential positions for at least one year. The 9(g) visa may be issued for more than one year and up to three years at a time, must not exceed the period granted under the Alien Employment Permit issued by the Department of Labor and 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, Asia, Kit Tang: kittang@crownww.com

Guidelines for 47(a)(2) Visa holders immigration fees

With immediate effect, the Philippines Bureau of Immigration (BI) has released guidelines on the Operations Order released by BI dated November 2014 relating to immigration fees for 47(a)(2) visa holders.

According to BI guidelines, the following have been implemented:

  • Fee-Exempt visas – Visas under Sec. 47(a)(2) shall be exempt from payment of immigration fees unless specifically indicated in the Endorsement issued by the Department of Justice, that is, "free from payment of visa and immigration fees". Such free-exempt visas shall clearly indicate the word "EXEMPT" in the implementation thereof.
  • Fee-Required visas – Visas under Sec. 47(a)(2) shall be subject to regular immigration fees and requirements absent any contrary indication specified in the Endorsement issued by the Department of Justice. Such fee-required visas shall clearly indicate the directive "To secure ECC/SRC upon departure" in the implementation thereof.

As there may be inconsistency at various points of departure on this newly implemented guidelines, Crown recommends 47(a)(2) visa holders to carry their Alien Employment Permit (AEP) cards during travel as proof of current status.

Vietnam

Business Visas No Longer Issued Upon Arrival

With immediate effect, Business Visas are longer issued upon arrival in Vietnam. Business visitors must apply for a Business Visa at the Vietnam Embassy or Consulate in country of residence prior to travel to Vietnam. A business visitor is required to be sponsored by a company in Vietnam.

The change does not affect tourist visas. Multiple-entry Tourist Visas are still available upon arrival for travelers who intend to enter Vietnam for tourist activities.

North America

The United States

March 2015 Visa Bulletin

The U.S. State Department’s March 2015 Visa Bulletin holds largely positive news. The trend continues towards significant progression in the employment-based, third preference (EB3) category. India moved forward to January 2004, and the cut-off date for EB-3 applicants from China advanced to October 22, 2011. The cut-off date for Mexico, Philippines and all other countries moved to June 1, 2014.

The cut-off date for applicants in the EB-2 category (professionals holding advanced degrees or persons with exceptional ability) for India made a forward leap by one year and four months to January 1, 2007, and for China by approximately six months to September 1, 2010.

H-2B Cap reached for the first half of the fiscal year 2015

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has reached the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the first half of fiscal year 2015. January 26, 2015 was the final receipt date for new H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date prior to April 1, 2015.

  • USCIS will reject new cap-subject H-2B petitions that were received after January 26, 2015, and that request an employment start date prior to April 1, 2015.
  • No cap numbers from the first half of FY 2015 will be available in the second half of FY 2015, which begins April 1, 2015.

Currently, the H-2B cap set by Congress is 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 allocated for employment beginning in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 to March 31) and 33,000 allocated for employment beginning in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 to September 30).

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

Canada

CIC announces changes to strengthen employer accountability under the International Mobility Program

The Government of Canada Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced regulatory changes will come into effect on February 21, 2015, that will apply to employers of foreign workers who are exempt from the Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process, as well as to foreign nationals applying for open work permits.

As of that date, employers hiring foreign nationals who are exempt from the Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process will be required to submit information about their business or organization, the Offer of Employment form, and pay a fee to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. These requirements will need to be completed before the foreign national can apply for an employer-specific work permit under the International Mobility Program.

The employer compliance fee has been set at CA$ 230 and must be paid online. The fees collected will offset the cost of introducing robust employer compliance activities featuring inspections of thousands of employers.

According to the CIC, when an inspection finds that an employer is non-compliant, the employer could face an administrative monetary penalty, a ban from hiring foreign workers and, in serious cases, a criminal investigation and prosecution. The adoption of this system will mean that all employers, whether they are hiring LMIA-exempt foreign nationals or temporary foreign workers through the LMIA process that has determined that there are no Canadians available for the job, will face the same level of scrutiny in their hiring and treatment of foreign workers. For more information, please click here.

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

The new Ministry of Labor resolution allows the issuance of employment workbook (CTPS) by presenting the Official Gazette, which authorizes the work in Brazil

The Employment Workbook (CTPS) may be issued based on temporary visas under the labor agreement scheme by submitting the following documents:

  1. Alien Identity Card - CIE original, or
  2. Protocol issued by the Office of the Federal Police, stating the status of foreigners in the country; (The need for SINCRE or processing of certificate is required only if not included in the civil qualification data protocol), or
  3. Work permit Copy published in the Official Gazette by the Brazilian Immigration Coordination, since it contains the information necessary to fulfill the civil qualification

The new Ministry of Labor resolution allows the issuance of employment workbook (CTPS) by presenting the Official Gazette which authorizes the work in Brazil. The Brazilian Immigration Coordination is now including data of civil qualification in the publication from that date.

In cases of Employment workbook (CTPS) request based on offspring, family reunion and marriage, the applicant civil status may be verified on passport or other original document that states this information (birth and marriage certificate) properly legalized in consular offices of Brazil in the issuing country accompanied by a sworn translation into Portuguese

The Employment workbook (CTPS) will be valid based on the work permit publication on the Official Gazette or based on the same validity of the protocol issued by the Federal Police. The Employment workbook (CTPS) will be processed in 15 days after submission of the necessary documentation. For more information, please click here.

Proof of experience documentary requirements eased

The Ministry of Labor and Employment will now accept a wider range of documents as proof of work experience, in support of a temporary work visa.

Moreover, in the case of applicants of companies linked by common ownership it will be possible to submit a letter of experience from the Brazilian host company, which does not need to be legalized abroad.

This amendment will be useful to any foreign national applying for a work visa which requires proof of previous relevant work experience abroad. This includes those who enter Brazil with a temporary local employment contract with a Brazilian employer, and those providing technical assistance or technology transfer services for up to one year.

According to the new Service Order (Ordem de Serviço do Conselho Nacional de Imigração nº. 01-2015), the Ministry will now accept translated and legalized employment contracts or pay slips as proof of work experience abroad. Previously, only a letter from the former employer company was deemed acceptable.

For intra-company transferees within the same group of companies, the Ministry will accept a letter signed by the legal representative of the local (Brazilian) host company attesting to the applicant’s relevant work experience abroad.

As this document does not need to be translated or legalized, the document collection stage of the application should, in these cases, be quicker, and the successful applicant will be able to start work sooner.

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

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

Cuba

U.S. Citizens and travel to Cuba

The current U.S. government administration has enacted a new set of regulations in part to facilitate certain forms of authorized travel to Cuba. The regulations were published on January 16, 2015, in the Federal Register.

The U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control oversees travel to Cuba. There are 12 categories of people who are allowed to visit. They include close relatives of Cubans, academics, those traveling on official government business, those on humanitarian or religious missions, journalists and people on accredited cultural education programs. The groups of people allowed to visit Cuba remain the same but they no longer need to apply for a license to travel.

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

Colombia

Mercosul visa TP15 - Non-Mercosul family are allowed to be included as dependents on Mercosul visa requests 

Based on reciprocity, nationals from the following countries have benefit of the Mercosul visa: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay and Paraguay. From December 25, 2014, the Mercosul visa is now named TP15. Non-Mercosur national family members can apply for the Mercosur national as dependents. The Mercosul visa is granted for two years and dependents have permission to reside or study, but not to work.

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

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

Azerbaijan

Work Permits not required for stays of under 90 days

Foreign nationals on assignment in Azerbaijan no longer require a Work Permit if they will remain in the country for less than 90 cumulative days per year. This will be limited to assignees who have been sent to assist with work for an Azeri client company or technical project within the following industries:

  • Mining
  • Manufacturing
  • Power/gas/steam supply
  • Information and communication
  • Finance and insurance
  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Water supply, sewage treatment

Assignees must remain on home payroll and contract throughout the duration of their assignment in Azerbaijan and there should be a service agreement between the home and host entities.

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: bsookia@crownww.com

Denmark

Establishment Card offers working opportunities to foreign students in Denmark

Companies in Denmark wishing to hire foreign graduates and researchers can benefit from the newly introduced Establishment Card in Denmark. As of January 1, 2015, foreign nationals who have completed a Danish master's degree or a Danish PhD degree can now be granted a Residence Permit under the Establishment Scheme with the aim of remaining in Denmark to work after completing their academic qualifications. Establishment Card holders are exempt from applying for a Work Permit for a period of two years after completing their studies and can also work as entrepreneurs running their own business. For more information, please click here.

Israel

Renewal of Short Employment Authorisation (SEA) Programme

The Ministry of Interior in Israel have confirmed that they have renewed the Short Employment Authorisation visa programme. The SEA visa will allow for urgent and short-term assignments into Israel for a maximum of 30 days in a year by way of an expedited immigration process. The SEA Permit will apply only to nationals of countries that are part of the visitor visa waiver programme and act as an alternative to the existing B1 Work Visa.

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

Romania

2015 Quotas Announced

Romania’s Work Permit quotas for 2015 have been published in the Official Gazette (art I no. 87/02.02.2015), according to Government Decision (H.G) no. 52/28.01.2015.

Romania’s Work Permit quotas run from January 1 every year and are decided annually by the government, based on the proposals from the Ministry of Labor. The quotas are set at national level and then subdivided into categories for local hires, assignees, highly skilled workers (Blue Cards) as well as seasonal workers, athletes, cross border workers, internships and volunteers. Once the quotas have been exhausted for a particular category, no more work permit approvals in that category can be given till the following year - unless the Romanian government exceptionally adjusts the quotas (this last happened in 2012). The quota limits for 2014 were not reached.

The quota amounts for 2015 are the same as for 2014 (a total of 5500 authorizations), although allocations are different. The quotas are as follows:

  1. Work authorizations for local hires or professional athletes: 3300
  2. Work authorizations for assignees: 900
  3. Work authorizations for highly skilled workers (Blue Cards): 800
  4. Work authorizations for seasonal workers: 200
  5. Work authorizations for interns: 200
  6. Work authorizations for cross border workers: 100

The total number of authorizations is the same as in 2014 (5500) but the numbers have been allocated slightly differently: professional athletes no longer have their own special category and have been merged into the local hire category (meaning that this category has 3300 spaces, up from 3000 in 2014). Additionally, the quota for seasonal workers has been increased to 200 (up from 100) and the category listing for "nominal workers" has been removed.

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

New minimum salary for Work Permits

With immediate effect, the Romanian government has implemented a new minimum salary requirements for foreign nationals.

The new minimum salary required for foreign nationals with a standard Work Permit is 2415 RON/month (approximately 540 EUR/month currently), which is equal to the national median gross salary as set out in Law no.187/2014. Highly skilled workers with a Blue Card are required to be paid four times this amount (approximately 2160 EUR per month currently).

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: bsookia@crownww.com

Russia

New requirement for Russian Nationals entering Ukraine

With effect from March 1, 2015, Russian Nationals will only be permitted entry, stay and travel within Ukraine if they hold a valid international passport. The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, formalized a resolution on January 30, 2015, which voids an intergovernmental agreement dating back to 2007 that previously enabled Russians to enter and travel in Ukraine using Russian internal passports and birth certificates for children under the age of 14. The purpose of the new resolution is to ensure enhanced border controls for the benefit of national security. As an exception under the existing 2007 agreement, individuals with diplomatic passports, maritime ID cards and aircraft crew ID cards will also continue to be permitted entry and stay in the Ukraine.

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 the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA.

Switzerland

L Work Permit quota for EU Nationals reached

The quota for short-term L Work Permits (four to twelve months duration) for EU nationals has been filled for the period up to April 1, 2015. Some cantons will continue to accept applications and place them on hold while others will reject any new applications prior to the start of the second quarter of 2015. Any EU nationals intending to enter Switzerland on assignment can still do so by applying for a short-term permit with a maximum duration of four months. The quota for non-EU nationals also remains open for those wishing to submit applications prior to April 1, 2015.

This development is a direct consequence of the more stringent immigration quotas that came into effect in Switzerland from January 1, 2015. These included the cap on L Work Permits from a total annual limit of 3,000 to 2,000 for EU Nationals and from 5,000 to 4,000 for non EU Nationals as from January 1, 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: bsookia@crownww.com

The United Kingdom

Overseas visa applicants to obtain Biometric Residence Permits

EEA nationals will soon be required to obtain a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) upon arrival in the UK.

Currently non-EEA nationals are only required to apply for a BRP when requesting an extension to remain in the UK for a period of stay beyond six months.

The process will remain largely unchanged except that instead of having a visa vignette, or sticker, affixed to a passport or travel document, migrants will be issued with a short validity "travel" vignette, allowing them to come to the UK and collect their BRP within ten days of arrival.

The visa application fee is not being increased as a result of the introduction of overseas BRPs.

The initiative will be rolled out in phases, country by country, over a four month period expected to start in March 2015.

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

Meet the team: Benjamin Sookia - EMEA Immigration Manager - London, Crown World Mobility

Benjamin Sookia
Benjamin Sookia

Benjamin Sookia joined Crown World Mobility’s London office as the EMEA Immigration Manager in January 2015. In his role, Benjamin oversees the delivery of corporate immigration services in the EMEA region, primarily focusing on compliance and client service. He is responsible for developing a centralized and streamlined approach to Crown’s immigration services with the support of our locally based in-house immigration specialists and network of Service Partners. Prior to joining Crown, Benjamin worked as a Compliance Consultant coordinating transactional immigration cases across complex jurisdictions. Most recently, he acted as a VIP Manager and primary relationship contact for senior executives across a range of industries while working for a global immigration law firm.

Benjamin studied French, Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Nottingham, UK, before completing an LLB in Law at the College of Law in London. In his spare time he enjoys cheering on Arsenal Football Club and is also a keen traveler, having spent a year abroad living in Brazil and recently visited close family in Australia and Mauritius.