Latest immigration updates for the holiday

Welcome to the December 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

China/ United States

Long-term Visa applications now accepted for U.S. travelers to China

With immediate effect, the Visa Office of the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. accepts 10-year multiple entries visa applications for Tourist(L), Business(M), short-term visit to the relatives(Q2), private matters(S2) purposes and 5-year multiple entries visa application for Study(1) purpose. The application requirements remain unchanged. Applicants must hold a passport with at least a one year validity.

This change brings a positive impact to businesspersons who travel regularly to China as they previously were required to apply for new visas every year. Current visa holders will have to wait until the current visas expired and re-apply for a new one in order to obtain a visa with longer validity.

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

India

Online tourist Visa-on-Arrival launched for 43 Nationalities

With immediate effect, a new online tourist visa system for nationals of 43 countries is in place to facilitate visa processing for tourists going to India. The Indian government is likely to roll this out to more countries.

The Tourist Visa-on-Arrival (TVoA) is available for passport holders of the following countries:

Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Cook Islands, Djibouti, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nauru, New Zealand,?Niue Island, Norway, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russia, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, UAE, Ukraine, USA, Vanuatu, Vietnam.

The TVoA is available to those traveling on leisure, for short duration medical treatment, for a "casual business visit" or to meet friends and relatives. Travelers must show proof of onward travel and sufficient funds. Although the definition of "casual business visit" is not clear, it’s as short meaningful business meetings. If there’s any uncertainty about whether the activities to be carried out qualify as a business visit or not (that is, if any activities verge on "working" in India), this visa is not appropriate.

TVoA applicants must apply online, at least four days before the intended date of arrival to India. The visa fee (approximately US$ 60) must be paid when applying. A digital photograph and copy of the passport information page must be uploaded as part of the application.

The applicant will receive an electronic travel authorization (ETA) within 72 hours, which they must take with them at the time of travel. Biometric data will be taken at the port of entry on arrival to India.

The TVoA is valid for 30 days from the date of arrival in India, is non-extendable, non-convertible and allowed for a maximum of two visits in a calendar year.

Singapore

Work pass holders prosecuted by the Ministry of Manpower for falsifying information and providing fake credentials

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has prosecuted a total of 150 work pass holders between 2012 and first half of 2014 for providing false information and credentials relating to their academic qualifications when making their application. All offenders were sentenced to imprisonment, had their work passes revoked and are barred from obtaining a future work pass.

The MOM now operates tighter regulations with increased penalties for work pass holders who falsify information or submit fake documents to aid their work pass application. Offenders may be fined up to S$20,000 and jailed for up to two years. To enhance its screening and credential check efforts, the MOM collaborates with third-party screening agencies and carries out direct checks with the institutions issuing the certificates to ensure the authenticity.

In line with above, applicants with a diploma or degree issued by Indian educational institutions, must provide a copy of the certificate along with a copy of each semester’s mark sheets and transcripts to the MOM to support their work pass application. Applicants with a diploma or degree issued by Chinese educational institutions must provide a copy of the certificate along
with a graduation certificate and online verification educational qualifications proof attained via accredited independent verification channels.

Work passes for foreigners married to Singapore Citizens or Singapore Permanent Residents

The Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will be streamlining the types of work passes for foreigners who are married to Singapore Citizens (SCs) or Permanent Residents (PRs).

With effect from February 1, 2015, a Letter of Consent (LOC) will be issued to foreign spouses of Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents on Long-term Visit Passes (LTVP), allowing them to work in Singapore. 

Foreign spouses who currently hold a Work Permit must comply to the following:

  • Continue their employment using their existing Work Permit until expiry
  • Should apply to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) for their LTVP at least three months prior to the Work Permit expiration
  • Ensure the employer applies to the MOM for an LOC once the LTVP is obtained to continue the employment (in lieu of renewing Work Permit)
  • The MOM will renew passes for six months if the Work Permit expires between January 1 and April 30 2015, to allow sufficient time to apply to the ICA for a LTVP

Foreign spouses who are currently holding a LTVP (but not on a work permit), must comply to the following:

  • If foreign spouses wish to work, the prospective employer may apply to MOM for an LOC as of February 1, 2015
  • Up until February 1, 2015, MOM will continue to issue work permits valid for six months

The LOC is only intended for Foreign spouses who hold a LTVP, not for Short-term Visit Pass (STVP) holders.

Companies must request Employment Pass to be officially issued before employee can commence employment

With effect from March 16, 2015, companies must officially request for employee’s Employment Pass to be officially issued via the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) before the employee can commence their employment with the company.

Upon submission request for Employment Pass issuance by the company, the MOM will issue the employee with a Notification Letter. Only once the employee obtains the Notification Letter, can they officially commence employment with the company.

Employers found guilty of allowing employees to commence employment without submitting official request for Employment Pass issuance to the MOM may be liable for prosecution.

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Singapore Ministry of Manpower.

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

The United States

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) practice change to H-2B Prevailing Wage Determinations

With immediate effect, the DOL no longer issues prevailing wage determinations in the H-2B program based on employer provided wage surveys.  

On December 5, 2014, a court order vacated the portion of the H-2B wage rule (20 CFR § 655.10(f)) and 2009 Wage Guidance permitting the use of such surveys. Prevailing Wage Determination Requests currently pending with the National Prevailing Wage Center that seek to utilize employer provided surveys will be given the appropriate Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) wage for the occupation.

U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin for January 2015: EB-3 Advancement for China and many other countries

The Department of State’s Visa Bulletin for January 2015, which publishes the wait time for prospective immigrants in their respective visa preference category, indicates a significant advancement for China and most other countries in the EB-3 preference category. The U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin for January 2015 indicates the EB-3 subcategory for professionals and skilled workers will advance for China to March 1, 2011, and for most other countries, to June 1, 2013.

Planning ahead for Cap Subject H-1B Petitions

It is anticipated that the demand for H-1B Visas will exceed the number available for the coming fiscal year. The deadline for cap-subject employers to file H-1B petitions on behalf of foreign workers is April 1, 2015. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) exhausted its supply of available H-1B Visas within days of the deadline in both 2013 and 2014. It’s not too early for employers to begin preparing to petition for H-1B status for a foreign professional worker.

Canada

Citizenship and Immigration Canada Express Entry program

With immediate effect, the CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) Express Entry program will manage applications for permanent residence under the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program, Federal Skilled Trades (FST) program, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and members of the Provincial Nominee Class.

Under the new program, applicants must create a detailed online profile, including both an Educational Credential Assessment and a language test. The profile will then be scored and those who meet the criteria of one of the four economic immigration programs will then move into a pool of candidates. Applicants will be given a score of up to 1,200 based on four “core human capital” factors: skills and experiences, spouse information, skill transferability and a qualifying job offer or nomination. Those with the highest scores will be drawn from the pool and will be eligible to apply for permanent residence. It’s anticipated that the pool drawing will commence 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, Americas, Laura Taggart: ltaggart@crownww.com

Latin America

Mexico

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Issues 2014 General Guidelines for visa processing

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced general guidelines for visa processing on the government website, effective October 2014. The guidelines cover various visa types, including non-employment and employment related visas.

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, Africa

Belgium

Minimum salary threshold increases in 2015 for Type B Work Permits

The Belgian government has announced an increase in the minimum salary requirement for Type B Work Permits and Blue Cards effective January 1, 2015. In addition, the Belgian region of Wallonia has adopted legislation confirming that discretionary bonuses cannot be taken into account when processing a Work Permit application.

The minimum annual salary for highly skilled foreign nationals applying for Type B Work Permits will increase to €39,802EUR, from €39,422EUR.

The minimum annual salary for senior management and executive-level foreign nationals applying for Type B Work Permits will increase to €66,405EUR from €65,771EUR.

The minimum annual salary for Blue Card applicants will increase to €51,466EUR (depending on the region of Belgium) from €50,974EUR.

Ireland

Re-entry visa delays and a change to critical skills eligibility

There are delays in re-entry visa processing, and a change of wording for one category of eligible skills for the Critical Skills Employment Permit.

In recent weeks, there has been a very high number of people queuing to obtain re-entry visas, as people plan to travel over the Christmas period. There are reports of people queuing overnight at the main Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) office in Burgh Quay, Dublin.

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) has acknowledged that they are experiencing an unprecedented demand for re-entry visas, but hopes to have normal processing times restored as soon as possible.

The visa office strongly advise that any applicant intending to travel in 2015, does not join the queue at this time as it is creating additional difficulties for those who are planning to travel before Christmas. It is possible for people to apply for the re-entry visa by post and this service can take anything from 10 to 21 days.

Any visa required national residing in Ireland, with a valid permission to remain, will require a re-entry visa to travel freely into and out of Ireland (until they gain Irish residency rights). Re-entry visas are only granted for a maximum of one year, or in line with the expiration date on an individual’s GNIB card.

The registration process with the Garda National Immigration Bureau, which is co-located with the Re-entry Visa Office, is operating normally. There is no need to queue before the office opening hours and all applicants will be dealt with on the day.

Highly Skilled Eligible occupations

The Department for Justice, Enterprise and Innovation (DJEI) has made slight changes to the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List, which defines which skills are eligible for the Critical Skills Employment Permit. The most important change is the new wording for the Sales, Marketing and Related Associate Professionals category.

The category now applies to “Business sales executives specialising in International Sales roles or ITB2B sales roles and with fluency in the official language, "apart from English", of a state which is not a Member State of the EEA.” It can be concluded from this that any international or IT sales executive with fluency only in English or an EEA language is now "ineligible" for the Critical Skills Employment Permit. Previous to this change, English as an official language of a non-EEA state was not mentioned as an exception in this category.

Mozambique

Pre-approval of visa applications now requested by some consulates of Mozambique 

Some embassies and consulates of Mozambique in various countries have recently started to request pre-approval of Entry Visa applications from the Mozambique Immigration Service.

The pre-approval process consists of submitting the visa application documents to the Immigration Service, which may then issue a pre-approval notice to the Mozambique embassy or consulate abroad. This extra step may delay the visa application for up to three weeks, if required.

The new pre-approval requirement differs from country to country: A consulate may require no pre-approval, or pre-approval for certain visa types, or for all visa types.

Switzerland

2015 Quotas for Work Permits announced

The Swiss government has announced the quotas for highly qualified workers from non-European Union/European Free Trade Agreement countries, as well as for assignees from EU/EFTA countries. The Swiss Federal Council has adopted a partial amendment of the Ordinance on Admission, Stay and Employment (OASA), which will come into effect on January 1, 2015. As a result, the quotas announced are lower than those for 2014 (although the quotas for 2014 have not yet been met).

The quotas are imposed on a national, rather than per-company, basis, on B permits:  renewable, Long-term Residence Permits, valid for up to five years. Once the B permit quotas are reached, applicants are issued L permits – valid for up to 12 months and convertible into a B permit after two years.

2015 Quotas for Non-EU/EFTA Nationals

In 2015, companies in Switzerland can recruit foreign national specialists from non-EU/EFTA countries or Croatia (which is considered as non-EU for the purposes of immigration into Switzerland), up to the following national quotas:

  • 4000 L permits (down from 5000)
  • 2500 B permits (down from 3500)

This means that the government has decided to reduce the amount of Work Permits by 1000 for each of the above categories compared to last year. As in previous years, half of the quota will be allocated to the cantons, with the other half kept as a Federal Reserve.

2015 Quotas for EU/EFTA National Assignees

The quotas for assignees from EU/EFTA countries to Switzerland for more than 90 days and for more than 120 days have also been reduced compared to last year:

  • 2000 L permits (down from 3000)
  • 250 B permits (down from 350)

These quotas will be allocated to the cantons on a quarterly basis.

Russia

New rules for labour agreements with foreign workers

With immediate effect, amendments to the Russian Labour Code state that employers, in most cases, must sign unlimited term labour agreements with foreign employees. The new regulations also clarify that a labour agreement must include details of the foreign national’s Work Permit and medical insurance cover, and offer a few benefits for internal employee changes.

All employers of foreign nationals in Russia are required to:

  • Sign unlimited term agreements with all foreign employees, including those applying for the Highly Qualified Worker Category. Some exceptions will apply (for general directors, chief accountants and/or when the employer is a Representative Office or Branch Office). Previously, there was no official guidance for employers about whether to sign limited term or unlimited term labour agreements with their foreign employees
  • Include in the text of the labour agreement, the details of the document, confirming the right of a foreign national to perform work activities, whether this be the Work Permit, Work Patent or Temporary or Permanent Residence Permit
  • Include in the text of the labour agreement, the Medical Insurance Certificate or agreement between employer and insurance company for provision of the medical insurance, including cover for first aid and emergency medical care. Previously, Russian legislation did not contain any specific guidelines as to what services medical insurance should include

In addition, all host entities are now entitled to:

  • Transfer a foreign employee to another job position within the company for up to one month within a calendar year, without first applying for a Work Permit amendment
  • Suspend a foreign employee from work activities for up to one month, if the employee's Work Permit expires

Fingerprinting introduced for visa applicants at certain consulates

With immediate effect, all applicants for Russian visas at the Russian consular posts in the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Myanmar and Namibia and also at the border control service on arrival at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, are now required to undergo fingerprinting.

This new requirement, which is irrespective of the visa type, validity or number of requested entries, was introduced in an Order signed by President Putin on 24 November 2014, and is the first step in a program to implement fingerprinting at all Russian consular posts abroad, as well as on entry into Russia. The timeframe for the rest of the project has not yet been announced.

Upcoming changes for Highly Qualified Specialists

With effect from January 1, 2015, a new law amends the existing notification requirements for Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) Work Permit holders.

As of January 2015, companies employing HQS Work Permit holders will not be required to notify:

  • The Federal Migration Service office to report unpaid leave granted to an HQS WP holder exceeding one calendar month during a twelve month period
  • The Tax Authority to report hiring or dismissal of the employee

Instead, notify the Federal Migration Service office to report hiring or dismissal of the employee within three business days from the day of signing or termination of the labour agreement.

Fines of up to 1,000,000 RUB will be implemented for each violation.

The Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) program was introduced in 2010 and allows companies in Russia to employ foreign national workers for up to three years with various benefits, including a simplified application process and exemption from quotas.

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

The United Kingdom

Changes to Transit Visas

UK Visa and Immigration has announced changes to Direct Airside Transit Visas (DATVs) and Non-Direct Transit Visas. DATVs are required for some nationals to transit through the UK via air or land. Non-Direct Transit Visas are required for some nationals to transit via land only.

With immediate effect, travellers applying for a DATV will:

  • Have the option of either applying for a Transit Visa for making an airside or landside transit, or for using one of an extended list of exemption documents
  • Pay a reduced fee of £30 for a DATV which will be valid for two years
  • Chinese and Indian travellers will be permitted to use the new British-Irish Visa Scheme biometric visa as a valid DATV exemption document

With immediate effect, travellers applying for a non-DATV will:

  • Be required to arrive and depart by air, have a confirmed onward flight which leaves prior to 24:00 the day following their arrival and hold the correct documents for onward destination
  • No longer be permitted to use confirmed onward ticket for landside transit and instead must now hold a transit visa or exemption document
  • Be permitted to use one of the extended list of exemption documents in lieu of a non-DATV.
  • No longer be required to hold a UK DATV or a valid exemption document for airside transit if they are a Ecuador, Bolivia, or Montenegro national

Full guidance can be found at the UK Government website.

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: Marielle Scherpenisse, EMEA Immigration Coordinator

Marielle ScherpenissePrior to joining Crown, Marielle worked as an in-house Immigration Coordinator at a large Oil company in the Netherlands. Within this role she was responsible for coordinating the relocation and inbound immigration services in line with the client’s processes to ensure satisfactory experience. She was responsible for preparing and submitting visa, work permit and residence permit applications as well as coordinating the legalization and translation of required documents for immigration.

Marielle joined Crown Relocations in 2011 as an International Mobility Consultant and after one and a half years, became Global Immigration Coordinator for a large Dutch electronics retailer. She did overall case management and implemented new practices and standard immigration processes. She provided guidance on immigration issues/escalations to internal and external clients and managed KPI’s and Service Level Agreements relating to immigration procedures. Marielle then worked as a Crown in-house International Mobility Consultant for a large F&B company from 2013-2014.

Currently Marielle works as Crown EMEA World Mobility Immigration Coordinator. She is the subject matter expert across the EMEA region for immigration services.

Marielle is an accurate, decisive professional with strong communication skills, always focused on delivering the best service.