Canada: End to Four-Year Rule
Regulations limited foreign workers from staying in Canada for more than 4 years has been cancelled by the Canadian government. Previously, foreign workers were forced to either depart Canada at the end of 4 years or apply for permanent residence. Previous foreign nationals who departed Canada because they were approaching the limit may now apply to return.
Mexico: Electronic Travel Authorization Now Available
Beginning 1 December 2016, Mexican nationals transiting through or traveling to Canada by air must apply for an electronic travel authorization (eTA) online prior to travel. The eTA replaces the previous requirement for Mexicans to obtain a temporary residence visa. Mexicans already holding a valid Canadian visa are exempt from the eTA; however, once expired, the eTA must be secured. The eTA does not apply to Mexicans entering Canada at land or sea ports of entry.
USA: USCIS Increase Filing Fees
USCIS made increases to the filing fee structure, effective 23 December 2016. The new fees, which are the first to be implemented by USCIS in 6 years, apply to all applications postmarked or filed on or after the aforementioned date. Further details on the new fee structure are available here.
USA: EVUS for Certain Chinese Nationals
Prior to traveling to the US, Chinese nationals holding a 10-year B-1 (business) or B-2 (tourist) visa must now enroll in the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS). Enrollment comes with an $8 USD fee, gathers biometric data, and is valid for either 2 years or until the visa holder’s passport expires, whichever comes first.
EU: Proposition of Electronic Entry/Exit Program
The European Union Parliament has proposed and piloted an EU Entry/Exit System (EES) for non-EEA nationals traveling in the Schengen area for visits up to 90 days. The EES would function similarly to the United States’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program which tracks visitors into the U.S. and collects fingerprint and facial scan biometric data. Unlike ESTA, however, both visa and non-visa foreign nationals would be subject to the EES. All EU member states must agree upon the program before implementation.
Germany: Longer Times for Municipal Foreigners Office Appointments
Foreign nationals from “privileged countries,” including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and the USA, are exempt from obtaining an entry visa and have the option to apply for their work and residence permits after arrival in Germany. The visa waiver is valid for 90 days from entry. However, backlogs at most municipal foreign offices have led to an abolition of short-notice appointments. Currently, appointments should be booked at least 3 to 4 months in advance. The backlog creates issue for visa-waiver applicants who are unable to get into the offices within their 90 days of visa exemption. Because post-arrival applicants are not permitted to start up employment activities until the work and residence permit processes are complete, it is recommended that applicants from the aforementioned countries apply at German consulate in their home country and consider at least 8 to 12 weeks’ processing time.
Israel: Same-Sex Marriages Recognized for Immigration Purposes
Legally married same-sex couples are now afforded the same immigration rights as heterosexual couples pursuant to a December 2016 directive issued by the Israel Attorney General. Regulation changes are expected that will allow for the right to citizenship to all married foreign partners regardless of sexual orientation. Previously, same-sex couples have been categorized as domestic partnerships rather than marriages, which has limited them to residence rather than citizenship from an immigration point of view. It is important to note that despite changes in immigration law, Israel still does not legally perform same-sex marriages.
South Africa: Biometric Police Clearance Process Delayed
The South African Department of Home Affairs had aimed to launch a new police clearance certificate system on 1 October 2016. The streamlined system is to be automated using biometric data and aimed to replace the process of obtaining hard copies and significantly reduce processing time. The launch has been delayed indefinitely.
Switzerland: Increased Quotas for 2017
Switzerland has increased its highly qualified non-EU/non-EFTA foreign national quota by 500 permits per category for 2017. The quota applies to long-term B residence permits valid up to 5 years with the possibility of renewal as well as the shorter L residence permits valid up to 1 year with the possibility of renewal and conversion to B permit after two years. The 2017 quota includes 3,000 B permits and 4,500 L permits. Quotas for EU/EFTA citizens remain unchanged.
Australia: Changes to Temporary Activity Visa
Effective 19 November 2016, Australia has made reforms to the Temporary Activity Visa framework in an effort to simplify the application process and alleviate bureaucratic red tape by removing certain sponsorship and nomination requirements. The new framework closes applications to the following visa categories:
• Subclass 401 Temporary Work (Long Stay Activity) visa
• Subclass 402 Training and Research visa
• Subclass 416 Special Program visa
• Subclass 420 Temporary Work (Entertainment) visa
• Subclass 488 Superyacht Crew visa
Newly introduced categories include:
• Subclass 400 Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) visa
• Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations) visa
• Subclass 407 Training visa
• Subclass 408 Temporary Activity visa
Australia: Changes to Dependent Definition
On 19 November 2016, Australia’s government reduced the age cap for dependent children of Subclass 457 visa holders from 25 to 23 years except in extraordinary cases where a child is unable to work due to an incapacitation. All other relatives, except spouses and qualifying children, are excluded from the 457 application. In regards to the Subclass 186 permanent residence visa category, a child may be included in the application provided that he or she already holds a valid 457 visa.
China: Consolidated Work Permit Card Progress
1 November 2016 marked the start of China’s newly consolidated Work Permit Card in pilot cities. Authorities in Shanghai have praised the new program for its efficiency and streamlined and green approach. The new card combines the Alien Employment Permit (AEP) and Foreign Expert Certificate (FEC) into a single permit. The remainder of the country will be subject to the new card effective April 2017.
China: Suspension of M Business Visa Invitation Letters
In an effort to streamline the M visa applicant process for business travelers, some Shanghai and Beijing authorities have suspended issuance of invitation letters. Company letters will now be accepted.
Indonesia: New DPKK Fee Payment Method
Indonesia has instituted a new payment method process for the Dana Pengembangan Keahlian dan Keterampilan (DPKK) fee when filing work permit applications. The new method mandates that companies make a cash transfer at designated banks: Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI), Mandiri Bank, or Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI). A specific billing code issued during the Izin Mempekerjakan Tenaga Kerja Asing (IMTA) application process must be used to make the transfer. Failure to follow the new payment process could result in a reimbursement that could possibly take up to a year.
Indonesia: Changes to Third-Party Application Filing
The Indonesian Directorate General of Immigration has announced that only company staff bearing an official company ID card can submit limited stay permit (KITAS) and multiple exit re-entry permit (MERP) applications at immigration offices. Companies are encouraged to check the local policy at each immigration office before filing, as policy and implementation vary by location. Likewise, it is recommended that employers make sure that their third-party representatives have company ID card designating him or her as a signatory before heading to the immigration office.
Malaysia: New Employment Pass Requirements for ICT and MSC Malaysia Employees
New employment pass (EP) regulations announced by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation Sdn Bhd (MDEC) mandate that all EP applicants obtain an approval letter in advance of entering the country. In addition to the approval letter requirement, passports must have at least 1 year’s validity from the time of the EP stamping, and certain current pass holders applying for an EP must depart Malaysia for a 90-day cooling off period then return with an approval letter in hand. The changes were effective 1 September 2016 and are relative to foreign workers with Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Multimedia Super Corridor Malaysia (MSC Malaysia) statuses.
Thailand: Changes to Corporate Signatory Requirements
Thai companies with foreign directors must now possess a valid Thai work permit in order to execute corporate tax and financial documents as the act of signing the documents is now considered to be a productive work activity. In the absence of a valid Thai work permit, the foreign signatory may either sign a power of attorney allowing a Thai citizen employee to sign said documents or engage a notary public outside of Thailand to notarize the documents; the documents must then be duly legalized by the Thai Consulate where the notarization occurred. Failure to comply to the change could result in application delays or rejection.
Thailand: New Long-Term Visa Requirements
Previously, long-term visa applicants submitted a PND 93 self-paid personal income tax form with their initial or renewal applications. Changes now require that applicants include certified copies of their PND1 monthly salary withholding tax forms with their applications. Additionally, the foreign national must receive a local salary. Once the visa is secured, employers will need to properly withhold taxes and pay monthly social security contributions.