Our January and February 2020 global immigration update provides key changes to immigration rules in global jurisdictions. In this month's issue we include Poland, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Belarus, Australia, Singapore, China, USA, Chile Colombia, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Coronavirus outbreak restrictions
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), governments around the world are taking immigration related measures in order to contain the spread. This has led to the temporary closure of various consular posts and visa application centres. Travellers from affected regions should expect additional health screening procedures which have been implemented in many countries’ ports of entry. Restrictions on entry and during travel are also being put in place by an increasing number of countries and their health officials are advising against nonessential travel to affected regions. Individuals are advised to check the respective government websites for the latest official information on the closures of visa application centres as well as entry restrictions ahead of their travel.
Brexit - UK Nationals in the EU
UK nationals in EU member states should register their stay with the local authorities as soon as possible and before the end of 2020 at the latest. The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 with the Withdrawal Agreement. The terms of that agreement include that UK nationals resident in the EU (and EU citizens in the UK) before the end of the transition period will be able to continue to stay in the host state. UK nationals arriving in the EU to work after 1 January 2021 (or later if the transition period is extended) are expected to need to apply for a local work permit under the prevailing domestic legislation.
Poland - increase in minimum salary for EU Blue Card applicants
Poland has increased the minimum monthly salary for EU Blue Card applicants to 7.378 PLN as of February 11, 2020. Accordingly, employers must increase foreign national’s salaries to comply with the new rule. This is the case for all applications being made after this date and also those currently pending.
Sweden - draft proposal addressing treatment of UK nationals in Sweden post the end of Brexit transition period published
A draft proposal addressing the treatment of UK nationals residing in Sweden post the end of the Brexit transition period (31 December 2020) has been published by the Swedish government. The plan indicates that UK nationals who register before 31 December 2020 will be able to apply for a national residence permit for 10 months following ratification of the proposal. This is expected to take effect on 1 December 2020. On 31 December 2020 UK nationals who have been residing in Sweden for five years or more will be able to apply for permanent residence or citizenship depending on eligibility. UK nationals who have resided in Sweden for less than five years would need to apply for a type of local residence permit if eligible.
Germany - Changes to immigration System from 1 March 2020
Some changes to the German immigration system took effect on 1 March 2020. In particular: employers as well as foreign nationals are now required to provide new departure notifications for early terminations; a better access to work authorisation will be available depending on vocational training and professional experience; fast-track process which will be available for local hires; and an overall review of sponsoring companies’ compliance at the application processing stage.
The Netherlands - posted workers’ notifications to become mandatory as of 1 March 2020
Posted workers’ notifications will become mandatory as of 1 March 2020. Thus the posted worker’s employer outside of the Netherlands will have to make an online notification before the posted worker starts work in the Netherlands. However, the notification process is not required for those working, for example, in transport roles, as guest lecturers and for those carrying out incidental work.
Belgium - Single permit renewal applicants no longer require approval to continue work
A change in policy has meant that single permit renewal applicants no longer require approval from the Federal Immigration Office in order to continue work. They can continue working if the Regional Employment Authority has approved the file. This also applies to applicants for a Single Permit renewal because of a change of employer.
Portugal - minimum wage for highly-qualified residence visa applicants increases
From 10 February 2020, the minimum wage for highly-qualified residence visa applicants in Portugal has increased to EUR 1,914. Employers should adjust the salaries for pending and new applications to avoid potential delays.
Belarus - Changes to the labour code
Changes to the labour code have been made as of 28 January 2020. In particular, foreign employees will now be allowed to work off-site and will not be tied to their sponsoring company’s work location. Some important amendments to Belarus’ immigration laws are also due to take effect on 1 July 2020, including extensions on temporary stay registration deadlines; a wider eligibility for permanence residence permits and changes to the rules relating to periods of absence for permanent residence as well as entry and exit bans.
Australia - Requests for changes to the Skilled Migration Occupation Lists can be submitted by 12 February 2020
The temporary and permanent skilled migration categories, including the TSS visa, the Employer Nomination Scheme and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme could all be affected, as well as all Australian companies sponsoring skilled overseas workers. Australian companies are able to convey their opinions and assessments through submissions during the consultation period.
Singapore - Employers of overseas workers who discriminate to face more severe penalties
From 1 January 2020, where an employer of overseas workers discriminates on the grounds of nationality, age, gender and race, it will face more severe penalties and increased fees. Importantly, employers could be caught out where they do not advertise jobs with salaries below SGD 15,000 per month on the national Jobs Bank for 14 days before an application for an Employment Pass is submitted.
The foreign worker quota for S-Pass workers in the construction, marine and shipyard and process sectors have been reduced from 20% to 18% in January 2021. Where an employer has already met the foreign worker quota, its foreign national employees wishing to obtain an S Pass may not be able to enter Singapore in this instance. Similarly, those who already hold an S Pass may not be able to renew their passes if their employer goes beyond the quota.
China - Category A overseas workers can apply to "Single Window" system
Following a change introduced by the Chinese government, it has become possible for Category A highly skilled overseas workers at qualifying Shanghai based companies to apply at the same time for a work and residence permit. This is known as the “Single Window” system and both of the documents should take 7 working days in total to process.
USA - H-1B Registrations and Public CHange rule
Organisations wishing to sponsor migrant workers for H-1B cap employment in the fiscal year 2021, must set up a registration account on the USCIS’s new H-1B cap registration system. The H-1B cap registration has now opened as of 1 March 2020 and will close at noon on 20 March 2020. Therefore, in order to be entered in the annual H-1B cap selection lotteries, you must register all beneficiaries during this period (1 – 20 March 2020).
Public Change Rule
In its 21 February 2020 ruling, the US Supreme Court allowed the Public Charge Rule to apply in Illinois which has meant that the new public charge rule will be applied in all 50 states. This of course has implications for employers and foreign nationals. In particular, applications for adjustment of status and non-immigrant applications for non-immigrant changes or extensions of stay must now meet the new requirements. These include the completion of a new Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, submitting detailed documentation of their financial circumstances and disclosing whether they have accepted or are certified to receive certain public benefits. The State Department has also implemented its own public charge standards at US consulates.
Chile - Visa and permit applicants no longer required to obtain travel authorisation
Applicants for visas, temporary residence and permanent residence permits in Chile are no longer required to obtain travel authorisation from the Immigration Department to depart from the country pending their application. Instead it will be sufficient for foreign nationals to use the original delivery receipt of their pending application. Permanent residence applicants can use the residence–in-process certificate which is now being issued upon filing the online application.
Columbia - Additional documents requested for M-5 Migrant Visa applications
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is exercising discretion and requesting additional documents from some employers as well as foreign nationals applying for initial or renewed M-5 Migrant Visas in order to verify the educational qualifications and experiences of the applicants. Foreign nationals have up to 30 days to submit the additional documents and this added administrative hurdle is expected to delay the processing time.
Azerbaijan - Quota reports must be submitted by 1 May 2020
Companies who wish to employ foreign nationals between 1 January 2021 and 31 December 2021 are required to submit their quota reports (number of foreign workers required) to the State Migration Service by 1 May 2020.
Saudi Arabia - Those travelling for business purposes must now obtain a visa pre-approval
Those traveling to Saudi Arabia for business purposes must now obtain a visa pre-approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before a business visit visa application is submitted. As this is likely to increase the processing time, travellers should take these delays into account when planning their trip.
United Arab Emirates - Applicants to update their job titles if this is not on the new list of occupations for foreign nationals
Applicants renewing work permits in mainland UAE are now required to update their job titles if this is not on the new list of occupations for foreign nationals. Where the job titles printed on work permits do not match the job titles printed on visa stickers, foreign nationals affected by this inconsistency will be required to amend their job titles in the immigration system. Furthermore, an attested education certificate must now be submitted by applicants renewing their work permits or updating salary information, if this is required by the occupation list for their role.
Please note that all immigration rules are subject to change and while correct at the time of publication, they should not be relied on as legal advice or a statement of accuracy at a later date.