Our March and April 2020 global immigration update provides key changes to immigration rules in global jurisdictions. In this month's issue we include France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Japan, Singapore, China, USA, Costa Rica, UAE and Azerbaijan.
Coronavirus OUtbreak Restrictions
Travel restrictions and quarantine measures have been expanded around the world due to the spread of COVID-19. Many jurisdictions have implemented extension policies and other concessions. Restrictions on entry and travel bans continue to be implemented by an increasing number of countries and their health officials are advising against nonessential travel. Individuals are advised to check the respective government websites for the latest official information on closures of visa application centres as well as entry restrictions ahead of their travel.
The EU’s Guidance on COVID-19-related Schengen Travel Ban and Overstays
A practical guidance has been issued by the European Union on Schengen travel bans related to COVID-19. The key recommendations include the following: firstly, visa-exempt nationals who will exceed their 90 days within the permitted 180-day period should apply for a long term visa or a temporary national residence permit in the country of their stay. Secondly, when seeking entry, visa holders must be reminded by authorities that they must justify their purpose of travel which in turn must be deemed to be essential. Lastly, EU countries are urged to waive penalties and/or sanctions in relation to overstay. They should be lenient with current overstay cases when processing future residence or visa applications.
Recommendation for EU countries to extend COVID-19-related entry bans
The European Union has also recommended that EU countries’ COVID-19-related entry bans are extended until 15 May while exemptions for residents irrespective of their nationality, and essential travel is still maintained.
Extension of residence permits for six months
The residence permits of lawfully residing foreign nationals in France whose permits expire between 16 March and 15 May 2020 will now have automatic extension for six months (as opposed to the original three months extension).
Processing of residence permit applications suspended until 25 June
France has suspended the processing of residence permit applications submitted on or after March 12, 2020 and the validation of long-stay visas (VLS-TS). Processing is said to resume on 25 June at the earliest and those who hold a VLS-TS will have two months from this date to validate their visas online.
Valid C-Visa holders are now eligible for an exemption from obtaining residence permits
Third-country nationals who hold a valid C-visa in Germany are now eligible for an exemption from obtaining a residence permit and are also eligible for a new concession to work under their current work permission.
All Italian permits, certificates, clearances and authorisations which expire between 31 January and 15 April have been extended until 15 June 2020. Italian identification documents which expire on or after 17 March have been extended until 31 August 2020.
Automatic two-month extension
A blanket two-month automatic extension of immigration status has been put in place In Ireland for those whose immigration status expire between 29 March and 20 May 2020.
Increase in Minimum Salary Level
The minimum monthly salary for foreign workers in Latvia has increased as of 01 April 2020 by 7.1% from 2019. Employers must therefore adjust the salaries of their current foreign workers as well as those who have new or pending applications where required.
Asia - Pacific
More application types can now be made online
In order to reduce waiting times at the immigration office and also reduce the administrative burdens for employers, the Japan Immigration Services Agency has expanded the online visa application system for eligible companies and more common visa and application types. These include applications for Certificates of Authorized Employment, Acquisition of Status for Dependents, Certificate(s) of Eligibility and Change of Status of Residence for eligible companies. The more common visa application types include Intracompany transferees, highly skilled professionals, skilled labour and dependents of these visa holders, engineers/specialists in humanities/international services and business managers.
Pre-entry approval requirements from the Ministry of Education and Immigration and Checkpoint Authority
As of 29 March 2020 pre-entry approval from the Ministry of Education is required from all nationalities who hold a Student’s Pass and those with In Principle Approval letters (IPAs). Those who hold a Long Term Visit Pass as well as those with IPAs entering Singapore will also require pre-entry approval from the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority. This is in addition to the requirement to obtain pre-entry approval from the Ministry of Manpower for those who hold a work pass, their dependents and those with IPAs.
China has implemented additional temporary measures in order to further control the number of imported COVID-19 cases. As of 28 March 2020 an entry ban has been put in place for foreign nationals who hold valid mainland Chinese visas or residence permits issued on or before 26 March 2020. These include APEC Business Travel Cards, port visas, foreign nationals who are eligible for the 24/72/144-hour visa free transit policy among others. This will not affect foreign nationals with diplomatic service, courtesy or C visas.
USCIS extends its suspension of biometric appointments and in-person interviews
In light of the current on-going COVID-19 crisis, USCIS has extended its suspension of biometric appointments and in-person interviews until 03 June. Foreign nationals with biometric appointments and interviews during the closure will be notified of the cancellations of their appointments and these will be rescheduled automatically.
USCIS extends deadline policy on NOIDs, RFEs, Appeals and Other Responses
USCIS has extended its 60-day deadline extension policy to 01 July 2020 due to COVID-19 emergency. Applicants and petitioners will now have 60 days to respond to notices of intent to deny or revoke, notices of intent to terminate EB-5 regional investment centres as well as requests for evidence which are dated between 01 March and 01 July 2020.
USCIS received 275,000 H-1B Cap Registrations for 2021
Submissions by employers of H-1B cap registrations for 275,000 beneficiaries this year is an increase by 37% from 2020’s filing season. Approximately 126,500 of these beneficiaries hold U.S. advanced degrees. The general chance of selection for the fiscal year 2021 H-1B cap employment is approximately 31%. USCIS began accepting H-1B petitions on behalf of selected beneficiaries on 01 April and the filing period will be open for at least 90 days.
High REF rates for Key Employer-Sponsored Nonimmigrant Categories
The latest USCIS data shows that in the second quarter of 2020, the rates of requests for evidence remained high for H-1B and L-1 petitions although these had improved in the second quarter of 2019.
Diversity Visa Lottery Results for 2021 postponed to 06 June
The date Diversity Visa Lottery entrants can find out whether they have been chosen in the lottery has been delayed to 06 June (as opposed to 05 May).
Injunction Against Health Insurance Requirement for Immigrant Visa Applicants upheld by Ninth Circuit
A nationwide preliminary injunction that prohibits the Trump Administration from implementing a presidential proclamation requiring immigrant visa applicants to show they would have unsubsidized health insurance within 30 days of entry to the US or sufficient funds to cover reasonably foreseeable medical expenses was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It is expected that the Trump Administration will appeal this ruling.
Foreign nationals who departed Costa Rica up until 12 April are subjected to an entry ban
Foreign nationals who have a pending application as well as those who hold a valid temporary or permanent residence, short-stay visa or special category visa who departed Costa Rica up until 12 April are subject to an entry ban. If these individuals enter Costa Rica during the period of the entry ban their immigration status will be cancelled or their application denied.
United arab Emirates
Reduction in salaries and working hours
Employers in the Dubai International Financial Centre are now permitted to reduce salaries and working hours and avoid cancellation of employment residence permits and sponsorships.
All travellers banned from entering the UAE
In practice, all travellers are currently banned from entering the United Arab Emirates except for citizens of UAE and those who hold UAE residence permits and obtain an “OK to Board” airline clearance prior to their travel.
Home medical testing for foreign nationals
The mandatory medical test for foreign nationals applying for Temporary Residence Permit in Azerbaijan has been expanded to include home medical testing as an option.
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.