Our May and June 2020 global immigration update provides key changes to immigration rules in global jurisdictions. In this month's issue we include the European Union, Belgium, Estonia, France, Lithuania, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, China, the USA, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia and Mauritius.
CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK RESTRICTIONS
Travel restrictions and quarantine measures due to COVID-19 around the world continue to be updated. Many jurisdictions have implemented extension policies and concessions and almost all jurisdictions have implemented restrictions on travel or entry for people who are travelling from places where the virus has been widespread. Many jurisdictions are also instructing individuals travelling from affected areas to be quarantined on entry. Various consular posts and visa application centres have closed entirely or are only open for emergency services. Health officials for most countries have advised against non-essential international travel generally or to specific places where the outbreak is said to be severe. 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.
Changes to the Occupation, Residence, Investor and Permanent Residence Permits
The government of Mauritius is implementing changes to the Occupation, Residence and Investor Permits and also the Permanent Residence Permit in order to enable foreign nationals to have better accessibility to the workforce in Mauritius. This strategy is being implemented to combat the economic issues resulting from the effects of COVID-19 but also in light of the country’s first population decline in 50 years. COVID-19 cases in Mauritius continue to be low and therefore the country is expected to be one of the first African countries to open its borders in the coming weeks.
Asia - Pacific
New Official visa invitation letter from Foreign Affairs Office will support a visa application
Companies and employers of foreign business travellers and work permit holders seeking to enter mainland China for activities which are regarded as necessary by the Chinese government i.e. economic, scientific or technological can now apply for visa invitation letters from the Foreign Affairs Office in the district where the company is registered in Mainland China. Once an application for the letter is approved this can then be used to support a visa application.
Tuberculosis screening is required for certain visa applications
Tuberculosis screening is now required and likely to be mandatory for individuals who hold passports from China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and the Philippines applying for Certificates of Eligibility and Japanese visas. However this requirement does not apply to individuals from these countries whose place of residence is outside of their country of nationality.
Suspension of processing of Alien Employment Permit issuance and renewals has been lifted
The suspension of Alien Employment Permit issuance and renewal processing has been lifted by the Department of Labour and Employment. An additional step of an online application prior to the submission of documents and payment has also been added as well as a new step for securing online appointments to file visa applications.
A New e-service is to replace the Employment Pass Online System
The new e-service which is said to be user-friendly is expected to be rolled out in phases in order to replace the Employment Pass online application system (EP Online) and is expected to be live by April 2021.
Medical Report and Re-entry Permit is required for long term visa holders
As of 01 June 2020 those who are registered long term visa holders (except A-1, A-2, A-3 and F-4 visa holders) seeking to leave and return to South Korea are now required to obtain a re-entry permit and submit a consent form for medical examination prior to leaving South Korea. Individuals who leave South Korea without obtaining the re-entry permit will have their visa cancelled.
The European Commission has recommended the removal of restriction on non-essential travel to the EU from 01 July. The Commission had encouraged all EU member states to remove restrictions on free movement within the EU by 15 June and almost all member states have adopted this recommendation and have started relaxing internal border restrictions while implementing health and entry requirements in order to control the spread of Coronavirus.
The fee for D Visa applications and some Residence Permits has been increased
As of 01 June 2020 the administrative fees for D visa applications and certain residence permits has been increased. The fee for Residence applications on the basis of a work permit or a professional card has been increased to EUR 363 from EUR 358 and the fee for family reunification residence applications has been increased to EUR 207, from EUR 204.
Digital Nomad Visa is now available as of 01 July 2020
The Digital Nomad Visa has become available in Estonia as of 01 July 2020. The digital visa enables foreign nationals to reside in Estonia as a freelancer or while working for a foreign employer. The visa itself will be available for up to 90 days (under a short-term application) or up to one year (under a long-term application). However currently due to COVID-19, the only people who can apply for this visa are those who reside in the EU, Schengen area and the UK. The visa will become available to more people as and when travel restrictions are relaxed in Estonia.
Website opening for Residence Permit applications for UK nationals in France has been postponed
The French government is updating the website which would be used by UK nationals to register for French residence permits prior to the end of the Brexit transition period. Although the website was anticipated to be available in early July for new registrations, this is not going to be possible due to COVID-19-related delays. It has therefore been postponed to 01 October 2020.
EU Blue Card Salary Level has been increased
The monthly minimum gross salary level for EU Blue Card applicants has been increased to EUR 2,020.05. Current permit holders are not affected by this change however employers are advised to check the applicable salary threshold regularly in order to maintain a safe margin when determining salaries for EU Blue Card applicants.
A Wages Protection System and new rules for part-time work has been implemented
In order to further regulate the labour market in Saudi Arabia, a Wages Protection System and rules regarding part-time work has been implemented. As of 01 May 2020 Companies who have 11 or more employees must pay all salaries through the Wages Protection System or they can also utilize the new electronic payroll platform, “Mudad”. Furthermore, as of July 2020 the part-time employment of Saudi nationals is regulated by a new government program which requires employers to sign electronic contracts and register their Saudi worker for Social Insurance.
Strict requirements have been put in place for the Quebec Experience Program
Stricter rules for the fast-tracked program in the permanent residence process in Quebec have been put in place effective as of 29 June 2020. There is now a longer work experience requirement for the Temporary Foreign Worker and Graduate Student streams. There are also stricter language requirements as well as longer processing times.
Ban on H-1B, L-1, H-2B and J-1 Entry imposed by President Trump as of 24 June
President Trump has signed a proclamation which has suspended entry for new H-1B, L-1, H-2B and J-1 non-immigrants and their dependants from 24 June 2020 until 31 December 2020. The ban does not affect foreign nationals who hold a valid US visa, or other travel documents, or foreign nationals who were already in the US at 12:01am EDT on 24 June 2020 (the effective date of the ban). The purpose of the proclamation is said to further restrict the H-1B program and to harden the requirements for employment-based permanent residence categories.
Non-immigrant Proclamation has been amended
The Non-immigrant Proclamation has recently been further amended by President Trump to narrow the exemption for visa holders, making it more difficult to qualify for an exemption from the ban. The amendment indicates that foreign nationals are only exempt from the proclamation if they hold a valid visa in one of the restricted categories and are seeking entry on the basis of that visa. By contrast those who hold a valid visa in another category i.e. F-1 or B-1 will not be able to obtain a new H, L or J visa.
Entry of certain Chinese F and J Non-immigrants to the US has been suspended
A presidential proclamation has prohibited Chinese nationals who have been associated with entities that support the Chinese’s government’s military initiatives from using F or J non-immigrant visas to enter the US as of 01 June 2020. Chinese nationals entering the US for undergraduate study purposes and those who are lawful permanent residents as well as spouses of US citizens among others are exempt. Details of the implementation of this proclamation are expected to be issued by the Departments of State and Homeland Security.
I-9 document inspection policy by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is extended
Due to COVID-19, I-9 document inspection policy by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is extended until 19 July 2020. Restrictions to only allow essential travel across the US-Canada and US-Mexico borders are also said to be extended until 21 July 2020.
USCIS to accept Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Categories in July 2020
As of July 2020 USCIS will be accepting employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals who have a priority date that is earlier than the Final Action Dates as listed in the State Department’s July Visa Bulletin
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is allowed to remain in place
The Trump administration’s attempt to end the DACA program in 2017 was ruled to violate procedural requirements by the Supreme Court. The DACA program will therefore remain in place for now and DACA beneficiaries may continue to work in line with their work authorisation documents (EAD) which must be valid. These must also be renewed as soon as beneficiaries are eligible for renewal.
Medical Coverage is required for visa applicants
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is increasingly requiring visa applicants for proof of affiliation and contributions to the Colombian social security & healthcare system, in particular for those applying for Migrant M-5 or Visitor V-13 work visas. For foreign nationals applying for business or technical visas, proof of international health insurance coverage is required.
Applications and issuance and renewal of identity cards have been suspended
A number of applications as well as issuance of initial and renewed identity cards at the National Immigration Directorate has been suspended until 18 July 2020. As a result existing DIMEX Cards for some visa holders and residents are automatically extended.
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.