In September 2019's global immigration update, we provide brief details on key changes to immigration rules in global jurisdictions including Africa, Asia & The Middle East.
south Africa - policy announcement confirms plans to improve various immigration processes
South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs has set out its policy aims with respect to visa reforms in a recent budget speech covering e-visas, visa waivers and border management.
- E-visas – The Department is looking to introduce e-visas for sponsored critical skills employees and tourist visas. Applicants should be able to apply online and receive a copy of their visa by email. A test phase is currently under way and should be complete in October after which time e-visas are expected to be implemented.
- Visa waivers – The aim is to expand its visa-free regime in November to nationals of the following countries: Cuba, Ghana, New Zealand, Qatar, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Additionally, the Department will study how to streamline the visa process for nationals of China, India and Nigeria.
- Smart IDs - The Department will endeavour to expedite the transition to Smart IDs and plans to open more offices able to issue biometric identity cards.
china - Policy changes introduced to streamline business immigration for highly-skilled workers
Immigration authorities have introduced new measures to improve visa processes in China with the aim of attracting highly skilled foreign workers. Key policy changes that have been introduced include:
- Expanded eligibility for permanent residence eligibility – A wider range of highly-skilled foreign nationals are now eligible to apply for permanent residence if they are able to prove significant contributions to meet the needs of the state (the criteria for this will be determined by a special government assessment to be confirmed);
- Expanded validity for long-term visas - Highly-skilled foreign workers who perform roles at management level or who are deemed to be experts in their field will be eligible for long-term visas and residence permits.
- Expanded eligibility for foreign students - Graduates with a Bachelor’s degree or above from reputable universities in China and who can demonstrate expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship can apply for a long-term residence permit with a duration between two to five years.
The above policy changes are effective immediately.
India - New visa categories announced by immigration authorities
The Ministry of Home Affairs has streamlined several Indian visa categories which are now live on the Indian visa application portal for new applications. Guidelines on the changes are expected to be released shortly.
Those with pending applications filed at the consular post will be required to submit visa application forms under the new main or sub-category of the visa.
Those currently holding visa types that have been eliminated will be able to remain in their current status. It is likely that the local Foreigners’ Regional Registration Officers will reassign the relevant sub-category when registrations or visa extension applications are submitted.
The key changes are:
- Employment visa – The Project visa is now a sub-category of the Employment visa as opposed to a stand-alone visa. The Project visa is for foreign nationals entering India to execute projects in the power and steel industries. It is expected that the requirements and conditions of the visa will remain the same.
- Student visa – the Intern and Research visas are now sub-categories of the Student visa instead of stand-alone visas.
Intern Visa - There is no impact to students pursuing internships during their course of study. However, it is not clear how the change will affect foreign nationals who have completed their graduate or post-graduate courses and were previously eligible for an Intern visa within two years of their date of completion.
Research Visa – it is expected that the requirements will remain the same.
Singapore - Pilot programme announced to attract skilled tech workers
Immigration authorities in Singapore have announced plans to introduce a pilot programme to ease immigration requirements for those working in the tech industry. The pilot programme, called Tech@SG, is expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2019 and will run for two years with the aim of attracting top talent to grow the country’s tech sector.
The programme will be focused on those in areas such as fintech, digital, biotech and medical technology among others. It is expected to ease the requirements for the Employment Pass for those who are 'core team members' of tech firms. Further details are expected to be confirmed on how the existing requirements will be simplified under the pilot programme.
The programme should help tech companies in Singapore to compete on a global scale and meet workforce needs.
Israel - step b-1 90 day work visa can now be split into more than one period
The Israeli Work Permit Unit has now confirmed that the STEP B-1 90 day work visa can be split into more than one single period meaning employers can now send foreign nationals to work in Israel multiple times a year provided that the worker does not spend more than 90 days in total in Israel in one year.
Previously, only one STEP visa application could be filed per year, however under the new rules, employers can now send the same employee to Israel several times per year. Applicants can apply for a STEP visa at the Israeli consular post in their country of residence or work. Applicants must submit a new application for each trip to Israel under this category and must then apply for entry at an Israeli consular post in their country of residence or work.
The STEP visa is used for those employees who do not meet the wage threshold of Israel’s Hi-Tech visa.
UAe - Authorities clarify golden card residence programme does not offer route to permanent residence
Authorities in the UAE have confirmed that the new Golden Card programme is a long-term residence programme rather than a permanent residence programme.
Those being invited to apply for Golden Cards by immigration authorities in Dubai are foreign investors, top international specialists, researchers and high-performing students. At the moment, only those who are invited to apply are eligible. However, an exception to this rule is that companies located in the Dubai International Finance Centre are able to nominate their own employees who meet the eligibility criteria.
The Golden Card is valid for up to 10 years and is renewable indefinitely, provided card holders continue to meet the requirements. The first Golden Cards were issued in May and are aimed at attracting foreign investors and specialists to boost the economy in UAE.
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.