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Welcome to the May 2015 edition of our global immigration news bulletins. These bulletins provide readers with the latest global immigration news and developments.

Questions and comments are always welcome and can be directed to Angie Volz, Global Immigration Program Manager: avolz@crownww.com.

 

Hong Kong
Updates on stay arrangements for several visa holder categories

Updates are now available for the following Hong Kong visa policies that take place with immediate effect:

(A) Relaxation of stay arrangements for:

  1. General Employment Policy (GEP) and Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals (ASMTP) visa holders

    Visa holders may be granted an initial two years followed by two additional three-year extensions, subject to the period of the employment contract and the validity of the passport (whichever is shorter). 

  2. Top-tier professionals under GEP and ASMTP

    Top-tier professionals will be eligible for a six-year extension providing the applicant has been granted a two-year renewal before. The applicant must also provide supporting documents as proof of the taxable income being no less than HK$ 2 million in the last tax assessment year.

    Notification in lieu of seeking approvals from the Hong Kong Immigration Department is only required if the applicant changes employer.

  3. Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS)

    a) General Points Test (GPT)

    1. Applicants will be granted an initial two years, followed by two additional three-year extensions
    2. Top-tier entrants will be granted an initial two years, followed by one additional six-year extension

    b) Achievement-based Points Test (APT)

    1. Applicants will be granted a stay of eight years upon entry

Please note that the renewal application form (Form ID 91) has been revised and Hong Kong Immigration stopped accepting the previous version on May 4, 2015.

More information can be found at Hong Kong Immigration’s website.

(B)  Introduction of an Admission Scheme to attract the Second Generation of Hong Kong permanent residents (ASSG)

The aim of this new scheme is to grant permission to children born overseas, whose parents are Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents, to stay and seek employment in Hong Kong. Qualified applicants must be aged between 18 and 40, have a degree and be proficient in written and spoken Chinese and English.

The visa will be granted for an initial period of 12 months. The applicant is not required to have a job offer in Hong Kong upon entry with the visa. However, it is necessary to secure an offer of employment at the time of renewal application.

The first and second extension of stay may be granted for two years and the third extension may be granted for three years. A list of documents required can be found at Hong Kong Immigration’s website.

Top-tier professionals must be prepared to provide additional proof of income documents to meet the salary requirement at the time of the renewal application.

Applicants should be mindful that the visa period granted will not exceed their passport’s validity.  

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Asia, Kit Tang.

 

 

Japan
Reorganization of residence status categories

On April 1, 2015, Japan’s Immigration Bureau introduced amendments to the Immigration Control Act, partially reorganizing the residence categories available to foreign nationals, with some benefits to highly skilled foreign workers, managers and entrepreneurs.

Business Manager

  • As at April 1, 2015, foreign nationals engaged in the management of companies are eligible to apply for the “Business Manager” residence status,  regardless of any investment in a company registered in Japan
  • Previously known as “Investor/Business Manager”, this residence status was only available to foreign nationals occupied in the management of partially foreign-owned companies. It has now been opened to managers of Japanese-owned companies
  • In addition, foreign nationals planning to establish a business in Japan can apply for “Business Manager” residence status before their company has been registered in Japan. In this case, they must apply for and submit the company's Articles of Incorporation (and other relevant documents) instead of the Certificate of Company Registration. If successful they will receive temporary residence status for four months. This can be extended once they have completed the company registration in Japan

Highly Skilled Professional

  • As at April 1, 2015, a new residence category, “Highly Skilled Professional”, has been introduced for foreign nationals with advanced and specialized skills who would previously have been given “Designated Activities” status. Qualifying activities include academic research, advanced technical activities and business management. As previously, highly skilled professionals who score more than 70 points for their skills, experience and salary get preferential immigration treatment (such as a longer, extendable duration of stay, work permission for a spouse, a fast track to permanent residence and the right to sponsor parents and domestic workers as dependents)
  • Foreign nationals with the status of residence of Highly Skilled Professional (i), or those who have held "Designated Activities" status for three years or more, are eligible for the status of residence of Highly Skilled Professional (ii). This allows an indefinite period of stay and permission to engage in other professional activities alongside those that come under the Highly Skilled Professional (i) status

Other amendments

  • The previous division between “Engineer” and “Specialist in Humanities/International Services” has been removed and the two categories have been consolidated into one status of residence called “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”
  • The “Student” status of residence has been extended to international students at Japanese elementary and junior high schools

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management’s website.

And the Immigration Bureau, Ministry of Justice’s website.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Asia, Kit Tang.

 

 

Australia
Recent changes to the 457 visa

The Australian government has recently announced changes to some of the rules of the subclass 457 visa, including:

  • Extended sponsorship periods
  • A reduced market salary threshold
  • An extended notification period
  • More flexible English language testing requirements

The changes implement some of the recommendations of last year’s independent review of the 457 visa, most of which have been accepted by the government.

Business sponsorship terms

The period of standard business sponsorship has been extended from three to five years. For start-up businesses the period has been extended from 12 to 18 months.

Market salary exemption threshold

Applicants earning above A$ 180,000 (previously A$ 250,000) are now exempt from the requirement that their salary is in line with market salary rates. The threshold has been adjusted to match the threshold for the top rate of income tax.

Notification of changes

The timeframe for approved business sponsors to notify the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) of any changes in a 457 visa holder's work duties, or cessation of employment, has been extended from 10 days to 28 days. This change has been made to allow sufficient time for compliance with the notification requirements, and to align with other comparable reporting periods that must be met by businesses.

English language testing

The government has slightly relaxed the English language requirement rules as follows:

  • Applicants will now need to meet a minimum overall test score, with a lower minimum score than previously in each test component
  • Applicants will now be exempt from the test requirement if they can demonstrate five cumulative years of study in English at the secondary or tertiary levels, rather than five consecutive years as previously
  • The list of acceptable English language test providers has been expanded. In addition to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Occupational English Test (OET), acceptable tests now include:
    ◦  Test of English as a Foreign Language – Internet-Based Test (TOEFL – IBT)
    ◦  Pearson Test of English (PTE)
    ◦  Cambridge English Advanced (CAE)
  • The recommendation to extend the list of nationalities who are exempt from meeting the English language requirement has not been supported by the Australian government

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management’s website.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Asia, Kit Tang.

 

 

The United States
US State Department announces Diversity Visa Lottery winners

The U.S. Department of State has released the results of the fiscal year 2016 Diversity Visa Lottery on its website. 

Lottery participants can check their status online. The State Department does not send individual notices – the website is the only way to obtain results and instructions on applying for permanent residency. Lottery participants will need their confirmation numbers, last (family) names, and year of birth to check their status.

The Diversity Visa Lottery is an annual program that distributes 50,000 permanent resident visas to individuals from countries with low numbers of immigration to the U.S.

Winners may apply for permanent residency beginning October 1, 2015. Submissions for fiscal year 2017 are expected to begin later this year.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.

 

 

The United States
New rules for the H-2B visa program announced by the US Departments of Labor and Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) have jointly issued rules governing the H-2B Temporary Non-agricultural Labor Certification Program. This interim final rule establishes the process by which employers obtain a temporary labor certification from DOL for use in petitioning DHS to employ an H-2B non-immigrant worker. Simultaneously, DHS and DOL are issuing a companion rule governing the methodology used to establish the prevailing wage in the H-2B program. The rule reinstates the use of employer-provided surveys to set the prevailing wage in certain limited circumstances.

The rules are intended to strengthen worker protections with respect to wages, working conditions and benefits that must be offered to H-2B and U.S. workers covered by these regulations. Employers will be required to register and demonstrate their need for temporary workers, including more real-time recruitment efforts and the obligation to offer open positions to former U.S. employees.  

The H-2B wage rule took effect on April 29, 2015.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.

 

 

Canada
Changes to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program

April 30, 2015 marked the date changes came into force for Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The program allows employers who can’t find qualified workers locally for a given position to recruit foreign workers on a temporary basis.

The median hourly wages per occupation and region chart has been updated and will effectively determine which jobs are considered “high-wage” or “low-wage”. These changes to the median wage table will affect the wage stream of future Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) applications and the threshold used to determine eligibility for ten-day expedited processing. The previous streams, as determined by occupation skill level, have been replaced by the high- and low-wage streams.

Employers in the Province of Quebec will also be subject to most of the changes to the TFWP that were originally announced in June, 2014.

To sponsor a foreign national for a Canadian Work Permit, Canadian businesses must first obtain authorization from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). This is known as a LMIA.

For an LMIA to be issued, ESDC compares the wages offered by employers with the provincial/territorial median hourly wage. Employers offering a wage to a temporary foreign worker that is below the provincial/territorial median hourly wage will need to meet the requirements of the stream for low-wage positions. Employers offering a wage at or above the provincial/territorial median hourly wage will be required to meet the requirements of the stream for high-wage positions. 

Employers should make certain that the wages offered are congruent with the wage stream of the LMIA issued as well as the prevailing wage by occupation for that region.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.

 

 

Colombia
Technical visa applications no longer require proof of urgency

Foreigners who intend to travel to Colombia to provide specialized technical assistance for a period of 180 days, with or without an employment contract, to public or private entities, are no longer required to provide proof of urgency. This type of technical visa can be requested at consulates of Colombia on applicant residential jurisdiction or on post arrival change of status.

Requirements:

1)      Copy of the current passport with personal data valid for more than six months

2)      Copy of the passport page with last Colombian entry/exit stamp, if applicable

3)      Copy of the page containing the last Colombian visa, if applicable. If last visa has been issued with the Optical Character Recognition this requirement is not necessary

4)      Power of attorney, if the visa will be processed by a third party on behalf of the applicant

5)      Copy of return flight ticket

6)      Letter of responsibility from Colombian entity explaining the reason for technical support

7)      Certificate from Commercial Chamber of Colombian entity existence (including legal identity, social order, legal representatives, capital or shareholding structure and functions of the legal representative)

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.

 

 

Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s new electronic appointment system

As at May 11, 2015, the Costa Rica Department of Immigration requires registered companies to schedule an appointment prior to submitting immigration applications. This signifies a departure from the current process of long queues to obtain a next-day appointment. 

Companies will be able to schedule appointments via an electronic system on Fridays for appointments the following week. Generally, appointments should be available within the next week unless submitting multiple applications. The new electronic system will allow legal representatives to schedule one appointment per day, and law firms a maximum of two appointments per day. The new system is expected to facilitate the submittal process by shortening queues. However, employers should anticipate longer application processing times overall.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.

 

 

Brazil
Brazilian consulates are operating with reduced staff due to strike

An ongoing strike of employees within the Brazil Ministry of External Relations is expected to cause delays at Brazilian embassies and consulates in the Americas, Africa, Asia Pacific and Europe. 

Brazilian embassies affected by the strike will be operating with significantly reduced staff. Embassies and consulates will remain open but the availability of appointments will be reduced and processing times for applications are expected to increase by twice the normal time.

In the U.S., the only embassy to post an announcement was the Brazil Embassy, Washington, D.C. It’s recommended for applicants to check their Brazilian embassy’s website or call the consular post for information.

The employees are striking for better salaries, payment of past-due housing allowances and official passports for all ministry personnel posted abroad.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart.

 

 

The United Arab Emirates
Visa waiver agreement reached with the European Union

United Arab Emirates (UAE) nationals are now permitted to enter any country within the European Union (EU) without obtaining a visa for stays of up to 90 days (within any 180-day period). Visa requirements for EU nationals traveling to the UAE have also been lifted. As at May 6, 2015, the reciprocal visa permits short visits including tourism, business, journalism and training. The visa does not apply to those employed in the destination country or to those who will be providing paid services.

The 90-day period is calculated for stays in the territory of the EU Member States that are already fully part of the Schengen Area. Separate 90-day periods are calculated for stays in any of the four Member States that are not yet full participants in the Schengen Area (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania).

The visa waiver does not apply to the United Kingdom and Ireland who have opted out of the Schengen Area. The United Kingdom has since offered UAE (and Qatar and Oman) nationals an electronic visa waiver for up to 180 days of tourism, business or study. The visa waiver agreement also does not yet apply to Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, who have signed the Schengen Agreement but are not EU Member States.

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management’s website.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

 

 

South Africa
New rules to be enforced affecting children entering South Africa

As of June 1, 2015, all minors under the age of 18 will be required to produce, in addition to their passport, an Unabridged Birth Certificate (showing the particulars of both parents) when exiting and entering South African ports.

The rules will be enforced as a measure to prevent child trafficking and other illicit activities targeting children. The implementation of these requirements was postponed to give parents and government agencies sufficient time to prepare. While the new law will be enforced by airlines and immigration officials, it will be passengers’ responsibility to ensure they are carrying birth certificates for each accompanying child. If the Unabridged Birth Certificate is in a language other than English, it must be accompanied by a sworn translation and issued by a recognized official authority in the origin country.

Children traveling with only one parent

In the event of a child traveling with one parent an affidavit will be required in which the absent parent gives consent for the child to travel. Alternatively, a court order granting full parental responsibilities or legal guardianship of the child, or the death certificate of the absent parent will be required. The affidavit should be no more than three months old from the date of travel.

Children traveling without either parent

Should a minor under the age of 18 be traveling to South Africa without their parents, the Unabridged Birth Certificate must be supplemented by affidavits from the parents or legal guardians confirming that the child may travel with the person accompanying them. Copies of the ID documents or passports of the parents/legal guardian, and the contact details of the parents/legal guardian will also be required.

A child traveling as an unaccompanied minor would have to produce, not only the Unabridged Birth Certificate, but also proof of consent from both parents or legal guardians, contact details, plus documentation relating to the person receiving the child in South Africa. The documentation should include a letter stating the person’s contact details and residential address, contact details where the child will be residing, plus a copy of his or her ID document, passport or residence permit.

Minors traveling in school groups or with their grandparents are not exempt from the requirement.

Exemptions

The new law does not apply to children traveling domestically (for example, between Johannesburg and Cape Town). It also does not apply to minor passengers on a “Cruise to Nowhere” (for example, a cruise that departs Durban Harbour and returns to Durban Harbour, or a cruise that goes from Durban Harbour to Cape Town Harbour).

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

 

 

Italy
Foreign residents exempt from language tests

Dependent on completed qualifications, certain foreign residents in Italy will now become exempt from passing a civic or Italian language exam as part of the requirements to obtain an Italian Resident Permit. 

The Italian Ministry of Interior has declared that foreign nationals who have obtained educational qualifications, diplomas or language certificates from the following schools will be exempt from both exams:

  • Italian schools recognized by the Ministry of Education
  • Provincial Centers for Adult Education (issued 2014-2015)
  • Permanent Local Centers (issued before 2014-2105)

Foreigners who have obtained language certificates from institutes listed below are exempt from the A2 level Italian language exam. They will still need to prove proficiency in civic culture and civil life in Italy.

  • A2 PLIDA Certification diploma of knowledge of the Italian language – Dante Alighieri Society
  • A2 Certification of Italian as foreign language L2 – Roma 3 University

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

 

 

Switzerland
L work permit quota for EU nationals reached

The quota for short-term L work permits (four to twelve months duration) for EU nationals has been filled for the period up to July 1, 2015. Some cantons will continue to accept applications and place them on hold, while others will reject any new applications prior to the start of the third quarter of 2015. The quota for B permits, and permits not subject to quotas (such as the 120-day permit and the four month short-term permit) are not affected. Quotas for non-EU/EFTA nationals are also not affected.

This development is a direct consequence of the more stringent immigration quotas that came into effect in Switzerland from January 1, 2015. These included the cap on L work permits from a total annual limit of 3,000 to 2,000 for EU nationals and from 5,000 to 4,000 for non EU nationals.

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management’s website.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further inquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

 

 

Ireland
New requirement for accountants and Stamp 4 procedures

Accountants

All Employment Permit applications submitted on behalf of accountants and chartered accountants must now provide evidence that their relevant accountancy qualification is recognised by the appropriate accountancy body in Ireland.

The relevant accountancy qualification must be recognised by one of the following bodies:

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
  • Association of International Accountants
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
  • Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy
  • Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland
  • Institute of Incorporated Public Accountants

Stamp 4

What is Stamp 4?

Stamp 4 immigration permission allows the holder to work in Ireland for two years (renewable) without an Employment Permit. To obtain Stamp 4, an applicant must have met the terms of their previous Critical Skills/Green Card Employment Permit and immigration conditions and be considered of good character. Previously, there was no requirements to obtain a letter of support from the Department of Jobs Enterprises and Innovation (DJEI) in support of a Stamp 4 application.

What is the new procedure?

As at 1 April, 2015, a holder of a Critical Skills Employment Permit or Green Card applying for Stamp 4 immigration permission must submit detailed evidence to the DJEI of their two years of employment in Ireland. If the DJEI finds that the evidence is sufficient, it will issue a letter of support that the applicant must submit with their application for Stamp 4 at their local Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).

The applicant must complete and submit a new form to the DJEI, accompanied by the following documents:

  • A letter from their employer, dated within the last three months confirming their employment and job title
  • Copies of three recent pay slips issued to the holder of the Employment Permit dated within the last four months
  • Copies of P60s issued to the holder of the Employment Permit for each year of employment covering the duration of the Employment Permit
  • Documentary evidence of Health Insurance payments

This summary was prepared using information obtained from Peregrine Immigration Management’s website

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, EMEA, Ben Sookia.

 

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