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Welcome to the April 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:

Immigration updates

Asia Pacific


Personal appearance and biometric data requirements introduced for India visa applications in the UK

With immediate effect, the physical submission of applications for visa, passport, OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) and consular services is required at 14 Indian visa application centers across the United Kingdom. This change is part of the Indian Visa and Foreigners Registration and Tracking (IVFRT) Programme. As part of the program, biometric data collection will be rolled out globally and has already been implemented in certain countries.

Under new requirements, all applicants are required to book an appointment online at VFS Global. Applicants are also required to bring the printout of their appointment letter along with hardcopy documentation, such as a copy of their Surrender Certificate and accompanying dependents’ passports, to the appointment at the Indian visa application center. Please note that family application appointments are not accepted. Each applicant is required to book a separate appointment with the visa center. Fingerprint data and facial imagery will be collected at the appointment. No applications will be accepted by post or without appointment.

Diplomatic and Official passport holders, traveling to India on official purposes, are exempt from the above requirement. They may submit their applications directly to the High Commission of India in London, its Consulates General of India in Birmingham and Edinburgh or at the jurisdictional consulate.

Please note that it is mandatory to book an online appointment with a visa application center. Applicants must appear in person to submit their application and for biometric data collection.


Important updates from Multimedia Development Corporation Sdn Bhd (MDeC) on behalf of the Northern State of Authority

Six updates have been made to the immigration application process for Malaysia by the Northern State of Authority and are effective immediately.

  1. Stamping arrangements
    You must get your employment contract, personal bond and other documents stamped by Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri (LHDN) (the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia). MDeC will no longer be responsible for this arrangement; employers must arrange to complete this process. Crown will assist its clients with their stamping arrangements at LHDN.
  2. Scanned documents upload mandatory during stage one
    All application documents must be uploaded onto MDeC's online system before hardcopies are accepted during stage one.
  3. Original passport and bank draft
    After your application is approved by the Immigration Department, you are required to present your original passport and bank draft. These two documents are no longer required during stage one and two of the endorsement process.
  4. Copy in lieu of originals for stage two
    Copies of entry stamp and payment confirmation for stage two are required for MDeC applications.
  5. Bank draft
    Bank drafts/checks payable to MDeC or the Immigration Department must contain the following information in order to be accepted:
    • Details of the person in charge
    • Company name
    • Company telephone number
    • Expatriate's name
  6. Payment
    Payments made to MDeC must include Goods and Services Tax (GST). At the time of writing it has not been confirmed whether payments to the Immigration Department must include GST.

Online document submission process rolled out via e-Xpats system for MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor) Malaysia status companies

Three updates have been made to the e-Xpats online system with regards to the submission of supporting documents by MSC Malaysia status companies. These changes took effect on April 13, 2015, and are not applicable for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies in Malaysia:

  1. Document requirements
    Checklist requirements have been updated in the e-Xpats system for lodgment.
  2. Compulsory to upload documents in the system
    All supporting documents are required to be uploaded in the e-Xpats system for lodgment. Please note that the e-Xpats system will not allow physical submission after April 13, 2015.
  3. Employment contracts
    Submission of original employment contract is no longer mandatory. MSC Malaysia status companies are required to upload a copy of the executed employment contract with the affixed revenue stamp serving as proof of payment.

New Zealand

Exemption from labor market check in certain circumstances

On February 1, 2015, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) waived the requirement for temporary work visa holders to complete a labor market check when applying for a further work visa (in certain circumstances).

In order to benefit from the new labor market check waiver, the applicant must:

  • Hold a temporary work visa
  • Have applied for an Essential Skills work visa to continue working in that role
  • Meet all other requirements of the Essential Skills work visa instructions
  • Have been issued with an invitation to apply under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) and retain the ability to apply, or have made an application for residence under the SMC and that application has not yet been completed
  • Have had their Expression of Interest selected in part on the basis of points claimed for skilled employment in the role they currently hold

If the applicant meets all of these conditions, they will not be required to complete a labor market check when applying for their further work visa. This will allow them to be eligible for a further work visa for twelve months.

Normally, every application under the Essential Skills work instructions is subject to a labor market test. This test can be met by either:

  • The position being listed on one of INZ's Essential Skills in Demand lists, or
  • INZ being satisfied that there are no New Zealanders who can do, or be readily trained to do, the job offered and that the employer concerned has genuinely searched for suitably qualified and trained New Zealand workers

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


Online 90-day reporting for foreigners takes effect

Foreign citizens staying in Thailand for more than 90 days are required to report their address every 90 days to the Immigration Bureau in Thailand. Previously, foreigners were given the choice to complete this process in person or authorize a representative to complete this process on their behalf. An online option is now available on the following websites: (Thai) (English)

Important notes

  1. Providing the visa has not yet expired, the online application must be completed 7-15 days before the due date of the latest 90-day notification.
  2. The Immigration Bureau of Thailand requires approximately seven days to process the application.
  3. Applicants can track their application status via the online portal.
  4. An online tag will be issued after the application is approved. Once approved, the applicant is required to print out the new tag and keep it in their passport for the next 90 days.
  5. Overdue status is not acceptable for an online application. Applicants must appear in person at their nearest immigration office if they have overstayed status, or if the online application was unsuccessful.
  6. Foreigners who fail to complete their 90-day reporting may be subject to a maximum fine of 5,000 THB and other penalties.
  7. The option of lodgment in person is still available, detailed information for the offices can be found at the Immigration Bureau of Thailand website.

Clients should be aware:

  • Foreigners are advised to use the online portal to submit their application within the submission period
  • Foreigners are advised to keep track of their duration of stay in the country to avoid overdue status
  • The online tag must be printed and attached to the passport

The Philippines

Revised guidelines on visa requirements for 47(a)(2) holders upon departure

The Philippines Bureau of Immigration (BI) recently released an Operations Order that affects 47(a)(2) visa holders on payments upon departure from the Philippines.

  1. Holders of PEZA-endorsed special non-immigrant visas under 47(a)(2) and/or respective dependent(s)
    All PEZA-endorsed 47(a)(2) visa holders are now exempt from securing an Alien Certificate and paying Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) and Special Return Certificate (SRC) fees upon departure.
  2. Visas issued other than those in (1) under 47(a)(2)
    Visa holders are required to secure an Alien Certificate and pay the ECC and SRC fees. Fees are waived for holders with an endorsement of the visa stating the fee is exempt.

Clients should be aware:

  • Immigration officers may interpret the implementation of the new departure fee requirements differently
  • While traveling, expats are advised to carry their Alien Employment Permit (AEP) card as proof of their current status in the Philippines

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.

North America

The United States

H-1B cap: Premium processing begins April 27, 2015

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued an announcement that it would begin premium processing for H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2016 cap on April 27, 2015. This includes premium processing of petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a U.S. master's degree or higher.

Normally, the USCIS provides a premium processing service for certain employment-based petitions and guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing time. The USCIS temporarily adjusted its premium processing practice due to the historic premium processing receipt levels, combined with the possibility that the H-1B cap would be met in the first five business days of the filing season.

For H-1B petitions that are not subject to the cap and for any other visa classification, the 15-day processing period for premium processing service begins on the date that USCIS receives the request. However, for cap-subject H-1B petitions, including advanced degree exemption petitions, the 15-day processing period set by 8 CFR 103.7(e)(2) will begin on April 27, 2015, regardless of the date on the Form I-797 receipt notice, which indicates the date that the premium processing fee is received.

L-1B policy memorandum released by USCIS

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a draft L-1B policy memorandum that provides guidance on L-1B adjudications. The draft policy memorandum intends to supersede prior L-1B memos and provide a single consolidated guide with standardized definitions for "specialized knowledge" and "advanced knowledge", as well as guidance around third-party worksites.

The L-1B policy memorandum outlines a practical approach for officers adjudicating L-1Bs, establishing the "preponderance of evidence" test as the controlling standard of proof for all L-1B petitions. The memorandum also interprets existing statutory and regulatory authorities to promote consistency and compliance with the L-1 Visa Reform Act. The L-1B program was created by Congress so that multinational companies could more effectively transfer their employees with specialized knowledge to their U.S. operations, and enhance their ability to leverage their workforce.

The public comment period on the proposed policy statement will close on May 8, 2015. The final policy will take effect on August 31, 2015, and will govern L-1B adjudications after that date.

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.

Latin America


Major changes to immigration processes

Effective January 2015, the Bolivian General Immigration Department (DIGEMIG) has implemented major changes to immigration and work authorization procedures.

There are now three standard immigration routes that allow for work in Bolivia: A short-term consular visa, a short-term post-arrival work authorization and a post-arrival three-year temporary residence route.

There are still separate routes for Argentinians and MERCOSUR nationals.

Short-term visa

The short-term visa (visa de objeto determinado), valid for 30 days, can now only be obtained at a Bolivian consulate abroad. It was previously also available post arrival in Bolivia.

If a short-term visa holder needs to extend their stay they can apply for the new short-term authorization (permanencia transitoria, see below), whereas before they could extend their visa.

A letter of invitation legalized in Bolivia is now required in support of an application for this visa.

Short-term authorization

The new short-term authorization (permanencia transitoria) replaces the old post-arrival short-term visa.

Short-term authorization can be obtained after entering Bolivia as a tourist or on a short-term visa (visa objeto determinado). The short-term authorization can also give access to temporary residence in Bolivia.

Temporary residence

Temporary residence, (permanencia temporal, previously visa de residencia temporal) can now also be obtained after entering Bolivia as a tourist or on a short-term authorization, and not only for those who have entered on a short-term visa, as previously.

If applying for temporary residence while on tourist status, it will be necessary to apply for change of status from tourist to resident.


DIGEMIG has posted details of the new procedures and requirements, but has not yet released any official legislation concerning these changes. The situation is likely to remain uncertain until the new requirements are fully implemented and further major changes may be expected.

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


New flexible work visa launched

The Chilean government has introduced a new work visa (visa temporaria por motivos laborales) that offers more flexibility for employees than the existing Work Contract Visa (visa sujeta a contrato).

The new visa differs from the existing Work Contract Visa, mostly to the benefit of the foreign national employee.

The new Temporary Visa for Work Purposes allows the employee to work for multiple employers, and to change jobs without any additional cost and without obtaining a new visa.

The Work Contract Visa only allows work for one employer, changing jobs carries an additional fee and the visa becomes invalid when the work contract ends.

Permitted activities:

  • The new visa allows the holder to work, study, start a business or offer freelance services
  • The existing Work Contract Visa only allows work as set out in the local contract

Permanent residence:

  • A holder of the new visa is entitled to apply for permanent residence after only one year in Chile
  • A Work Contract Visa holder must have resided in Chile for two years before applying for permanent residence

Application process

The new work visa can only be obtained post-arrival in Chile; the existing Work Contract Visa can be obtained either at a Chilean consulate abroad or in Chile.

The main advantage of the new visa for the employer is that they are not liable for repatriation costs when the contract with the employee ends. They are also not required to report the termination of the contract to the authorities.

The Work Contract Visa requires the employer to pay the repatriation costs of the foreign national. The employer also risks being fined if the termination of the employment contract with the foreign national is not reported.

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

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.

Europe, Middle East & Africa


New mandatory fee for residence authorization applications

The Belgian federal government introduced a mandatory administrative fee for residence authorization applications, which took effect March 2, 2015. The fee must be paid by all work permit holders (215 €) and most of their dependent family members (160 €), students (160 €), some researchers (215 €) and Blue Card applicants (215 €).

A reduced amount (60 €) is to be paid by long-term residents.

Exemptions include nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, children under 18 years of age and refugees. The fee, ranging from 60 € to 215 €, must be paid by bank transfer and proof of payment must be submitted as part of the residence application.

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


Changes to visas on arrival process

Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced changes to the tourist visa system, which may require travelers to obtain a visa before traveling to Egypt, rather than on arrival. While a formal implementation date has not been confirmed, the new requirement is likely to come into effect once a new electronic visa system has been introduced by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Khaled Rami, Minister of Tourism, has advised that the new system will involve a simple three-stage process and ensure that tourists will no longer queue for visas upon arrival in Egypt. It is anticipated that issuance of the new e-visas will commence before the end of 2015.

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


Minimum salary level increase for local hires and intra-company transferees

The Ministry of Employment in Luxembourg has confirmed that the minimum salary level for foreign locally-hired employees and intra-company transferees (ICT) has increased to EUR 2,307.56 gross per month. Employers should continue to review minimum salary requirements to ensure this criteria is being met prior to applications being filed with the immigration authorities in Luxembourg.

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

South Africa

Business traveler nationals from BRICS countries receive long-term multiple-entry visas

On February 26, 2015, the Minister of the Department of Home Affairs announced that, effective retroactively on December 23, 2014, business travelers from BRICS countries would be issued long-term, multiple-entry visas.

This new measure extends to business visitors from BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), holding diplomatic, official/services and ordinary passports, who apply for visas to visit South Africa for short-term business purposes.

Qualifying business travelers will receive a "Port of Entry Visa" (see below) valid for up to ten years (but not exceeding the passport validity) to allow for visits of up to 30 days at a time.

Port of Entry Visas are issued by South African consulates abroad, but are subject to the decision of the immigration authorities at the port-of-entry, who may issue an entry visa or not.

Companies should note that this does not constitute an actual visa exemption or waiver, as Russian, Indian and Chinese nationals will still be required to apply for the initial visa prior to travel. However, once in possession of the visa, the holder can make multiple trips to South Africa within the validity period, for stays of up to 30 days at a time. Brazilian passport holders are already part of the Department of Home Affairs' visa waiver/exemption program and do not require visas prior to travel for business visits of up to 90 days.

The Department of Home Affairs believes that this significant step will tremendously enhance South Africa's efforts to increase trade and investment between BRICS countries.

Pilot scheme launched to expedite processing of immigration and visa applications

The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that a pilot scheme will be launched for the expedited processing of immigration and visa applications in South Africa. An immigration hub, located in Pretoria, will process cases from Nigeria, India and Kenya that currently submit a high volume of immigration applications. The decision was announced by Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, further to discussions with corporate clients and feedback provided regarding the immigration laws introduced in May 2014. The pilot scheme will focus on delivering a consistent and expedited service and will also review internal process delays resulting from the enactment of the 2014 immigration regulations.

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.

The United Kingdom

Immigration health surcharge, new fees and rollout of Biometric Residence Permits

Immigration health surcharge

From 6 April, 2015, non-EEA nationals applying to come to the U.K. to work, study or join family members for more than six months will be required to pay an immigration health surcharge. This will also apply to non-EEA nationals who are already in the U.K. and apply to extend their stay by six months or more.

The cost of the health surcharge will be £200 per year, and £150 per year for students. Dependents will be charged the same amount as the main applicant.

The health surcharge is a mandatory requirement. Individuals who have private healthcare, paid for either by themselves or on their behalf by their employer, will still be required to pay the surcharge.


  • Applicants under Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) and nationals of Australia and New Zealand are exempt from paying the immigration health surcharge

It is important to note that these applicants will still need to complete the online surcharge process but will be informed the payment is nil. Applicants will receive a surcharge reference number which will be needed for their immigration application to confirm exemption from the surcharge.

  • Migrants applying for a U.K. visa of six months or less will also be exempt from paying the surcharge. Those applying to come to the U.K. on a Visitor Visa will also be exempt. But from April 2015, non-EEA visitors who access NHS services will be charged 150 per cent of the cost of their treatment

Immigration and nationality fees 2015/16

The government has published the immigration and nationality fees for all applications made from outside and within the U.K. from 6 April, 2015.

Tier 2 of the points-based system

There is an increase of £50 to applications made both within and outside the U.K. under the Tier 2 General and ICT (long-term) categories, where a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) has been issued for a period of three years or less. The increase in these categories when a CoS has been issued for more than three years is £100.

Applications made under the Tier 2 ICT - Short Term, Graduate Trainee and Skills Transfer categories, with a CoS that has been issued for a period of three years or less, will increase by £17, from £428 to £445.

The allocation of a Tier 2 CoS itself will rise by £15 to £199. There is no change to the fee for a Sponsor Licence application or renewal.

Tier 1

Tier 1 (Investor) sees large fee increases for applications made both in and out of the U.K. In-country applications will rise to £1,500, from £1,093, whereas out-of-country applications increase by £626, also to £1,500.

In sharp contrast, a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) initial application from within the U.K. cost almost half of the present fee – down from £656 to £281. Applications in this category made from outside the U.K. will also see the fee decrease to £281, from the current fee of £437.

Other fees

From April 2015, postal applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) will cost £1,500, almost 40 per cent higher than the current fee of £1,093. ILR applications made via premium processing will rise to £1,900 from £1,493.

The fee for naturalisation as a British citizen for an adult will rise to £1,005 from £906 and the fee for registration of a child as a British citizen will rise to £749 from £669.

Rollout of Biometric Residence Permits

The process of issuing Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) to non-EEA nationals travelling to the U.K. for more than six months started on 18 March, 2015, with applications made in Pakistan.

The rollout will continue in three further phases from mid-April (including China and India), 31 May (including Australia and the USA) and 31 July (the rest of the world).

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

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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