Monday, September 14, 2015

Nigeria - Onsite Immigration Documentation Inspections Temporarily Suspended

 September 14, 2015 

The new Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), who was recently appointed by the Nigerian president, has temporarily suspended the inspection of immigration documents by NIS officials. 

The decision comes in light of complaints of internal departmental conflict and potentially unethical inspections. Inspections are expected to resume more rigorously as soon as the internal issues have been addressed. 

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals 

Employers should maintain full immigration compliance during the temporary suspension of inspections and should report any unscheduled onsite visits by officials. 

This alert is for informational purposes only. 
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European Union - Newly Implemented Border Controls and Asylum Application Volume Causing Delays, Travel Difficulties

September 14, 2015 

Travelers into, out of and within the European Union and the Schengen Area will be subject to general travel and immigration service processing delays due to the influx of refugees, particularly to Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia. Importantly, Germany introduced border controls yesterday that caused significant delays at entry and exit ports and other countries are continuing to implement controls. This is particularly relevant to rail and road border crossings; air travel is unlikely to be affected at this time. 

Delays and Suspensions 

Trains between Germany and Austria were suspended in both directions from Sunday until Monday morning. It is currently not clear how long other border controls will remain in place. 

Foreign nationals should be prepared for immigration document checks on roads and trains throughout the European Union. 

Foreign nationals seeking permits and visas at immigration offices in EU countries are experiencing long lines and processing delays due to the volume of asylum applications. Foreign nationals are advised to arrive at immigration offices well in advance of opening hours and should file renewal and other immigration applications well in advance of the deadlines to avoid additional delays. 

What This Means For Foreign Nationals 

All travelers, including EU nationals, are strongly advised to carry a valid passport and, as appropriate, residence permit or visa if crossing any international border within the European Union, even if passport-free travel is currently permitted. Train and road travel is likely to be significantly delayed and foreign nationals seeking immigration services in EU countries should account for delays and long lines. 

This alert is for informational purposes only.
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Friday, September 11, 2015

United States - The STEM OPT Program: Next Steps and Planning for F-1 Students and Employers

September 10, 2015 

Following the recent court ruling in Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. DHS (WashTech), the Department of Homeland Security is expected to publish the regulation that established the STEM optional practical training (OPT) program for notice and comment to ensure that the program continues uninterrupted. Meanwhile, the STEM OPT regulation remains in place, allowing F-1 STEM students to seek an OPT extension and to work pursuant to an approved STEM OPT employment authorization document (EAD). 

The court’s ruling has prompted inquiries from employers and F-1 students concerned about the future of the STEM OPT program. We has prepared answers to the following frequently asked questions about the court’s decision, DHS’s next steps and what employers and F-1s should do now. 

In the wake of the WashTech decision, what must DHS do to ensure that the STEM OPT program remains in place without interruption? Will the agency meet the deadline set by the court? 

In the WashTech case, U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle invalidated the federal regulation establishing the STEM OPT program on the ground that DHS had not followed the proper administrative process when it implemented the rule. Judge Huvelle immediately stayed her ruling and allowed the program to remain in place in the near term, granting DHS until February 12, 2016 to bring it into compliance with federal regulatory procedures. In doing so, Judge Huvelle made clear that she wanted to avoid hardship and disruption to F-1 STEM students and their employers. 

To ensure that the STEM OPT program continues without interruption, DHS is required to publish the regulation in the Federal Register by the court’s deadline and give the public an opportunity to submit comments. The notice and comment process has historically been a lengthy one, though the timelines prescribed by law allow an agency to move through the required procedures in a matter of months. 

DHS has very strong incentives to keep the STEM program operating without interruption and as such, there is every reason to believe that DHS will work to meet its regulatory obligations within the period granted by the District Court. However, employers and F-1 foreign nationals should be aware that DHS may not complete its obligations until just before the court’s deadline. Furthermore, the possibility that DHS may ask the court for extra time cannot be ruled out. 

Will the WashTech decision be appealed? 

The plaintiffs have appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. They are expected to challenge the District Court’s finding that DHS has the authority to create employment programs for F-1 students and the court’s decision to stay its invalidation of the STEM OPT regulation to give DHS time to meet procedural requirements. 

In complying with the court’s ruling, will DHS issue a new STEM OPT regulation or will it simply republish the existing regulation? 

One likely option is for DHS not simply to publish the STEM OPT rule in its current form but to issue a new proposed regulation with substantive changes to the program. Such a plan was announced at the presidential level as part of the White House’s modernization program for the legal immigration system and has been in the planning stages for some time. The specific contents of the proposed rule will not be disclosed until it is published in the Federal Register, but it is anticipated to increase the STEM OPT extension period, expand the list of degree programs eligible for the extension and require degree-granting schools to ensure that there is a relationship between a foreign national’s degree and his or her STEM OPT employment. It is also possible that the rule could permit foreign nationals with a prior U.S. STEM degree to seek an OPT extension. 

Another option is for DHS to republish the current STEM OPT regulation for public comment, though publication of a new proposed rule with program revisions is more likely. 

Will organizations have the opportunity to comment on the STEM OPT regulation? 

Yes. When DHS publishes the STEM OPT regulation in the Federal Register, it will provide the public with a period of time within which to submit comments, typically 30 to 60 days. 

Comments from employers will be crucial not only to provide feedback on proposed substantive changes to the program but to make DHS aware of the critical importance of the STEM OPT program to U.S. businesses and the disruption that would occur if the program were to lapse because the agency did not meet its obligations in a timely way. If your organization is interested in submitting comments on the forthcoming proposed regulation, please contact your designated Our team or the firm’s Government Strategies Group. 

Is a new STEM OPT program likely to be implemented in the current political environment? Will it be challenged in court? 

Once the forthcoming proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, we expect robust discussion and a large number of comments from the public. The anticipated proposal has already drawn criticism from some in Congress, but we know of no reason to believe that these criticisms alone would delay publication of the regulation in compliance with the court’s deadline. 

Though the WashTech court held that DHS has the authority to create employment programs for F-1 students and that there is a long history of congressional approval for such programs, another court challenge cannot be ruled out, particularly in view of a pending lawsuit challenging the H-4 spousal employment regulation and the common team of attorneys assisting in both cases. 

What is the impact of the WashTech decision on F-1 students who have already obtained a STEM extension of OPT? Could STEM OPT work authorization end on February 12, 2016 if DHS does not meet the deadline to comply with its regulatory obligations? 

Because Judge Huvelle stayed her decision, the current STEM OPT regulation remains in place as it exists now, including the 17-month extension period. DHS has announced that it plans to issue guidance on the impact of the decision, but there are no indications that it is planning to truncate the work authorization of F-1 students whose OPT has been extended under the current rule. F-1 students who have already been approved for a 17-month extension of OPT on the basis of a qualifying STEM degree should remain eligible to work through the expiration of their STEM OPT employment authorization document (EAD), even if that date falls after the February 12, 2016 deadline. 

In the unlikely event that DHS were to fail to meet the deadline, we would not expect it to cancel otherwise valid STEM OPT EADs unless the court were to order such an action. Given DHS’s strong incentive to comply with the court’s order, and the court’s desire to avoid causing hardship to F-1 students and employers, we do not expect this outcome. 

What about F-1 students with a pending application for a STEM extension of OPT? Will new STEM OPT EADs be issued for less than 17 months? 

The expectation is that USCIS will continue to adjudicate pending applications for STEM OPT extensions and accept new applications. F-1s who file a timely application for a STEM extension remain authorized to work for an additional 180 days after their initial OPT EAD expires, in accordance with current program rules. 

Because the District Court ordered the STEM OPT regulation to remain in place for now, DHS is expected to issue extension EADs for their full 17 months’ validity, though we are awaiting confirmation from the agency. In the event that DHS does not meet the February 12, 2016 deadline to publish the STEM OPT regulation, it may suspend the adjudication of pending OPT applications at that time and stop accepting new filings until the regulation is brought into compliance. This could result in a gap in employment authorization for some. 

What actions should employers and F-1 students take now? 

At this stage, employers and F-1 students working on OPT should work with their designated our team to stay apprised of developments relating to the STEM program. Employers and F-1s should not assume that the program will be invalidated permanently, but should be aware that DHS may not complete the steps necessary to continue the program until the last minute, and could even request additional time to do so. This could mean a period of uncertainty for F-1s working on OPT now and planning to seek a STEM extension before their current OPT EAD expires. 

Though it is expected that DHS will do what is necessary in time to ensure that the STEM OPT program continues without interruption, your organization may wish to contact its our team to determine whether current F-1 OPT employees are eligible for other nonimmigrant categories. Performing a preliminary assessment of alternatives now may help to reduce the risk of gaps in employment authorization in the event that there are delays in the regularization of the STEM OPT program. 

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Canada - Employers Advised to Initiate Work Permit Extension Applications 180 Days in Advance of Expiration

September 9, 2015 

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will now accept inland work permit, study permit and visitor record extension applications more than 90 days from expiration. This is due to swift and significant increases in the typical processing time for extension applications. 

CIC’s informal policy in the past has been to advise against foreign nationals filing inland extension applications outside of 90 days from the date of expiry. However, CIC has confirmed to us that it now has no objection to inland extension applications being submitted earlier to account for the current processing times. 

The processing time for an extension application filed online at CIC’s Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alberta (CPC-V) is currently 114 days – more than double the processing time in April of this year. 

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals 

Employers and foreign nationals should begin reaching out to their immigration professionals to begin extension cases at least 180 days prior to the expiration of current work permits or other temporary resident status documents. Particularly, for those who have work permits based on Labour Market Impact Assessments. 

This alert is for informational purposes only. 
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Canada - Latest Round of Express Entry Program Selections Show Ongoing Selection Flexibility

September 9, 2015 

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) held its sixteenth Express Entry draw on September 8, 2015. Of those who have submitted an Expression of Interest profile, 1,517 candidates have been invited to apply for permanent residence under the program. 

The minimum qualifying score for this draw was 459. Points are based on a comprehensive ranking system that focuses on factors such as core human capital and skill transferability, among others. 

The frequency and size of Express Entry draws are at the discretion of CIC, which continues to indicate its flexibility in the selection process. As in previous draws, CIC selected candidates who did not have a valid Labour Market Impact Assessment/Labour Market Opinion (LMIA) or a Provincial Nomination (PN) certificate at the time their profile was set up. 

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals 

While an LMIA or PN approval will guarantee your employee’s selection and invitation for Permanent Residence, it is not always the case that such documents are required. This recent draw demonstrates that employees without an LMIA or PN approval continue to also be selected. 

This alert is for informational purposes only.
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Canada - Quebec Immigrant Investor Program Now Accepting Applications

September 8, 2015 

The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP) – which qualifies investors who make an investment in Quebec through an authorized financial intermediary for permanent residence - is now accepting applications. Most applications are due January 29, 2016. 

Qualification Criteria 

In order to be eligible for the program, applicants must: 

have, alone or with an accompanying spouse, net assets of at least CAD $1,600,000; 
have experience in managing or owning a business or professional firm for two of the last five years; and 
intend to settle in Quebec and sign an agreement to invest CAD $800,000 with an authorized financial intermediary (financing options are available). 

Application assessment will also include factors such as age, professional background and language skills. Applicants who demonstrate intermediate language skills in French are eligible for priority processing and can apply until March 31, 2016. 

While in previous years preliminary applications were accepted for consideration, this year, only completed applications will be considered. 

Program Cap 

The program will accept 1,750 applicants. No more than 1,200 applicants will be accepted from any single country. Applicants with French language skills are not subject to program caps. 

What This Means for Foreign Nationals 

Eligible foreign investors should benefit from the possibility of permanent residence that is offered by the new program. As preparing an application can be a lengthy process, interested foreign workers should contact their immigration professional to begin work on the application well in advance of the cut-off date of January 29, 2016. 

This alert is for informational purposes only.
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United States - State Department Expected to Announce Visa Bulletin Reforms for Employment-Based Permanent Residence

September 4, 2015 

To alleviate the hardships caused by lengthy green card backlogs, forthcoming reforms to the State Department’s monthly Visa Bulletin are expected to allow eligible employer-sponsored foreign nationals to submit an application for adjustment of status to permanent residence before an immigrant visa becomes available. However, concrete details will not be known until the agency releases the reformed Bulletin in the coming days. 

In the coming days, the State Department is expected to announce significant employment-based reforms to the Visa Bulletin, the agency’s forecast of green card availability for the coming month. A centerpiece of President Obama’s executive action on immigration, the reforms are expected make it possible for eligible employer-sponsored foreign nationals to file an application for adjustment of status to permanent residence before an immigrant visa becomes available to them. Applicants and eligible dependents will be able to obtain interim employment and travel benefits during the often lengthy wait for a green card, which should help to alleviate the hardships that employment-based immigrant visa backlogs can cause. 

Under current practice, a foreign national can file an application to adjust status (or an application for an immigrant visa abroad) only when his or her priority date is “current” in the Visa Bulletin. A foreign national’s priority date – i.e., the date on which a labor certification (if required) or a Form I-140 immigrant worker petition was filed on his or her behalf – is current if it falls before the cut-off date listed in the Visa Bulletin. 

The reformed Bulletin is expected to list two critical cut-off dates for each backlogged employment-based preference category and country: (1) a cut-off date for actual immigrant visa availability, as is currently reported in the Bulletin; and (2) a new cut-off date for eligibility to file an application for adjustment of status or an immigrant visa. The new cut-off dates will not be known with certainty until the State Department issues its new Bulletin, but they could be up to one year later than the immigrant visa availability date for each preference category and country, and possibly more than one year later for some countries. Those who qualify under this second cut-off will not be able to receive a green card until an immigrant visa number becomes available to them, but they and their eligible dependents will be able to file their applications for adjustment of status, as well as applications for interim work and travel authorization, as stated above. 

What a Reformed Visa Bulletin Could Mean for Foreign Nationals and Employers 

If reformed as anticipated, the new Visa Bulletin will bring welcome news to many employer-sponsored foreign nationals, particular those from China and India, who are most significantly affected by green card backlogs. Once the new Bulletin is released, we expect the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to answer the many questions presented by this new filing opportunity, including how long it will remain available and how to submit applications. 
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United Kingdom - Home Office Proposes Changes to Operation of Tier 2 Quota

September 4, 2015 

The Home Office has proposed increasing the number of salary bands in the points table used to assess whether a Tier 2 (General) Visa applicant can qualify under the monthly quota for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (RCoS). This proposal comes as a result of the monthly quota for non-EEA nationals being exceeded in June and July due to demand and the wide salary bandings impacting more applicants. 

The new bands are expected to be available for applications submitted on or after September 6, 2015, and would be provisional until changes to the Immigration Rules have been approved by Parliament. 

There would be no changes to the RCoS application process, and the prioritization given to shortage occupations and PhD-level occupations would not change. 

The Tier 2 (General) Visa quota affects foreign nationals applying for a visa from outside the UK who will earn less than a guaranteed amount of GBP 155,300 per year or those who apply from within the UK and are switching from the Tier 4 Partner category. The current annual quota is 20,700 and a fixed number of spaces are available each month. 

Tier 2 (General) Visa applications are processed in a priority order based on a points system: shortage occupations are awarded the most points, followed by PhD-level jobs and lastly points are awarded based on salary. 

Other Related Changes 

Under the existing rules, an RCoS must be assigned by the sponsoring employer within three months of the date of issue or it will expire. A proposed change would allow the Home Office to return unused places to the limit, which would increase the number of RCoS available. More information on this will be available in the Immigration Rules and the related Sponsor Guidance. 

Lastly, following the introduction of the new salary bands table, the Home Office will need to make changes to its internal systems, which may cause application processing delays in November (applications can be made for this period on or after October 6, 2015). This will not affect the number of RCoS available in either the October or November allocations. 

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals 

Although initial delays may occur in November, the new salary bands and the ability to utilize unused RCoS are positive developments. More applicants would be approved each month and a few more places may be available in the monthly quota. 

This alert is for informational purposes only. 
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Ireland - New Law Qualifies More Foreign Workers for Employment Permits; Brings Procedural Changes

September 3, 2015 

Effective immediately, IT and telecommunications engineers, and certain chiropractors and mobility instructors have been taken off the ineligibility list for employment permits for foreign nationals. Additionally, graphic design managers, plant hiring managers, production managers and property, housing and estate managers have been added to the ineligibility list. This change comes as a result of the implementation of the Employment Permits (Amendment) Regulations 2015. 

Highly-Skilled Occupations List Amendment 

The Highly-Skilled Occupations List has also been amended, with medical roles such as radiation therapist, orthotists and prosthetists added and healthcare practice managers, senior social services managers and directors removed. 

New Forms May Bring Delays 

A new set of standard employment permit application forms are available, which may cause processing delays as a result of potential re-applications and review delays at the immigration office after an already-backlogged summer.

Applications submitted on or after September 1, 2015 on the old forms will be sent back to the applicant with a request to complete the new forms. 

Trusted Partner applications forms have not been amended. 

Other Important Changes 

Additionally, a P30 Revenue Commissioners form up to three months old can now be submitted in support of employment permit applications, instead of the previous rule of two months. 

Foreign nationals seeking to renew their employment permits in Ireland only need a passport valid for three months past their entry date (instead of the usual twelve months). However, initial employment permit applicants are still required to have passports valid at least twelve months past their entry date. 

What This Means for Foreign Nationals 

IT and telecommunications engineers and others who have been taken off the ineligibility list should benefit from the possibility of entry into the Irish work force. 

Foreign nationals should ensure their P30 form, passport and application forms comply with the rule changes, and should note that the new forms may result in processing delays. 

This alert is for informational purposes only.
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South Africa - Online Visa Portal Unavailability Likely to Cause Delays

September 3, 2015 

The Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) online portal’s current unavailability due to system maintenance is impacting visa appointment scheduling capabilities and the ability to complete online application forms. This is also likely to delay existing appointments since appointment confirmation forms need to be accessed and printed. 

The online visa status tracking function is also currently unavailable, making the status of pending applications inaccessible at this time. 

Additionally, visa application centers are currently unable to process submissions as their internal system is also offline. As such, existing appointments may need to be rescheduled. 

VFS has not yet advised when the online portal will be accessible nor has it provided an update on the steps that will be taken to mitigate missed appointments. 

What This Means for Foreign Nationals 

Visa applicants using the VFS system or seeking services at visa application centers should account for likely travel and start date delays. 

This alert is for informational purposes only. 
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Canada - Select Applications for Provincial Nominee Programs in Alberta and British Columbia Suspended

Due to a large volume of pending applications, effective immediately, the Alberta Immigration Nominee Program (AINP) will not accept applications until January 27, 2016, and the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) will not accept applications for a majority of the Skills Immigration and Express Entry British Columbia categories until early 2016. Pending applications will continue to be assessed. 

The BC PNP will only accept applications under the Health Care Professional category and the Northeast Pilot Project. The Skills Immigration and Express Entry British Colombia categories are expected to reopen in early 2016 with a new points-based system to ensure high-impact applicants are prioritized and occupations and skills are aligned with labor market needs. 

What This Means for Foreign Nationals 

Until these programs reopen, foreign nationals with pending applications under these categories should see reduced wait times and other program improvements. 

This alert is for informational purposes only. 
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Mexico - New Electronic Entry Program for Frequent Travelers Across the U.S./Mexico Border

September 11, 2015 

Mexico introduced a new electronic Multiple Use Immigration Form (FMM, or Forma Migratoria MĂșltiple) on August 31 for eligible commuters making frequent trips across the U.S./Mexico border. Electronic FMM holders benefit from dedicated entry lines at land border ports of entry and faster registration processes during admission. The electronic FMM is valid for cross-border entry for up to 180 days. 


The electronic FMM can be used for entry by land for business or tourism visits only, and it is only available to foreign nationals who are visa exempt for such visits. Electronic FMM holders must hold a passport with at least six months’ remaining validity when entering Mexico. 

As with all business visitors and tourists, holders of electronic FMMs are not permitted to receive remuneration from a Mexican source when in the country. 

How to Apply 

Eligible travelers apply and pay the fee for the electronic FMM online at The fee is MXN 332 (approximately US$ 20) and is paid by credit or debit card (Visa and MasterCard only). 

After completing the online process, the applicant must print a payment confirmation sheet and a FMM form. The applicant must seek entry within 30 days of printing these documents. Upon that first entry, border officials will place a seal on the FMM form. Travelers must retain and travel with this FMM at all times. 

As with standard FMMs, travelers must present their electronic FMM when exiting Mexico. 

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals 

The electronic FMM offers frequent commuters across the U.S./Mexico border considerable convenience over the standard FMM by greatly decreasing the time necessary to enter Mexico through land border ports of entry 

This alert is for informational purposes only. 
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Monday, May 26, 2014

South Africa - Immigration Reforms Take Effect May 26

May 23, 2014

The President of the Republic of South Africa has proclaimed that new immigration laws will come into effect on May 26, 2014. The implementation of the new laws is expected to result in significant delays and other case processing issues.

In an unexpected move, the President of South Africa has determined that a package of immigration reforms that had been delayed for public consultation will now take effect on May 26, 2014. The reforms will make changes to immigration requirements, procedures and even terminology, and their sudden introduction is likely to lead to delays and other case processing issues as the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) works to implement the changes. 

Centivu is reviewing the published regulations and accompanying forms to assess the impact of the reforms on clients and the extent to which the new laws vary from previous announcements relating to the changes. Those changes indicated that reform measures were likely to include new labor market testing requirements and new restrictions for General Work Permits, corporate permits and permits for accompanying unmarried partners; extensions of the validity of intracompany transfer work visas to four years; new restrictions on in-country changes of status; replacements for two work permit categories; and the introduction of new application forms, application fees, and penalties for non-compliance. 

What This Means for Employers 

Employers are advised to immediately work with their Centivu representative to review how the reforms will affect both existing and upcoming immigration cases for South Africa. Employers should be aware that case processing for South Africa will likely be quite unpredictable for the next several months as consular and DHA officials adjust to the new processes, and should be prepared for significant delays.
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Turkey - Additional Documentation Now Required for Dependent Residence Permits

May 22, 2014

Employers will need to plan ahead for new document requirements, including background clearances as well as proof of accommodations, medical insurance, and sufficient financial support, in cases where foreign workers in Turkey will be accompanied by dependent family members.

Employers should plan ahead for document gathering in cases where foreign workers in Turkey will be accompanied by dependent family members. Over the past several weeks, authorities have been clarifying these requirements, which include background clearances as well as proof of accommodations, medical insurance, and sufficient financial support, on a case-by-case basis. 

As previously reported, guidance on how dependent residence permit applicants can meet new document requirements was not specified when the immigration reform law that introduced the requirements took effect on April 12. Since then, the local police stations that process these permit applications have only provided additional guidance orally on a case-by-case basis. Because some of the required documents can take some time to obtain, employers should plan document gathering efforts early in the application process. 

Though requirements may not be consistent across all local police stations, the following documents are now generally being requested for dependent residence permit applications:

  • Background Clearances: A police clearance certificate for the principal showing an absence of family violence crimes that covers the five years prior to the date of application. Currently in our experience, local police stations are requesting a clearance certificate from Turkey only, regardless of how long the principal has been in Turkey. However, police stations are expected to soon require clearance certificates from all jurisdictions where the principal has resided in the prior five years. 
  • Proof of Accommodations: In most cases, a notarized copy of the lease agreement for the principal’s place of residence in the principal’s name. But because Turkish residential leases commonly reference an informal or incorrect address, the principal must also provide the residence’s Deed of Trust or a Municipality Address Registration document (Belediye Numartaj Kayiti). Note that if principal is accompanied by an unmarried partner or an adult dependent child, a lease that also references these family members may be requested as well. 
  • Proof of Medical Insurance: For each dependent, either: registration in Turkey’s national health system, or private medical coverage from a Turkish entity, evidenced by an official insurance letter that includes details of the coverage. Local police stations currently are not accepting international medical insurance policies if there is no local entity, but may do so in the future. 
  • Proof of Sufficient Financial Support: A payroll record for the principal that is signed and sealed by a signature authority of the principal’s employer, either the Turkish or overseas entity.

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals

If a foreign worker will be accompanied by dependent family members while in Turkey, he or she and the employer should begin gathering the necessary documents well in advance. Some documents, such as notarized leases and other proof of accommodation, may take several weeks to procure.
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Malaysia - Reminder: Employers Must Register for E-Filing System

May 22, 2014

Employers are strongly urged and reminded to register for Malaysia’s new e-filing system, which is required before they can complete the initial stage of the employment pass application process. The registration process may take up to two months.

Employers applying for new employment passes with the Malaysian Immigration Department (MID) are reminded that they must complete an online registration process before they can use the new e-filing web portal. Employers must use the new online portal to submit applications for approval to fill an open position with a foreign national candidate (Stage 1 of the employment pass application). 

The online registration process may take up to two months. Companies that are not already registered can expect delays of approximately two months in the processing of new employment passes. 

What This Means for Clients 

Employers that have not already registered to use the new e-filing system should take immediate steps to do so. Employers may have to postpone start dates for upcoming assignments in Malaysia due to the expected delays. For registered employers, processing of employment pass applications continues to average five to eight weeks. 

Though the new online filing system is creating new administrative burdens and delays for employers, it is expected to help MID processing become more efficient and reduce application wait times in the long term.
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Australia - Subclass 457 Visa Compliance: Compulsory Retirement Contribution Rate Increases on July 1

May 21, 2014

Australia’s mandatory superannuation contribution rate will increase 0.25 percent to 9.5 percent on July 1, 2014. Employers considering reducing the salary component of a foreign national’s total compensation package will need to consider how such a change will affect their obligation to pay at market rate and will need to notify the Department of Immigration and Border Protection of any downward change to the employee’s salary with a new nomination application.

Australia’s compulsory employer superannuation contribution rate – the amount employers are required to contribute toward employee retirement funds – will increase 0.25 percent to 9.5 percent on July 1, 2014 as part of a program of increases designed to raise the rate to 12 percent by 2020. This superannuation rate last increased, by 0.25 percent, on July 1, 2013. 

Employers who choose to reduce the salary component of the total salary package of a foreign national rather than increase the package by 0.25 percent (providing this is permitted under the employment contract) will need to notify Department of Immigration and Border Protection of the change. Before making any decision to reduce the salary component, an employer must ensure that the adjusted salary will continue to satisfy the market rate requirement. 

What This Means for Employers 

Employers should develop strategies for how they will account for increases in superannuation contribution rates. Employers should also review their subclass 457 visa holders’ contracts of employment to determine whether the contracts permit them to adjust employees' salaries to account for higher superannuation rates. Employees will need to be notified of the change in superannuation rates and how it will impact them. 

Employers that take on the expense of additional superannuation payments will not be required to take any action. A new subclass 457 nomination will only be required if the salary component of the salary package is reduced to accommodate for the increase in superannuation contribution rate.
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Monday, May 19, 2014

South Africa - Streamlined Short-Term Work Authorization Process

May 16, 2014

Short-term work authorization applications are now processed by South Africa’s consular posts rather than the Department of Home Affairs and will be adjudicated concurrently with the foreign national’s entry visa application, if a visa is required. This change is expected to shorten overall processing times.

Employers are no longer required to submit applications for short-term work authorization, known as Section 11(2) visas, to the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa (DHA). These applications are now processed by South Africa’s consular posts and will be adjudicated alongside foreign nationals’ visa applications.

Section 11(2) Visas are valid for work for up to 90 days and cannot be renewed.

Visa Nationals
Previous Procedure
New Procedure
Step 1
Application to the DHA Head Office in Pretoria for authorization to work in South Africa
Application to South African consular post for authorization to work and visa for travel
Step 2
Application to South African consular post for visa
Foreign national travels to South Africa with work authorization visa endorsed in passport prior to entering South Africa
Step 3
Foreign National travels to South Africa with work authorization visa endorsed in passport prior to entering South Africa

Visa-Exempt Nationals
Previous Procedure
New Procedure
Step 1
Application to the DHA Head Office in Pretoria for authorization to work in South Africa
Application to South African consular post for authorization to work in South Africa
Step 2
Foreign national travels to South Africa and receives work authorization endorsement upon entry
Foreign national travels to South Africa and receives work authorization endorsement upon entry

What This Means for Employers

This change streamlines the Section 11(2) visa application process by removing a step, which should reduce processing times overall. However, processing times and consistency in decision-making will likely vary across different consular posts.

The change also indicates that the DHA is showing an interest in immigration service delivery and client satisfaction.
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United Arab Emirates - Dubai Begins Mandatory Online Filing for Employment Entry and Residence Permit Applications

May 14, 2014

Though an implementation date for the e-filing mandate has not been confirmed, companies with five or more employees should register for the online system and begin using it by May 18 at the latest. Online filing will be mandatory in mainland Dubai only; there are no filing changes in Free Trade Zones.

All new and renewal Employment Entry and Residence Permit applications from companies with more than five employees will soon have to be filed online using Dubai Immigration’s eDNRD e-services platform. Paper applications submitted at Dubai Immigration counters will no longer be accepted. The online filing requirement applies to entities operating in mainland Dubai only; there are no changes for filing in Free Trade Zones.

The exact implementation date for the e-filing mandate has not been confirmed. However, Dubai officials had previously indicated that employers had to register for the new system by May 18, and employers are advised to register and start using the system by that date.

Employers must register and create an account before they can file applications in the online system. The following documents/requirements are necessary to create an eDNRD account: 
  • A copy of the sponsoring entity’s Trade License and Immigration Establishment Card, 
  • A copy of the entity’s authorized signatory’s passport information page and Emirates ID card, 
  • An application completed in English and Arabic, and 
  • An authorization letter.

Employers may also require a valid e-wallet (Noqodi) account for payment of processing fees.

The online filing system allows for employers to create multiple user accounts that are authorized to login and create applications in the system.

What This Means for Employers

Employers should register to use Dubai Immigration e-services as quickly as possible to avoid application delays.

In the short term, the new online filing system may create some administrative burdens for employers, who will have to register for the online portal and set up an appropriate payment system to allow them to submit applications online. In the long term, however, an online filing system is expected to help application processing become more efficient and minimize time spent by the authorized representatives at government offices.
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United Arab Emirates - TECOM Free Trade Zone Requires Updated Foreign Employee Data

May 13, 2014

Employers operating in the Dubai Technology, Electronic Commerce and Media (TECOM) free trade zone have until June 10, 2014 to confirm the names and salaries of all currently sponsored foreign employees working in that area. Failure to do so may result in TECOM freezing an employer’s access to immigration services.

By June 10, all companies operating in the Dubai Technology, Electronic Commerce and Media (TECOM) free trade zone are required to confirm the names and salaries of all currently sponsored foreign employees and notify TECOM of necessary updates. Failure to do so will result in a suspension of a company's ability to receive any government services through TECOM, including the processing of employee visas, residence permits, and renewals.

The information request is part of a TECOM Authority effort to update its databases for all companies that operate within its jurisdiction, and it could lead to the roll out of new online application systems in the free zone.

All TECOM-based entities should soon receive an email notification about the data request, followed in the mail by a hard-copy list of the company's sponsored and non-sponsored foreign employee details. Employers must review this list, reconcile it with their internal HR records and return it to TECOM with any amendments. Employers will be required to provide updated salary details for each foreign employee.

If an individual is listed as an active employee but is no longer employed, the employer will need to provide proof that it canceled the individual’s residence permit. Failure to cancel a permit may result in penalties and a declaration that the affected individual is an absconder, opening him or her up to deportation.

Once an employer returns the list to TECOM, the list will be considered the final roster of the entity’s active foreign employees.

What This Means for Employers

Employers should begin reviewing the TECOM-provided list of sponsored foreign employees immediately to ensure compliance with the June 10 deadline.

TECOM’s data collection effort should also serve as an important reminder of the importance of complying with immigration sponsorship requirements, in particular with resident permit cancellation requirements. Additional enforcement actions from TECOM, such as worksite inspections, are also possible following the data review.
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Dominican Republic - Resident Permit Applications Must be Submitted Within 30 Days of Entry

May 12, 2014

Employers should plan to file foreign employees’ residence permit applications quickly after entry into the country to avoid delays, in light of a new 30-day filing window.

Foreign nationals seeking to work and reside in the Dominican Republic are now required to submit their residence permit applications within 30 days of entering the country.

Foreign nationals who will reside in Dominican Republic first must obtain a residence visa prior to traveling to the country. After entry, they must submit an application for a residence permit. Previously there was no time limit for when the residence permit application had to be filed.

What This Means for Employers

Employers should begin gathering supporting documentation in advance of foreign employees’ entry in order to allocate sufficient time to prepare the application and collect the necessary company and foreign national signatures. Advance planning will enable employers to file resident permit applications as quickly as possible after entry.
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