In immigration news this week:

  • United States: In August, USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Final Action dates listed in the State Department's August Visa Bulletin.
  • Netherlands: Stricter employment rules for posted workers are forthcoming.
  • Philippines: The Departments of Labor and Employment and Justice and Bureau of Immigration's joint guidelines clarifying rules on issuance of work authorization to foreign nationals took effect on July 16.
  • Ireland: The High Court has ruled that foreign nationals cannot be granted Irish citizenship by naturalization if they have left Ireland for even one day in the 12 months prior to their application.
  • South Africa: A new directive allows foreign spouses and children of South African citizens and permanent residents to change their immigration status without leaving South Africa or obtaining a special government waiver.

These items and other news from Australia, China, Egypt, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela follow in this edition of the Fragomen Immigration Update.

Important Updates in Immigration This Week

Ireland, July 18, 2019

New Limit on Absences for Citizenship

  • The High Court of Ireland has ruled that foreign nationals cannot be granted Irish citizenship by naturalization if they have left Ireland for even one day in the 12 months prior to their application.
  • The ruling could be overturned on appeal, but this might be a lengthy process. Further, there is no confirmation at this stage as to whether the parties will appeal the judgment.
  • Applicants with pending applications for Irish citizenship might have their applications refused if they have spent one day or more outside Ireland in the 12 months prior to their application. Pending applications might alternatively be put on hold if an appeal is submitted or if emergency legislation is considered. The government has not yet indicated how it intends to handle pending applications.
  • Applicants for Irish citizenship based on Irish ancestry (Foreign Birth Registration) are not affected by this ruling as they are not required to prove residence.

To view entire article, click here.

Netherlands, July 17, 2019

Stricter Employment Rules for Posted Workers Forthcoming

  • Employers posting workers in the Netherlands will need to file an online notification before the foreign national commences work in the Netherlands, once the government launches an online system later this year.
  • Additional employment protections for posted workers on long-term assignments in the Netherlands are expected to take effect July 30, 2020.

To view entire article, click here.

United States, July 16, 2019

August Visa Bulletin Update: USCIS to Honor Final Action Dates Next Month

In August, USCIS will accept employment-based adjustment applications from foreign nationals with a priority date that is earlier than the Final Action dates listed in the State Department's August Visa Bulletin.

To view entire article, click here.

Saudi Arabia, July 16, 2019

Private Sector Employers Must Upload Employees' Contracts to Electronic Portal
  • The Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD) in Saudi Arabia has implemented a law requiring private sector employers to upload their entire workforce's employment contracts to the General Organization for Social Insurance's (GOSI) electronic portal.
  • Employers must ensure that their employment contracts comply with MLSD regulations and must register the contracts on the GOSI portal by the relevant deadlines.
  • The new law is expected to standardize employment contracts, which should make employment terms more transparent.

To view entire article, click here.

Philippines, July 15, 2019

Joint Guidelines on Work Authorization for Foreign Nationals to Take Effect on July 16

The Joint Guidelines that seek to clarify the issuance of work authorization to foreign nationals who intend to work, perform specific activities or render services in the Philippines will become effective on July 16. Key changes contained in the Joint Guidelines include:

  • A detailed list of foreign visitors who require a short-term Special Work Permit (SWP);
  • A requirement for all foreign nationals intending to work in the Philippines to submit a Taxpayer Identification Number to support their application;
  • A limit on the validity of SWPs and Provisional Work Permits (PWP) to six months without possibility of renewal; and
  • A new rule that automatically cancels work visas that require a valid related permit or similar document issued by another government office or agency if an application for such related permit or document is denied.

To view entire article, click here.

South Africa, July 12, 2019

Rules for Changing Foreign Spouses' and Children's Status Relaxed
  • Following a Constitutional Court decision, the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa has issued a new directive that allows foreign spouses and children of South African citizens and permanent residents to change their immigration status without leaving South Africa and without a special government waiver, which took up to eight weeks to issue.
  • This should save time and costs associated with these processes.

To view entire article, click here.

Weekly News Briefs

Australia: Reciprocal Work and Holiday Program Expanded – The Australian government has expanded its Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa program, which allows eligible nationals from selected countries to apply for a visa to vacation in Australia, during which time they may also work to finance their stay. Key changes include the following:

  • Addition of Ecuador and Greece, with a total of 44 countries now covered;
  • Increase in the number of places available annually for some countries, as follows: Spain (1,500 up to 3,400), Israel (500 up to 2,500), Peru (100 up to 1,500), Chile (2,000 up to 3,400), Argentina (from 1,500 up to 2,450), Malaysia (100 up to 1,100), Singapore (from 500 up to 2,500) and Portugal (200 up to 500); and
  • Increase in the maximum eligible age for French applicants to 35.

WHM visa holders who have completed at least six months of specified regional employment in their second year may be eligible for a third-year visa, provided the six months of work was carried out on or after July 1, 2019.

China: Machine-Readable Visas and Permits Now Available – Since June 1, 2019, the appearance of Chinese visas and permits have changed to a machine-readable sticker that has a color profile picture of the applicant. Visa and permit applicants must now submit a photograph taken within the last six months with their applications. The photograph should be two inches, without head coverings, in color and printed on photographic paper with a white background (these requirements are stricter than the previous ones). The application requirements, approval processes and other aspects of the visa and permit process have not changed, and previously-issued visas and Residence Permits are still valid.

Egypt: Extended State of Emergency May Delay Residence Permit Processing – A state of emergency, which has been in place in Egypt since June 2018, was recently extended for an additional three months, through October 23, 2019. As a result, foreign nationals seeking employment and residency in Egypt should expect extensive security screening that may delay their immigration process. The security clearance is the first stage of the application process for work and residence permits.

Japan: Automatic Exit Clearance Forthcoming for Temporary Visitors – Temporary Visitors (including business travelers) will have the ability to use automatic immigration gates with facial recognition technology when departing Japan through seven international airports. There is no pre-registration required. Instead, facial scanners will compare the traveler's face with photographic data encrypted on microchips in their passports. The change is expected to be implemented at the following airports on these dates:

  • Haneda - July 24, 2019
  • Narita - August 27, 2019
  • Kansai - September 25, 2019
  • Fukuoka - October 8, 2019
  • Chubu - November 7, 2019
  • Chitose - November 2019
  • Naha - July 2020

The system is one of the measures for achieving the Japanese government's goal to attract 40 million foreign visitors by 2020, and 60 million by 2030. The automated gates are currently not available for Temporary Visitors, apart from those registered in the Trusted Traveler Program. However, Japanese nationals have been able to use these gates since 2017.

Netherlands: Visa-Free Movement to Remain for Albanian Nationals – The European Commission has rejected a request from the government of the Netherlands to suspend visa-free travel to the Schengen Area for Albanian nationals. The request, which was submitted earlier this year due to the growing volume of asylum petitions and involvement in organized crime in the Netherlands, was rejected because the concerns raised were found to be insufficient to trigger the visa suspension mechanism.

Norway: Minimum Salary Level Increased – Effective July 1, 2019, the minimum salary for foreign workers in Norway was increased to NOK 397,100 for positions requiring a Bachelor's degree, up 1.35 percent from last year; and NOK 428,200 for positions requiring a Master's degree, up 1.54 percent from last year. (1 NOK = 0.12 USD at the time of the publication of this update). Employers of foreign nationals seeking to obtain or renew a work permit on or after July 1, 2019 must increase the foreign national's minimum salary to comply with the new rule. For foreign nationals seeking to renew an existing work permit, the worker's salary must be raised to meet the minimum salary level. Employers of foreign nationals with pending work permit applications as of July 1, 2019 are not required to increase the foreign national's minimum salary to comply with the new rule. Immigration applications that do not meet the minimum salary will be rejected.

Oman: Suspension Extended on Recruitment of Foreign Nationals in Certain Professions – The Ministry of Manpower's suspension on the issuance of new work visas for foreign nationals in carpentry, aluminum and metal workshops and concrete block factories has been extended from July 3, 2019 until January 3, 2020. This follows the Ministry of Manpower's extension on the suspension of sales and procurement representatives from May 31, 2019 until November 30, 2019; extension on the suspension of the recruitment of foreign workers in 87 professions across various industries until August 1, 2019; and extension on the suspension of workers in construction and cleaning services until October 24, 2019. Additionally, in May 2019, the Ministry issued a list of professions that are expected to be permanently restricted to Omani nationals.

Singapore: Biometric Entry Clearance System Forthcoming – Starting in 2022, Singapore residents will be able to go through immigration checkpoints without a passport via an automated border control system that will use biometrics for immigration clearance. The system will screen travelers using three biometric markers: fingerprints, facial features and irises. There will be no need for checks by immigration officers unless travelers need assistance or where more scrutiny is needed for a particular traveler. This immigration process is expected to be faster, more convenient and more accurate than current systems. The system is currently being trialed at immigration counters in Tuas, Singapore.

South Africa: Visa Exemption Expanded – The Minister of Home Affairs announced that seven countries' nationals will be added to the list of those eligible for visa-free travel to South Africa. This will include business and tourist visits for nationals from Cuba, Ghana, New Zealand, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. The date of implementation of this exemption and the duration of allowable stay under the exemption is not yet known. Currently, 75 countries' nationals are eligible for visa-free travel to South Africa, of which 28 countries' nationals are granted an exemption for up to 30 days, and 47 countries' nationals are granted exemption for up to 90 days. Fragomen will publish an update when the government releases more information.

Turkey: Visa Appointment Backlog Grows in Europe – There is a significant increase in backlogged Turkish visa appointments in consular posts across Europe. Delays vary by consular post and can mostly be attributed to the summer holiday rush. Turkish visa applicants in Europe should submit their appointment requests farther in advance of their travel date than usual.

United Kingdom: Charges Forthcoming for Some In-Country Applications at Some Locations – Starting July 22, 2019, in-country applicants who use the Sopra Steria system at one of the six main service points in the United Kingdom (Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Croydon, Glasgow and Manchester) will now need to pay GBP 45 to use the assisted scanning service, whereas this feature is currently free of charge. This fee must be paid online ahead of the appointment. If payment is not made in advance, the applicant may be turned away from their appointment and be advised to reschedule. The assisted scanning service will remain free to use at the enhanced service points (approximately 50 of these in the United Kingdom) as well as the premium lounges. Documents can be uploaded in advance of the appointment for free and the Sopra Steria system has enhanced the functionality so that applicants will soon be able to see the documents they have uploaded before final submission online.

United Kingdom: Home Office Sponsor Guidance Introduces New 'Public Good' Requirement - New Home Office guidance confirms that all current and future Tier 2 and 5 licence holders have a duty to behave in a manner which is 'not detrimental to the wider public good.' The Home Office has stated it will refuse a sponsor licence application or take compliance action against existing sponsors whose actions and behavior are 'non-conductive to the public good.' These include, but are not limited to: fostering hatred or inter-community division; fomenting, justifying or glorifying terrorism; rejecting the rights of, or discriminating against, other groups or individuals on the basis of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, race, religious belief (including lack of belief) or any other protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Companies are already required to comply with similar regulations as per UK terrorism and equality law. For further details and support with sponsor licensing matters, please contact

United States: Latest PERM and PWD Processing Times – As of June 20, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) was conducting analyst review for PERM applications filed in May 2019 or earlier, and processing audited cases filed in December 2018 or earlier. DOL is working on standard reconsideration requests submitted in March 2019 or earlier.

DOL is issuing prevailing wage determinations for PERM and H-1B requests filed in March 2019. The agency has been processing PERM and H-1B redeterminations requested in May and June 2019, respectively, and PERM center director reviews requested in May 2019. There are no pending H-1B center director reviews. These reports are available on the iCERT page.

Venezuela: Apostille Process Resumes with Appointment Delays – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has resumed apostille and legalization services, following the recent suspension due to maintenance on the Ministry's website. However, due to a backlog of applications, apostille and legalization appointments are currently being scheduled five to six months in the future, up from the previous two months. Apostille of digital police clearance certificates, which do not require an appointment, are not affected by the delay and are taking one to two weeks. Foreign and Venezuelan nationals should check with their immigration professional to determine appointment availability before they travel to Venezuela for document apostille purposes. Additionally, foreign nationals and employers should be aware that immigration processes in other countries that require apostilled Venezuelan documents may be delayed.

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