China Abolishes Work Permit Requirements For Hong Kong, Taiwan & Macao Residents

What’s new?

The Chinese government announced that Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao residents will no longer require a work permit to work for companies in mainland China.

Past laws

Residents of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao (THKM) had to undergo a time-consuming process in the past in order to prove that they were uniquely qualified for open job positions in mainland China. Additionally, the work permit system meant that THKM residents were required to apply for a new permit when switching employers and would be subject to the permit’s two-year renewal period. They will now no longer be subject to the same restrictions and requirements.

What’s next?

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is expected to issue the regulations at the end of the month. This new rule is being implemented at the city-level and may differ in different regions.

For further information on how this may affect your business, please consult with our attorneys. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

European Union Settlement Scheme Updates

United Kingdom (UK) Immigration Minister Caroline Noakes announced on June 22, 2018 that changes to the EU Settlement Scheme will begin to take effect later this year, with full implementation expected by March 30, 2019. Affected EU citizens and their family members are eligible to apply for settled status after 5 years of residence in the UK.

Pre-Settled Status

Those who do not qualify for settled status will need to apply for “pre-settled status,” which allows EU citizens and their family members to stay in the UK for an additional 5 years under existing restrictions. Under this scheme, family members include: a spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, dependent children or grandchildren, and dependent parents or grandparents. Any UK-born children of settled EU citizens are automatically UK citizens.

Permanent Residents

UK permanent residents will be required to switch to settled status, as EU law will cease to apply in the UK as of December 31, 2020.

Application

Applicants for settled status need only provide the following: (i) proof of identity (passport/identity card); (ii) proof of UK residence; and (iii) declaration of lack of serious criminal convictions. Those who do not automatically qualify for settled status will be considered pre-settled and allowed to re-apply after 5 years of residency. The deadline for applications is June 30, 2021.

Permanent residents or persons with indefinite leave to remain can exchange their status for settled status at no cost. Application fees for settled or pre-settled status are £65 for adults and £32.50 for children under 16. As of April 2019, re-application will be free.

Applicants will only be denied if: (i) they are not UK residents by December 31, 2020; (ii) they have serious criminal convictions; (iii) they have committed fraud; or (iv) they pose serious security concerns.

For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Australia Updates: Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa & Skilled Occupation List

As we are now well aware, the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa is scheduled to replace the Subclass 457 visa in March 2018. There will be 3 streams available under TSS, and they are as follows:

(1) Short-term stream: this is for employers to source genuine temporary overseas skilled workers in occupations included on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) for a maximum of 2 years (or up to 4 years if an international trade obligation applies); OR

(2) Medium-term stream: this is for employers to source highly skilled overseas workers to fill medium-term critical skills in occupations included on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) for up to 4 years, with eligibility to apply for permanent residence after three years; OR

(3) Labour Agreement stream: this is for employers to source overseas skilled workers in accordance with a labour agreement with the Commonwealth, on the basis of a demonstrated need that cannot be met in the Australian labour market and standard visa programs are not available, with the capacity to negotiate a permanent residence option.

NOTE: the Australian Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has confirmed that Labour Market Testing (LMT) exemptions based on occupation will NOT be available under the TSS visa.

However, LMT will not apply if it conflicts with Australia’s international trade obligations. For example, LMT exemptions will still apply if the worker nominated is a citizen/national of China, Japan or Thailand, or is a citizen/national/permanent resident of Chile, South Korea, New Zealand or Singapore.

In order to streamline processing of TSS and other temporary skilled work visas, measures are in place that include: a new standard 5-year sponsorship agreement period, a new streamlined renewal process for existing sponsors, and an automatic approval of lower-risk nomination applications lodged by accredited sponsors.

In addition, provisions are in place to assist with the transition to TSS visa. Notable provisions include:

  • All Subclass 457 nominations and visa applications lodged prior to TSS implementation will be processed under the current framework.
  • If a Subclass 457 nomination application is lodged without an associated 457 visa application being lodged before the commencement of TSS, it will effectively become “redundant” as Subclass 457 nominations cannot be linked to TSS visa applications. This applies even where the nomination has already been approved.
  • Employers who are already approved standard business sponsors for Subclass 457 will be immediately able to sponsor skilled overseas workers under the TSS visa program.
  • Subclass 457 visa holders who are to change occupations or need a new visa will be required to lodge a new TSS visa application and reference a new TSS nomination application.
  • Subclass 457 visa holders that will change employer after the implementation of TSS visa can have their new employer lodge a TSS nomination application and link it to the existing 457 visa.
  • Dependents will be able to lodge TSS visa dependent visa applications linked to pending 457 visa applications or linked to current 457 visa holders.

Skilled Occupation Lists 

Updates to the skilled occupation lists for both temporary and permanent skilled visas went into effect on January 17. These updates will only apply to applications lodged after January 17 and will not apply to pending applications. More details can be found directly at the DHA website at https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/work/work/2018-changes-of-eligible-skilled-occupations.

We can expect the next set of occupations lists to be published in March 2018. For more frequent updates, please follow us on twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Temporary Suspension of Nonimmigrant Visa Operations in Russia

On August 21, 2017, the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Russia announced a temporary suspension of all nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia beginning August 23, 2017. The halt is a result of the Russian government’s personnel cap imposed on the U.S. Mission to Russia. Beginning September 1, nonimmigrant visa interviews will only be conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow; NIV interviews at the U.S. Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok are suspended until further notice.

Because of the cap on staff numbers, visa operations will resume on a greatly reduced scale. The staffing changes will also affect the scheduling of some immigrant visa applicants. Affected applicants will be contacted if there is a change as to the time and date of their interview.

U.S. Ambassador to India Announces Simpler U.S. Visa Application Process

The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and the Consulates General in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad will now accept visa applications from individuals whose home residence is in any other Indian jurisdiction.  This is being done in an ongoing effort by Mission India to facilitate legitimate travel to the United States. 

After the Consulate General in Hyderabad opened in 2008, the U.S. Mission has looked for ways to best capture the unique nature of India’s growth across the country.  This resulted in a re-designation of consular districts.  Effective immediately, the consular districts in India will be organized as follows: 

U.S. Embassy in Delhi: Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bhutan; 

U.S. Consulate in Mumbai: Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Diu and Daman, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli; 

U.S. Consulate in Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh, Orissa; Consulate Chennai: Karnataka, Kerala, Puducherry, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands; 

U.S. Consulate in Kolkata: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, and West Bengal. 

These changes will create a much more convenient and supportive process for U.S. visa applicants in India.

CANADA – Special Visa Program for Mexican Business Visitors Created

Canada imposed visa restrictions on those travelling from Mexico to Canada last year. This policy angered Mexican authorities and damaged the relationship between the governments of the two U.S. neighbors.  The visa restrictions were imposed to reduce the number of refugees from Mexico applying for valid status in Canada.

A special visa program for business visitors from Mexico has been implemented.  The new Business Express Program was created to enable qualified businesses and their employees to benefit from more efficient visa processing.  Specifically, they will be encumbered less paperwork, will benefit from priority processing of visa applications, and will have a dedicated service team to respond to specific issues.  This new program will also allow Mexican business visitors to have their visa applications processed within twenty-four hours.

The program is designed to benefit individuals employed by companies in Mexico who have a documented need for regular business travel to Canada.  Participation in the program is by invitation only.  Companies with good immigration track records will be identified and invited by the Embassy of Canada to register for the program.  This means that companies wishing to participate should be sure they are in full compliance with Canadian immigration law in all aspects.  Namely, their employees must be admissible, their employees have previously travelled to Canada and adhered to Canada’s immigration laws, and they have a significant number of business visitors working with Canadian businesses.

So far, the embassy has invited 113 companies to enroll.  Qualified applicants can apply for visas at visa application centers in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara.

Canada has recognized that Mexico is one of its largest trading partners, and this program is intended to help Mexican and Canadian companies cooperate in renewing economic growth.

TAIWAN – Former Director for the American Institute in Taiwan Supports ECFA

Former American Institute in Taiwan Director Douglas H. Paal believes the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) will have a significant economic impact throughout the world.  He believes it will demonstrate that closer economic ties with the People’s Republic of China are good for Taiwan and its financial future.

The ECFA is a proposed agreement between the governments of Taiwan and mainland China that would enable Taiwan to generate economic integration China.  The agreement is still under negotiation and stands to be finalized sometime in June of this year.

Taiwan’s political status currently prevents it from signing free trade agreements with other countries.  The ECFA would change that.  However, it is not without controversy in Taiwan.  Some see it as part of a larger plan to unify Taiwan with the People’s Republic of China.  There is also a concern that it will allow easier access for professional Chinese workers to take desired positions in Taiwan, potentially displacing Taiwanese professionals.

Proponents see the ECFA as a landmark agreement that offers Taiwan the opportunity to increase its economic influence and cross new frontiers. Specifically, Taiwanese companies may experience new opportunities in the technology, services and manufacturing industries.  The ECFA is designed to level the playing field with neighboring competitor countries.  This is especially critical for Taiwan as mainland China continues to push forward as an economic superpower.

CANADA – Canada Plans to Launch E-passports Program

Canada is set to introduce a biometric passport system patterned after U.K.-style e-passports. Starting as early as 2011, Canadian citizens will begin receiving passports embedded with chips that contain digital images and personal information, including the individual’s name, gender, date of birth, and place of birth. 

Over 60 countries have e-passports, and Canada is the only member of the G7 that had not yet implemented them.  Some experts have expressed concern over the adequate protection of the holder’s privacy.  These concerns may have arisen due to recent research by British scientists who have uncovered weaknesses in electronic passports issued by the United States, United Kingdom, and approximately 50 other countries.  The research indicates movements of individuals as they enter or exit buildings are traceable by those with adequate technology.  Indeed, remote tracking of a given e-passport in real time is possible, and due to the e-passport’s radio-frequency identification, data in the passports cannot be turned off.  This makes the threat persistent unless the passport is shielded in a special identity document pouch that interrupts its radio transmissions.

A biometric passport, also known as an e-passport, uses biometrics to authenticate the identity of its holder. It uses smart card technology, including a microprocessor chip embedded in the cover or center page of the passport.  The passport’s information is printed on the data page of the passport and stored in the microprocessor chip.  Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is used to authenticate the data stored in the chip, making it virtually impossible to tamper with or fraudulently replicate.

AUSTRALIA – Alternative Australian Visa Options in Light of Reduced Skills List

Recent changes to Australia’s Skilled Occupation List mean that fewer people qualify for visa status in Australia as skilled independent visa holders. Furthermore, the Migration Occupations in Demand List no longer exists. These changes make Australian immigration more difficult.

One alternative is sponsorship by an Australian State or Territory, under which relatives may sponsor as dependents.  The second option is the provisional 475 visa, which may be an alternative to the Skilled Occupation List.  A detailed description of the requirements for each of these visas is listed below:

State or Territory Sponsorship

Under the State or Territory Sponsorship visa, the individual must meet the following requirements:

  • Under 45 years of age;
  • Be employed in an occupation listed on the Skilled Occupation List;
  • Be employed in an occupation listed on the individual State Skills in Demand list;
  • Have experience in the occupation;
  • Have good English language skills;
  • Be sponsored by a State or Territory;
  • Attain a score of 100 points; and
  • Live in the sponsoring State or Territory for the first two years.

Those qualifying under this visa category are also able to sponsor certain relatives for permanent resident visas.

State Sponsorship – Provisional Visa 475

This option could be considered if the individual’s occupation is not on the Skills in Demand list.  The requirements are similar:

  • Under 45 years of age;
  • Be employed in an occupation listed on the Skilled Occupation List;
  • Be employed in an occupation listed on the State regional skilled occupations list;
  • Have experience in the occupation;
  • Have good English language skills;
  • Be sponsored by the regional area;
  • Attain a score of 100 points; and
  • Live in the regional area for the first two years.

This is not a permanent visa, so applicants cannot sponsor relatives for entry to Australia.  Sponsorship for relatives can be done after the two-year residency requirement is met and the individual applies for permanent residency.

Applicants under this visa type should review the regional skilled occupation lists specific states in which they wish to reside for at least two years.

UNITED KINGDOM – U.K. Visa Fees Rise

The United Kingdom has announced that all U.K. visa applications will be subject to higher visa fees, although some are only rising slightly while others are rising significantly.  These new fee rates took effect on April 6th:
 
· Tier 1 visas for investors/entrepreneurs increased £15 to £690.
 
· Tier 2 visas for skilled workers increased by £5 to £270.
 
· 5-year multiple entry visas went up £20 to £420.
 
· 10-year visas increased £110 to £610.
 
· Tier 4 student visas increased £54 to £199.
 
The group that was impacted the most by the new fee structure is those with dependent relatives.  Settlement Visas for dependent relatives jumped from £585 to £1680, an increase of nearly 300 percent. An application for indefinite leave to remain for a dependent relative in the U.K. will rise to £1,930.  An additional 10 percent will now also be charged for dependent children.
 
The United States took similar action in 2007 with large fee increases. This sparked widespread criticism by immigrant advocates, who argued that steep hikes could impact some immigrants more than others, perhaps resulting in some applicants not being able to afford citizenship and other immigration benefits. In fact, immigration applications did drop off noticeably. U.K applications could face similar sharp declines, especially in light of the shaky economy.

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