United States: Quota for H-1B Visa Category Exceeded as Expected
- On April 7, 2015, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had reached the H-1B cap for fiscal year 2016 and had also received more than the 20,000 limit for H-1B petitions filed under the US advanced degree exemption. USCIS received almost 233,000 petitions, a significant increase from the approximately 172,500 petitions filed for fiscal year 2015.
- On April 13, 2015, a lottery was conducted to select the 65,000 general H-1B petitions and the 20,000 advanced-degree exemption petitions for fiscal year 2016. Unselected petitions and their filing fees will be rejected and returned.
- Petitions selected for fiscal year 2016, which were filed with a premium processing request, will be processed beginning April 27, 2015.
Chile: New Temporary Work Visa to Provide Greater Flexibility for Foreign Nationals
- As of March 1, 2015, foreign nationals holding a temporary work visa can change jobs, participate in more activities, and apply for permanent residency sooner. Temporary work permits must be applied for in Chile: they are valid for one year, can be renewed once, and allow a foreign national to work for multiple employers.
- Holders of temporary work visas can apply for permanent residency one year after receiving the temporary visa. They may participate in any work, study, business, or provision of services while holding this visa, and they can change employers without applying for a new visa.
Hong Kong: Relaxed Criteria and Longer Periods of Stay to be Implemented for Foreign Nationals in the Second Quarter of 2015
The following changes were initially announced in January 2015. Implementation is now anticipated as April is the beginning of the second quarter of 2015.
- Foreign nationals seeking a visa under the General Employment Policy (GEP), the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talent and Professionals (ASMTP), or the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS), will soon be granted an initial period of stay of two years in lieu of one year. Foreign nationals already holding a visa under these programs will soon be able to extend their stay twice for three years each.
- Top-tier visa holders in the GEP, ASMTP, and QMAS programs will be able to receive an initial period of stay of two years and apply for a single extension of six years.
- In order to be considered top-tier in either the GEP or ASMTP, a foreign national must have been granted a two-year professional employment visa in Hong Kong and have an income of at least HK$2 million (US$257,990).
- To qualify as top-tier under the QMAS system, a foreign national must have resided in Hong Kong with a QMAS visa for at least two years and have an income of at least HK$2 million (US$257,990).
- The QMAS, which is a points-based system, will soon grant additional points to those foreign nationals with outstanding academic backgrounds and international work experience.
Afghanistan: Continuing Updates on Visa Requirements for US Contractor Employees
- US contractor-employees must obtain visas as of June 1, 2015, following the January 1 to June 1 transition period when they were exempted from a visa requirement under the US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement.
- Those US contractor-employees currently outside of Afghanistan may apply for the required visa from an embassy or consulate of Afghanistan. As of April 6, the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington DC is requiring that all visa applications be notarized.
- Those currently in Afghanistan without a visa must obtain the required visa from the Ministry of Interior no later than May 31, 2015. Failure to obtain a visa by this deadline will result in fines imposed on the employee at the time of exiting Afghanistan.
Denmark: Fast Track Work Permit Program Replaces Corporate Work Permit Scheme
- As of April 1, 2015 the Corporate Work Permit Scheme is being phased out and replaced by the Fast Track Work Permit Program.
- The Fast-Track program allows foreign employees of large, low-risk employers to start working as soon as the work permit application is filed. To qualify for the program, employers must have at least 20 full-time employees, have a clean labor record, and meet salary standards. They also must meet with the Danish Agency for Labor Market and Recruitment. An employer’s certification for the program is valid for four years.
- Before applying for a permit through the Fast Track Program, applicants must complete an identification check and submit biometrics to the Danish Agency for Labor Market and Recruitment in Copenhagen within 14 days of submitting their application to obtain a temporary work permit. Applicants will then apply for a work and residence permit through the Fast Track Program on the basis of their temporary work permit.
- To apply for the Fast Track Program, applicants must meet one of the following criteria:
- They will be employed as a researcher;
- They will be employed as part of a higher education program, but not as a trainee;
- They will earn at least DKK 375,000 per year (US$54,436); or
- They will be employed for a period lasting no more than three months (if the employment period is longer, the applicant must qualify based on one of the other three criteria).
- Qualifying applicants will receive a work and residence permit for short stays, definite periods of employment, or indefinite periods of employment. Short stay permits will be valid for up to three months within a one year period. Definite employment permits will be equal to the length of the contract while indefinite employment permits will be for a four-year period. Applicants can apply for an extension prior to expiration and may continue to work in Denmark while there extension application is being processed.
Romania: Companies Required to Obtain Criminal Record Certificate Prior to Submission of Work Permit Applications
- Before filing for work permits for Non-EU Nationals, a company must now prove that it has a clean criminal record by obtaining a Criminal Record Certificate from relevant authorities prior to submitting a work permit application.
- The Certificate should state that the company has not committed any international criminal acts under the Labor Code and is otherwise compliant with all regulations.
- Furthermore, companies will also be required to submit documentation proving financial stability and that there are no outstanding payments. Failure to meet these two conditions will result in a company’s inability to hire Non-EU nationals.
Changes to Permissible Visitor Activities
- For the purposes of intra-company visits, employees may advise and consult, troubleshoot, provide training to employees in the UK, and share skills and knowledge, provided no work is carried out directly with a client.
- Employees of a foreign manufacturer or supplier may install, dismantle, repair, or service equipment if there is a contract of purchase, supply, or lease in place with the UK organization.
- Employees of an overseas company or organization may receive training from a UK-based company or organization in work practices and techniques that are required for the visitor’s employment overseas and are not available in their home country.
- An employee of an overseas-based training company may deliver a “short series” of trainings to employees of a UK-based company so long as the trainer is employed by an overseas business contracted to deliver training to the international corporate group to which the UK-based company belongs.
New “Super Priority” Visa Service
- As of March 9, 2015, the British Consulate in New York City introduced a 24-Hour “Super Priority” visa service for US applicants in addition to the five-day priority service. Applications filed “Super Priority” will be given priority over all other pending applications and will be processed within 24 hours. An additional nonrefundable fee of US$936 is required.
- Tier 2 applicants, which includes intra-company transfers, who have authority to live in the United States are eligible to utilize this new service.
Egypt: Implementation of Consular Visas for Business and Tourist Travel Postponed
- Egypt announced that beginning May 15, 2015, all foreign visitors to Egypt would need to procure either a business or a tourist visa from an Egyptian embassy or consulate prior to arriving in Egypt. Previously, business and tourist travelers could obtain the required visa upon arrival in Egypt.
- The May 15, 2015, date has now been postponed until Egypt implements an electronic visa system, which would replace visas on arrival. However, no date for the implementation of the electronic system has been set.