Mayer Brown’s Global Directions is a summary of recent immigration and mobility trends arising in key jurisdictions around the globe. This high-level overview alerts recipients to select changes in law and practice that may affect their global mobility programs.


United States

Optional Practical Training Extension for Foreign Students in STEM Fields Struck Down

  • A Washington DC federal judge vacated the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) rule that allowed F-1 student visa holders with degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) fields to obtain an additional 17 months of optional practical training (OPT) following graduation. According to the court, the rule was deficient because it was not subjected to the public notice and comment process before it was implemented in 2008.
  • Citing the disruption that immediate revocation of the rule would have, the judge stayed her mandate until February 12, 2016, to allow DHS enough time to complete the public notice and comment process for a new rule.
  • The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, which brought the lawsuit, also challenged the initial 12-month OPT period available to all F-1 student visa holders, but the judge dismissed this challenge.

Security Enhancements to the Visa Waiver Program

  • On August 6, 2015, DHS announced three new security enhancements to the US Visa Waiver program:
    • All visa waiver program travelers must use an e-passport to travel to the United States;
    • INTERPOL Lost and Stolen Passport Database must be used to screen travelers; and
    • Permission will be sought to increase the number of US Marshals on international flights originating in Visa Waiver countries.
  • Currently, more than 30 countries participate in the program, which was created in 1986 to facilitate tourist and business visits to the United States.

Proposed Changes to E-Verify

  • In June 2015, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) submitted for comment a rule change to E-Verify. The change would require employers to query the E-Verify system when re-verifying the authorization of employees with expiring work authorization. Current USCIS guidance prohibits this action as discriminatory.
  • Statutory authorization of the E-Verify system is scheduled to expire on September 30, 2015. Congress is expected to approve an extension.


Australia: Market-Rate Salary Threshold Raised to Prior Level for 457 Visa Holders

  • In April 2015, the market-rate salary threshold for the subclass 457 visa category for temporary skilled workers was temporarily lowered to AU$180,000 (US$132,836) as part of proposed legislation. In June 2015, the legislation was disallowed and so the salary threshold has reverted to its original amount: AU$250,000 (US$184,575).

China: Guangdong Province Eases Process for Obtaining Visas and Residence Permits

  • In August 2015, the Guangdong Provincial Police department announced that foreign nationals may apply for visa extensions and residence permits at district police offices in Guangzhou and Shenzhen in addition to the city-level public security bureau offices.
  • This is an expansion of a pilot program launched in July 2015 that allows foreign nationals in Foshan’s Nanhai District and several districts of Jiangmen, Guangdong Province, to apply for visa extensions and residence permits at district police offices.


United Kingdom: Potential Impact of Review of Tier 2 Visa Category

  • On July 2, 2015, the Migration Advisory Committee began reviewing the rules and regulations for the Tier 2 visa category for general employment and intracompany transfers. Areas of review include:
    • How to limit the amount of time a sector may remain on the shortage list;
    • Implementing a levy on Tier 2 visas to fund apprenticeships;
    • Restricting the current, automatic right of Tier 2 dependents to work;
    • Applying the Health Care Surcharge to intracompany transfers; and
    • Raising the minimum salary to be paid to foreign nationals.
  • The review is set to be completed by September 25, 2015.


South Africa: New Visa Facilitation Service Operating in the United Kingdom

  • On August 7, 2015, a South African Visa Facilitation Service (VFS Global) began accepting visa applications in London, Manchester and Edinburgh for British citizens and foreign nationals living in the United Kingdom who require a visa to visit South Africa. Previously, all applications were made at the South African High Commission in London.
  • Processing time for visa applications is seven business days, including the day of submission and the day of collection. Applicants may track the status of their application online.