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: Proposed Enhancements to the Visa Waiver Program
- On November 30, 2015, the White House announced proposed changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris, France, earlier that month.
- The VWP currently allows more than 20 million foreign visitors from 38 program partner countries to travel to the United States without a visa. However, before departing for the United States, VWP travelers must apply for pre-travel clearance via the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). As part of the ESTA application process, VWP travelers undergo a counterterrorism screening.
- The White House proposals include the following:
- DHS will modify the ESTA application to capture information regarding past travel to countries considered to be terrorist safe havens.
- DHS will accelerate its review of the VWP program with specific attention to developing the capability for biometric collection and identifying partner countries that are deficient in key areas of cooperation and designing penalties or incentives to ensure compliance.
- The White House will work with Congress to pass legislation to further tighten the security of the VWP.
Australia: Employer Obligations When Sponsoring Skilled Workers for Subclass 457 Visas
- On December 1, 2015, new regulations clarifying the requirements for the Subclass 457 visa will take effect. The Subclass 457 visa allows a skilled worker to travel to Australia to work in the nominated occupation for the approved sponsor for up to four years.
- Under the new regulations, recipients of a 457 visa must commence work within 90 days of their arrival in Australia or, if they are already in Australia, from the date the visa is granted.
- The regulations also clarify the conditions that require a 457 visa holder to obtain an occupational license, registration or membership that is mandatory to perform the nominated occupation. Specifically, the visa holder must obtain the license, registration or membership within 90 days of the visa grant date.
Shanxi Province to Issue Certain Visas On Arrival
- The Shanxi province Public Security Department has announced that it will soon be issuing several types of visas on arrival at the Taiyuan Wusu International Airport. The visa types to be issued include visitor, group travel, business, relative, personnel exchange and private.
- No timeline has been announced as to when the province will begin issuing the on-arrival visas. The province’s application to China’s State Council was approved in July 2015.
Stricter Requirements for Work Permit Deregistration in Beijing
- The Beijing Labor Bureau has announced policy changes affecting employers sponsoring foreign national employees for work permits. Specifically, an employer sponsoring a work permit may not appoint a third-party agent to file a work permit deregistration application on its behalf. The employer’s human resources representative must now appear in person at the Beijing Labor Bureau to deregister a work permit. Deregistration of a work permit, which effectively cancels the work permit’s validity, is required when the foreign national employee will no longer be working for the employer in Beijing.
- In addition, the Beijing Labor Bureau is requiring employers to deregister expired work permits or work permits of employees who have already terminated employment.
Ireland: New Online System for Booking Reentry Visa Appointments
- Effective November 16, 2015, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) in Dublin launched a new online system for scheduling reentry visa appointments. The online system, modeled after a recently released online system for foreign student registration, is designed to reduce the number of foreign nationals visiting the GNIB office and improve processing time.
Russia: Suspension of Work Permit Issuance and Visa-Free Travel to Turkish Nationals
- Russia has introduced visa restrictions on Turkish nationals effective January 1, 2016. As of that date, Russian employers will no longer be able to obtain work permits for Turkish nationals. Suspension of work permits for Turkish nationals will not extend to those already employed on January 1. However, it remains unclear whether employers will be able to obtain extensions on currently valid work permits.
- In addition, the bilateral agreement between Turkey and Russia allowing Turkish business visitors and tourists to enter Russia without a visa will also be suspended beginning January 1, 2016. As of that date, the only Turkish nationals who may enter Russia without a visa will be diplomats and resident permit holders.
United Kingdom: Updates on the Tier 4 Student Visa Category
- The following regulations for Tier 4 student visas became effective in November 2015:
- Foreign students may not extend their Tier 4 visas unless they are studying at an “embedded college”—one with a formal, direct link to a university recognized by the Home Office.
- Foreign students may not apply to transfer their status from Tier 4 to either Tier 2 or Tier 5 while in the United Kingdom. Students must make such applications from outside the United Kingdom.
- Foreign students will be permitted to study at the post-graduate level for two years instead of the previously allowed three years, bringing the time period in line with the amount of time British students generally spend at the post-graduate level.
Israel: B/2 Entrepreneur Visa Announced
- The Israeli Ministry of Economy and Ministry of the Interior have announced the introduction of the B/2 Entrepreneur Visa, a new visa for foreign entrepreneurs. The new visa will allow foreign entrepreneurs to develop technological initiatives in Israel for up to two years. During that time, the foreign entrepreneur may not be employed with, or receive compensation from, an Israeli company, and may only engage in the development initiatives approved in the visa application.
- At the end of the two-year period, the foreign entrepreneur will be eligible to seek a B/1 Foreign Expert visa based on an offer of employment with an Israeli company. The B/1 visa application must be made by the proposed employer.
Tanzania: Introduction of Separate Work and Residence Permits and Additional Work Permit Requirements
- Effective October 1, 2015, work and residence permits for foreign nationals will be issued separately. Previously, a single work permit (that also functioned as a residence permit) was issued.
- In addition to all prior eligibility requirements for a work permit, the sponsoring employer must now include in the work permit application a succession plan detailing the process for transferring the foreign national’s knowledge to local employees and a training program to enable local employees to perform the foreign national’s role.