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.
New Visa Categories, Rules in Place
Two new visa categories, permanent and temporary, have been created to take the place of the previous work and residence visa categories. Temporary visas are granted for a period of up to two years and include 13 subcategories. To obtain a permanent visa, a foreign national must not leave the country for a period of more than 90 days per year for each of the first two years. Applications for permanent residency can be filed if the foreign national has maintained temporary residence for at least 21 months.
In addition, new rules require foreign nationals to carry their travel identification document/passport throughout the duration of their stay in Ecuador. Permanent visa holders are required to register their addresses with the Ecuadorian Civil Register. Also, it is now mandatory for foreign nationals to obtain private health insurance.
President’s Executive Order with Travel Ban
On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that, among other things, banned admission into the United States of foreign nationals from seven countries. The US District Court in Seattle subsequently issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that put in place a nationwide block on the ban. On February 9, 2017, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the Department of Justice’s emergency motion to stay the TRO, which left intact the US District Court’s nationwide block. (Read Mayer Brown’s legal update regarding the Ninth Circuit’s denial of the administration’s request to hold the “Travel Ban” appeal proceedings in abeyance pending further developments.) The President has announced that he will issue a new executive order intended to supersede the order that has been stayed by the US District Court.
Japan to Ease Requirements to Obtain Permanent Residency for Highly Skilled Visa Holders
Foreign nationals in Japan who hold highly skilled professional visas will benefit from a recent measure introduced by the Ministry of Justice that will shorten the wait period to obtain permanent residency. Currently, highly skilled professionals are required to wait at least four and a half years before applying for permanent residency. The new policy will reduce the wait time to three years for some highly skilled professionals and to as little as one year for others, based on the number of points awarded to an individual. Points are given based on several factors, including academic credentials, professional career, and salary.
Increased Fees and New Terms Introduced to Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (ICT) Classification
Effective April 6, 2017, the UK Home Office will increase the fees to obtain a Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (ICT) Certificate of Sponsorship. The new fee will require medium and large visa sponsors to pay an additional £1,000 per year per migrant for the duration covered by the Certificate of Sponsorship. Small visa sponsors and charitable organizations will pay £364 per year per migrant. This increased fee will apply to applicants applying through a UK consulate outside the United Kingdom and to individuals applying from within the United Kingdom to either extend their status or change their visa classification to Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (ICT) classification. Certain individuals will be exempt from the new fee. These include:
- Tier 2 visa holders working in the United Kingdom for less than six months
- Tier 2 visa holders who apply to extend their status from within the United Kingdom before April 6 with no changes in visa sponsor
- Tier 2 (ICT Graduate Trainee)
- Tier 4 students changing to Tier 2 (General) classification
- Skilled workers working in Ph.D.-level positions
Several additional changes will be implemented for Tier 2 visa holders. These changes include:
- Tier 2 (General) visa holders must start their employment in the United Kingdom within four weeks of the start date listed on the Certificate of Sponsorship. Exceptions will be made for foreign nationals who continue to be paid by the sending overseas entity.
- Certificate of Sponsorships for individuals working in a position on the shortage occupation list will only be approved if the foreign national works, at minimum, 30 hours per week.
- Tier 2 visa applicants must submit criminal record certificates if entering the United Kingdom to work in the education, health or social care fields.
Changes Imposed on Foreign Nationals Exiting Iraq via Kurdistan
Foreign nationals traveling in the Kurdish region of Iraq may have difficulty leaving the country between now and May 15, 2017. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) recently announced a new policy that imposes a penalty on individuals with exit stamps seeking to exit Iraq via Kurdistan. In addition to paying a fine, individuals will receive a red stamp in their passport, permanently banning them from entering Iraq. Exit stamps are generally required for foreign nationals whose visa or residency permit has expired or who are departing Iraq via Irbil with a valid multiple entry exit visa.
In addition, citizens of the Philippines, Sri Lanka, China, India, Syria and Nepal are no longer permitted to enter the Kurdistan region of Iraq without a valid KRG visa or residence permit even if they are in possession of a valid multiple entry visa for Iraq. To facilitate a smooth departure out of Iraq, foreign nationals are advised to leave via Baghdad, Najaf or Basra.