What's new in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Iceland, India, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and the United States.

Iceland: Changes to processing fees

Effective 1 January 2023, the following changes have been made to the processing fees of the Directorate of Immigration:

  • The fee for an application for Icelandic citizenship increased from 25,000 to 27,000 ISK.
  • The fee for notification of Icelandic citizenship increased from 12,500 to 13,500 ISK.
  • The fee for an application for a residence permit, renewal of a residence permit and provisional residence permit increased from 15,000 to 16,000 ISK.
  • The fee for expedited processing of applications for residence permits on the basis of employment increased from 45,000 to 48,000 ISK
  • The fee for the re-issuance of a residence permit increased from 7500 to 8000 ISK.
  • The fee for the reissue of residence cards for family members of EEA/EFTA nationals who are not EEA or EFTA citizens rose from 4500 to 4800 ISK.

India: PIO card validity extended

The government has extended the deadline for converting Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards to 31 December 2023.  Until this date, PIO cardholders can use their cards as valid travel documents. The deadline has been repeatedly postponed since 2015.

Israel: New minimum salary for foreign national experts

Effective 1 January 2023, the minimum monthly prevailing wage for foreign national experts has increased by 12% to NIS 23,460.

Employers of foreign national experts seeking to obtain or renew a work permit on or after 1 January 2023, and employers of foreign national experts with pending work permit applications, must increase the foreign national’s minimum salary to comply with the new rule.

Immigration applications that do not meet the minimum salary will be rejected.

Foreign nationals under 90 days SEA B-1 or short-term up to 90 days STEP B-1 visas are not affected by the increase.

As previously, benefits and allowances may only be included if they are officially recorded in the pay slip, guaranteed and fixed, and are not paid in kind. Specifically, employers can include the gross salary, unconditional per diem payments, unconditional monthly relocation compensation, unconditional monthly international travel allowance for home visits, unconditional monthly bonuses, and any other unconditional monthly payment made to the foreign national expert.

As previously, salaries can be paid in any currency and need not be paid in Israel.

Malaysia: New guidelines on the employment of foreign workers

The Labour Department has announced that, effective 1 January 2023, any company that wishes to employ foreign workers must obtain prior approval from the Labour Department before proceeding the relevant work permit applications. This covers all non-citizen workers in the following categories and is applicable only for new applications:

  • Foreign workers – Temporary Employment Visit Pass (PLKS/TEVP) under the permitted sectors of manufacturing, services, plantation, agriculture, construction and the mining and quarrying sector.
  • Expatriates – Employment Pass (EP) holders
  • Foreign Security Guards – foreign security guard employees
  • Passes with permission to work – holders of Student Pass, Resident Pass, Malaysia My Second Home Program (MM2H) & Malaysia Premium Visa Program (PVIP)
  • Other Pass categories – Foreign Fishermen, Ship Crew, Tomyam Cooks, Traditional Passes (Thai citizens in bordering states), Professional Visit Passes (religious teachers/artists/missionaries of other religions)
  • Foreign workers employed from shelters.

The application is to be submitted online and the outcome will be sent via email.

Note that the Immigration Department has not yet released any guidance on the implementation of this new procedure, and applications are still being accepted without a Labour Department approval letter.

Singapore: Manpower for Strategic Economic Priorities (M-SEP) scheme

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), together with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and participating economic agencies, has launched the Manpower for Strategic Economic Priorities (M-SEP) scheme.

The scheme gives qualifying firms the flexibility to temporarily hire S Pass and Work Permit holders above the prevailing Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) and S Pass sub-DRC. To qualify, firms must also commit to employ and/or train locals. Eligible firms can obtain additional S Pass and Work Permit quotas of up to 5% above their base workforce headcount, subject to a cap of 50 workers per firm. Such additional flexibilities accorded under the M-SEP scheme will last for 2 years upon enrolment, and may be renewed thereafter, subject to meeting renewal conditions.

To qualify for the scheme, firms must satisfy both of the following conditions:

Condition 1 – Participate in programmes or activities in line with one of the
following key economic priorities:
a. Investments which support Singapore’s hub strategy
b. Innovation or Research & Development (R&D)
c. Internationalisation

Condition 2 – Commit to hiring and/or training locals.

To be eligible for M-SEP renewal, firms will also have to show that they have met both commitments by the end of the M-SEP support period. Firms will also have to maintain their local workforce share during this period. Those that fail to do so will be suspended from M-SEP for 2 years.

New Zealand: New Zealand stream of the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa temporarily closed to new applications

The New Zealand stream of the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa has temporarily closed to new applications from 10 December 2022 until 1 July 2023.

During this period, the Department of Home Affairs will seek to finalise the majority of pending applications in the New Zealand stream, and has established a dedicated taskforce to prioritise the processing of this caseload.

The majority of New Zealand stream applicants have been waiting several years for their visa application to be finalised due to the limited number of places allocated to this group in recent years.

The following streamlining measures introduced acknowledge that this this group of New Zealand citizens are long-term residents of Australia, have been working here and contributing to Australia’s economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include removing the requirement for New Zealand stream on-hand applicants to satisfy criteria relating to the period of residence in Australia, the income threshold; and health.

Grant of New Zealand stream visas in the 2022-23 Program Year will allow visa holders to access the benefits of permanent residence more quickly, notably the immediate ability to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme and automatic acquisition of Australian citizenship at birth for their children born in Australia.

Partners and children may be added to New Zealand stream applications that were lodged before 10 December 2022.

United States: In-person interview waiver extended for H-2 applicants

The Secretary of State and the Department of Homeland Security have extended until 31 December 2023 the previously approved waiver of the in-person interview for certain H-2 (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers) applicants; for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants); and for certain temporary workers who have an individual petition approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visa applicants) who meet certain conditions, including that they are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.

Consular officers have discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for certain first-time and renewing H-2 visa applicants, and for certain F, M, and academic J, and individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility; or for certain first-time F, M, and academic J, or individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility and have previously travelled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) .

Applicants renewing a visa in the same classification within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration are also eligible for interview waiver. This waiver is in place until further notice.

Consular officers may still require an in-person interview on a case-by-case basis, taking into account local conditions.

Expert advice on global immigration

If you need support with any aspect of worldwide immigration, Smith Stone Walters is here to help.

To speak to a member of our global immigration team, please contact us today.

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