Global immigration news

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Israel, Italy, Poland, Qatar, Spain and the United States.

Israel: Digital B-1 work visas

The Israeli government has begun issuing B-1 work visas and multiple-entry visas digitally on entry.

This applies to B-1 Expert, B-1 Hi-Tech, SEA 90-day work visas and STEP 90-day work visas, among other types of work visa.  It does not apply to dependents, who still require a physical B-2 visitor visa stamp in their passports.

The visa application procedure has not otherwise changed.

Italy: Annual work permit quota published

The Italian government has published the annual decree fixing work permit quotas for the year ahead (“Decreto Flussi”).

In 2023, Italy will grant up to 82,705 work permits to workers from outside the European Economic Area (up from 69,700 in 2022).

This includes:

  • 44,000 for seasonal workers in the agricultural and tourism-hotel sectors.
  • 31,205 for local hires of certain nationalities in specific industries (road haulage, construction, tourism, mechanics, telecommunications, food and shipbuilding).
  • 7000 for changes of status by holders of residence permits issued by Italy or another EU Member State.
  • 500 for self-employed workers (namely for entrepreneurs; start-ups; professionals; well-known artists; CEOs, members of the board of directors and auditors in Italian companies active for at least 3 years).

Exceptions from the cap exist for several categories of workers, such as intra-corporate transferees and EU Blue Card applicants.

This year’s decree introduces a key change to the work permit application process.  Before applying for work permits for non-seasonal work for non-EEA nationals, employers must now verify with the relevant job centre in Italy that there are no workers already resident in Italy available to fill the position.  This verification procedure is not required for seasonal workers or for certain workers trained abroad for the purpose of working in Italy.

Applications can be submitted from 27 March 2023.  Within 30 days of submission, applications without any objections will be automatically sent to the Italian consulate or embassy in the applicant’s country of application, which will then issue the visa within 20 days.

Poland: Minimum salary increased

On 1 January 2023, the minimum monthly salary was increased by PLN 480 to PLN 3490.   The minimum hourly rate also increased, by PLN 3.10, to PLN 22.80. Both figures are set to increase again in July 2023.

Employers in Poland must pay all foreign national employees above the minimum wage.

Qatar: Important changes for visitors and foreign residents

The authorities in Qatar have recently introduced some changes which foreign visitors and residents should be aware of.

New health insurance requirements:

Effective 1 February 2023, visitors and foreign residents are required to obtain health insurance covering the duration of their stay in Qatar.

The new requirement, introduced in a law which took effect in May 2022, applies to applicants for visas and resident permits.  The mandatory insurance premium is QAR 50 per month.

Employers and other sponsors applying for new or renewal residence permits must prove that they have enrolled their non-Qatari employees, and their families, in the mandatory health insurance scheme.

Visitors applying for a visit visa through the website of the Ministry of Interior (Qatar Visas),  or via Metrash App, will be directed to the website of the Ministry of Public Health where they can select one of the insurance companies registered with the Ministry to purchase the visitors’ policy after completion of all other relevant visa requirements.

Once the insurance policy is issued by the selected insurance company, the Ministry of Interior will issue the appropriate visit visa. The effective date of coverage is the date of entry of the visitor at any border.

If the visitor wishes to extend their stay in the State of Qatar, then they must purchase a new health insurance policy.

Visitors eligible for on-arrival visas at the border should purchase a visitor insurance policy before arriving at the port of entry from the MOPH link above, and follow the same procedures mentioned.

Validity of Hayya Card extended:

On 30 January 2023, the Ministry of Interior has announced the extension of the validity of the Hayya Card, used for entry during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, until 24 January 2024.

Hayya Card holders can continue to use their card to enter Qatar if they fulfil the following conditions:

  • Proof of hotel reservation or accommodation with family or friends approved via the online Hayya Portal;
  • A passport valid for no less than three months upon arrival in Qatar;
  • Health insurance valid for the duration of the stay in the country;
  • A return ticket.

All Hayya Card holders will have access to the following benefits

  • The ‘Hayya with Me’ feature, which allows cardholders to invite up to three family members or friends;
  • Multiple-entry permit;
  • Use of the e-Gate system for entry and exit;
  • No fees required.

Spain: New work visa for remote workers

A new “Start-up Law” came into force on 28 December 2023, amending the existing Entrepreneurs Law and setting conditions for a new work visa for remote workers (teletrabajadores de caracter internacional).

The upcoming remote work visa permits qualifying foreign nationals to live in Spain while employed by a company located overseas. For Independent professionals, up to 20% of their work can be for Spanish companies (this is not permitted for regular employees).

Qualifying criteria are as follows:

  • The applicant must be a graduate of a notable university, business school, or professional training program, or have at least three years of professional experience.
  • The employer abroad must have existed as a business entity for at least one year.
  • Regular employees must prove that they have worked for the employer abroad for at least three months at the time of application.
  • The applicant must show evidence that the company allows the applicant to work remotely.
  • Independent professionals must prove a business relationship with one or more companies outside Spain for at least the three months before applying. Applicants must also provide documentation accrediting the terms and conditions under which the professional activities will be carried out.
  • Applicants must also show that they are financially self-sufficient, with proof of an income double the national minimum wage, and additional income required for accompanying family members.

This visa will permit a one-year stay, and is renewable up to five years.  Remote workers will qualify for a reduced tax rate of 15% (instead of 24%) for the first four years of their stay if their income remains below a certain threshold (EUR 600,000 per year).

Applications can be submitted either from within Spain or via a Spanish consulate abroad; must be processed within 20 days; and will be considered automatically approved if this deadline passes.

Changes to other categories under the Entrepreneur’s Law include:

  • Police clearance certificates are required from Spain and any country of residence in the last two years (rather than five years as previously), and a declaration of lack of criminal record in the previous five years.
  • Initial residence permits are granted for three years (or the duration of the assignment), rather than two years as previously.
  • Highly Qualified Professionals can now include graduates of recognised universities, prestigious business schools or professional training, and those with at least three years of professional experience.
  • A new definition of entrepreneurial activity regulated by the National Agency of Innovation (“ENISA”) .
  • The duration of the permit to seek employment is extended from 12 to 24 months.

Further government regulations are expected to implement the new law in the coming months.

Portugal’s similar remote work visa was launched in October 2022. Other countries that have implemented or announced a remote work status include Argentina, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Malta and Romania, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

United States: H-1B registration period to open in March

On 27 January 2023, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the initial registration period for the fiscal year 2024 H-1B cap will open at noon EST on 1 March 2023 and continue up to and including noon EST on 17 March 2023. During this period, prospective petitioners and representatives will be able to complete and submit their registrations using the USCIS online H-1B registration system.

USICS will assign a confirmation number to each registration submitted for the FY 2024 H-1B cap. This number is used solely to track registrations; It cannot be used to track case status in Case Status Online.

Prospective H-1B cap-subject petitioners or their representatives are required to use a myUSCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated USD 10 H-1B registration fee for each registration submitted on behalf of each beneficiary. Prospective petitioners submitting their own registrations (US employers and US agents, collectively known as “registrants”) will use a “registrant” account. Registrants will be able to create new accounts from noon EST on 21 February 2023.

Representatives may add clients to their accounts at any time, but both representatives and registrants must wait until 1 March 2023 to enter beneficiary information and submit the registration with the USD 10 fee. Prospective petitioners or their representatives will be able to submit registrations for multiple beneficiaries in a single online session. Through the account, they will be able to prepare, edit, and store draft registrations prior to final payment and submission of each registration.

If USCIS receives enough registrations by 17 March 2023, it will randomly select registrations and send selection notifications via users’ myUSCIS online accounts. If USCIS does not receive enough registrations, all registrations that were properly submitted in the initial registration period will be selected. USICS intend to notify account holders by 31 March 2023.

The US Department of Treasury has approved a temporary increase in the daily credit card transaction limit from USD 24,999.99 to USD 39,999.99 per day for the FY 2024 H-1B cap season. This temporary increase is in response to the volume of previous H-1B registrations that exceeded the daily credit card limit.

An H-1B cap-subject petition, including a petition for a beneficiary who is eligible for the advanced degree exemption, may only be filed by a petitioner whose registration for the beneficiary named in the H-1B petition was selected in the H-1B registration process.

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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