Global immigration news

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Ireland and the United States.

Australia: Recent immigration changes

The Australian authorities have recently introduced several changes to the immigration rules affecting some international students and visa holders.

Student visa work restrictions:
Effective 1 July 2023, work restrictions for student visa holders will be reintroduced and increased to 48 hours per fortnight. Student visa work restrictions were suspended in January 2022 to allow primary and secondary student visa holders to work more than their normal limit of 40 hours per fortnight. This will end on 30 June 2023.

Post-study work rights for international graduates:
Also effective 1 July 2023, international higher education graduates with degrees in areas of verified skill shortage will be granted an extra two years of post-study work rights on their Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485).  This is in addition to the existing additional one to two years of work rights for eligible students who study, live and work in regional areas.

TSS permanent residence pathway:
On 13 February 2023, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) announced that it is has extended the recent changes made to the permanent residence pathway for Short-term Stream Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) subclass 482 visa holders.

These changes are now applicable also to Medium-term Stream TSS visa holders with an occupation on the Regional Occupation List (ROL).

This pathway, which is applicable to Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) subclass 482 visa holders who have been in Australia for at least one year between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021, is currently available until 1 July 2024.

Bulgaria: Changes to EU Blue Cards

The Bulgarian parliament has passed amendments to the Law on Labour Migration and Labour Mobility regarding EU Blue Cards.

The following changes came into force on 24 January 2023:

  • Blue Cards are now valid for a maximum of five years (previously four years).
  • Applicants may submit proof that they have five years (or three years for certain professions) of relevant professional experience instead of a university degree.
  • Applicants are no longer required to submit proof of private health insurance covering the duration of their intended stay in Bulgaria, but are now only required to have health insurance at the time of submitting their application.
  • Blue Card holders are now eligible to receive health insurance coverage as a benefit from their Bulgarian employer.
  • Identity cards for Blue Card holders no longer include the name of the employer. Those who have held Blue Cards for at least 12 months can now change employer by notifying the Employment Agency in Bulgaria (without renewing their ID card).
  • Blue Card holders are now eligible to work from home within Bulgaria for their Bulgarian employers.
  • Bulgarian employers can now assign Blue Card holders to another EU country for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
  • The authorities are now expected to process Blue Card applications in two and a half months (previously three months).

An online application process for EU Blue Cards is anticipated in the near future.

Canada: Biometrics collection resumed

Effective 23 February 2023, the government of Canada has resumed the collection of biometrics for individuals in Canada who are applying for temporary residence. This includes those applying:

  • to extend their stay as a student, worker or visitor
  • to restore their status as a student, worker or visitor
  • for a work or study permit
  • for a visitor visa
  • for a temporary resident permit

There are some exemptions, including

  • Canadian citizens, citizenship applicants (including passport applicants), or existing permanent residents;
  • visa-exempt nationals coming to Canada to visit only;
  • children under the age of 14;
  • applicants over the age of 79 (there is no upper age exemption for asylum claimants);
  • heads of state and heads of government;
  • applicants who qualify for or hold a diplomatic or official visa;
  • U.S. visa holders transiting through Canada;
  • refugee claimants or protected persons who have already provided biometrics and are applying for a study or work permit;
  • temporary resident applicants who have already provided biometrics in support of a permanent resident application that is still in progress.

There are also some temporary measures for biometrics collection still in place for special situations.

On 15 July 2020, in response to COVID-19 pandemic closures and service disruptions, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) introduced a policy to temporarily exempt individuals applying for temporary residence within Canada from providing biometrics.

Temporary residence applicants can give their biometrics at 1 of over 70 Service Canada Centre collection sites across Canada. Applicants must book an appointment before visiting a biometrics collection site.

Applicants who are required to give their biometrics as part of their application for temporary residence must pay the biometric fee when they submit their application. They will then receive a biometric instruction letter by email. Information on how to give biometrics is available online.

Ireland: Review of shortage occupations

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) has opened registration for submissions from industry representatives and stakeholders on the nature and extent of skills shortages.

In order to maintain the relevance of the employment permits occupational lists (Critical Skills Occupation List and Ineligible List of Occupations) and to ensure that the system is aligned with current labour market intelligence, the lists undergo periodic evidence-based review.

  • Occupations included on the Critical Skills Occupations List are highly skilled occupations which are experiencing labour or skill shortages in respect of qualifications, experience or skills and which are required for the proper functioning of the Irish economy.
  • Occupations included on the Ineligible Occupations List are occupations in respect of which there is evidence that there are more than enough Irish/EEA workers available to fill such vacancies, and therefore an employment permit shall not be granted in Ireland.
  • Every other job in the labour market, where an employer cannot find a worker, may be eligible for an employment permit. The employer must do a Labour Market Needs Test to see if there is anyone in the State/EEA who could fill the vacancy. If no-one suitable applies for the job, the employer is free to apply for an employment permit.

Interested parties should register their email address via email.

United States: H-1B registration period

On 1 March 2023, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) opened the initial registration period for the fiscal year 2024 H-1B cap. The initial registration period will 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.

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”) must use a “registrant” account.

Prospective petitioners or their representatives are able to submit registrations for multiple beneficiaries in a single online session. Through the account, they can 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.

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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