Latest updates in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Canada, China, the EU, France, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa and the United States.

Canada: Immigration delays possible due to strike action

The Public Service Alliance of Canada declared a general strike beginning Wednesday 19 April 2023. As a result, bargaining groups representing 159,000 public servants are on strike.

During this labour disruption, certain services may be delayed or not delivered at all, including those provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

Applicants and employers should expect delays and, if possible, submit applications early.

China: New COVID-19 testing rules

Air passengers traveling directly between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan are subject to less stringent COVID-19 testing rules as of 1 April 2023.

Passengers will only need to show negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test results from within the previous 24 hours, instead of negative PCR test results obtained within 48 hours prior to departure.

Passengers will need to declare the test results when they fill out their health declaration cards at customs.

Passengers traveling from other destinations to the Chinese mainland but transferring in Taiwan will still need to provide negative results of PCR tests taken at the places of departure.

European Union: Visa free travel for citizens of Kosovo

Citizens of Kosovo will be allowed to travel to the EU, and EU citizens to go to Kosovo, without requesting a visa, for periods of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Once the law has entered into force, the entire Western Balkans region will have a similar visa framework for the Schengen area.

The visa exemption will enter into force once the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is in place or from January 2024, if ETIAS is not yet in place.

The Commission proposed to the European Parliament and the Council to grant EU visa-free travel for the people of Kosovo in 2016. Kosovo fulfilled all requirements since 2018, fulfilling all benchmarks set in the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap.

Kosovo is a potential candidate for EU accession and unilaterally declared its independence in February 2008. Its independence is currently not recognised by five EU member states (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain).

France: Latest immigration changes

Online Application Portal Expanded:

Effective 5 April 2023 the government has expanded the online application portal ANEF to allow the submission of applications for certain additional residence permit categories.

This includes applications for one-year cards, multi-annual cards and resident cards submitted by third-country national family members of EU/ EEA/Swiss citizens; spouses of French citizens; and parents of minor French citizens.  This also covers the corresponding cards for Algerian nationals.

Posted Worker Notifications:

The information required to be included in posted worker notifications via the SIPSI website has been reduced.

Employers no longer have to include the details of work hours, the nature of dangerous material or the work processes used, the signature dates of work contracts or the method of reimbursement for travel, meal and accommodation expenses.

Moreover, companies are now permitted to store digital copies of documents at work locations, rather than paper copies.

Hong Kong: New submission requirements for talent admission schemes

Effective 2 April 2023 the Immigration Department (ImmD) has adjusted the submission means for visa/entry permit and extension of stay applications under four talent admission schemes. This applies to:

  • The Quality Migrant Admission Scheme
  • The Technology Talent Admission Scheme
  • The Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates
  • The Admission Scheme for the Second Generation of Chinese Hong Kong Permanent Residents.

Applicants must submit relevant applications by electronic services and the ImmD will no longer accept such applications submitted in person, or by post or drop-in-box. Eligibility and approval criteria for the relevant schemes remain unchanged. After submitting the application online, applicants can also upload supplementary documents online and/or inquire the status of applications if necessary.

Electronic services for visa application allow applicants to complete the entire process of application submission, payment and collection of “e-Visa” through the ImmD mobile application, the ImmD’s website ( or the GovHK website (, without having to visit an Immigration Office in person.

Japan: Latest changes to the immigration rules

Effective 27 March 2023, nationals and residents of Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States are now able to apply online for an electronic tourist visa.

The electronic tourist visa is valid for entry within three months of issuance and for stays of up to 90 days for tourism purposes.

Effective 8 May 2023, all border measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be lifted. Those who are entering Japan on or after that date will not be required to present a valid vaccination certificate or a negative COVID-19 test certificate.

Until that date, those travelling to Japan via a direct flight from China who are unable to present a valid vaccination or test certificate are not permitted to enter.

Philippines: eTravel system

Effective 15 April 2023, all travellers by air or sea into or out of the Philippines must register via the eTravel system within 72 hours of arrival or departure.

Effective 1 May 2023, Philippines authorities will no longer accept paper-based arrival and departure cards.

Singapore: COMPASS bonus criteria

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has released details on the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) bonus criteria, comprising the Skills Bonus (Criterion 5) and the Strategic Economic Priorities Bonus (Criterion 6). These bonus criteria allow Employment Pass (EP) applicants who possess skills in shortage, and firms that contribute to Singapore’s strategic economic priorities, to earn bonus points towards their total COMPASS score. These bonus points help companies secure the complementary foreign manpower necessary to seize economic opportunities in the immediate term, in recognition that there are limits to our local workforce.

COMPASS is a new points-based framework that considers both individual and firm-related attributes to evaluate an EP applicant’s complementarity to Singapore’s workforce.

=COMPASS will apply to new EP applications from 1 September 2023, and to renewal EP applications from 1 September 2024. An overview of COMPASS is here.

Skills Bonus (Criterion 5):

The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) recognizes EP applicants in occupations that require highly specialized skills currently in shortage in the local workforce. EP applicants filling an occupation on the SOL can earn up to 20 bonus points on COMPASS.

The inaugural SOL is listed here. The SOL will be reviewed every three years, but MOM will retain the flexibility to add or remove occupations annually if required by market conditions.

Verification checks and conditions for SOL candidates

For EP applicants who require the SOL bonus points to pass COMPASS, MOM will impose additional safeguards. First, MOM will conduct additional checks on the applicants, such as checking on their past work experience and whether the applicant has the qualifications, or industry accreditation that are relevant to the declared occupation. Second, such applicants, if approved, will have their employment restricted to the specific shortage occupation. This means that if their employer wishes to redeploy the EP holder to a different job role, the EP holder will be subject to a reassessment of their eligibility for an EP.

Strategic Economic Priorities Bonus (Criterion 6):

The Strategic Economic Priorities (SEP) Bonus recognizes firms undertaking ambitious investment, innovation, internationalization, or company and workforce transformation activities. Firms receiving the SEP bonus will be awarded 10 bonus points on COMPASS for each EP application submitted.

To qualify for the SEP Bonus, firms must be supported by sector agencies or the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). To be considered, firms must participate in one of the eligible programmes run by agencies listed here, and demonstrate commitment to developing the local workforce. Supported firms will be notified by MOM from end-July 2023.

Supported firms will receive the SEP Bonus for up to three years. To continue receiving the SEP bonus after three years, firms are required to meet expectations on the COMPASS firm-related criteria, Diversity (Criterion 3) and Support for Local Employment (Criterion 4).

South Africa: Blanket extensions until 31 December 2023

The government has granted a blanket extension until 31 December 2023 to foreign nationals with pending visa or waiver applications as of 31 March 2023.

Those with pending long-term visa or waiver applications can depart South Africa during the extension period without being declared undesirable and return by showing their application receipt (and a new visitor visa if from a visa-required country).

Short-term visa holders whose visa validity was issued for less than 90 days and who have not received their visa extension outcome by 31 March 2023 must arrange to depart on or before 30 April 2023, to avoid being declared undesirable.

United States: Temporary suspension of biometrics requirement

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has extended the temporary suspension of the biometrics submission requirement for certain applicants filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, requesting an extension of stay in or change of status to H-4, L-2, or E nonimmigrant status.

The previously announced suspension, which was initially in place until 17 May 17 2023, has been extended through 30 September 2023.

USCIS will allow adjudications for those specific categories to proceed based on biographic information and related background checks, without capturing fingerprints and a photograph. However, USCIS retains discretion, on a case-by-case basis, to require biometrics for any applicant, and applicants may be scheduled for an application support centre appointment to submit biometrics.

Form I-539 applicants meeting the biometrics suspension criteria do not need to submit the $85 biometric services fee for Form I-539 during the suspension period. USCIS will return a biometric services fee if submitted separately from the base fee and will reject paper Form I-539 applications if the applicant meets the above criteria and submits a single payment covering both the filing fee and the $85 biometrics services fee. If USCIS rejects the paper application because the applicant included the $85 biometrics service fee, the applicant will need to re-file Form I-539 without the biometric services fee.

As mentioned in the USCIS Fiscal Year 2022 Progress Report, USCIS plans on establishing a permanent biometrics exemption for all Form I-539 applicants in the coming months. For additional information on the temporary suspension, please see the 2021 announcement.

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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