Global immigration news

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Spain and the United States.

Australia: New pathway to citizenship for New Zealand citizens

The ​​Australian Government has announced​ a direct pathway to Australian citizenship for New Zealand citizens living in Australia.

​From 1 July 2023, New Zealand citizens who have been living in Australia for four years or more will be eligible to apply directly for Australian citizenship. They will no longer need to first apply for and be granted a permanent visa.

These changes apply to New Zealand citizens holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV) who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001. Protected SCV holders will continue to be eligible to apply directly for Australian citizenship.

For New Zealand citizens who are long-term residents in Australia, this will be achieved by backdating their period of permanent residence for citizenship purposes. This will allow them to meet the 12-month permanent residence period under the general residence requirement.

With effect from 1 July 2023:

  • All New Zealand citizens holding an SCV will be considered permanent residents for citizenship purposes.
  • New Zealand citizens granted an SCV before 1 July 2022 will have their period of permanent residence for citizenship purposes backdated to 1 July 2022.
  • New Zealand citizens granted an SCV for the first time on or after 1 July 2022 will be considered a permanent resident for citizenship purposes from the date of their SCV grant.

These provisions will also apply to New Zealand citizens who are overseas but held an SCV immediately before last leaving Australia.  However, they will not apply to citizenship applications submitted before 1 July 2023. Citizenship applications submitted before this date, which do not meet the eligibility requirements will be refused without a refund.

The backdating of permanent residence for SCV holders will also impact children born to SCV holders. From 1 July 2023, any child born in Australia on or after 1 July 2022 to an SCV holder may automatically acquire Australian citizenship at birth and will be able to apply for ​evidence of citizenship.

Brazil: New entry rules for seafarers

Effective 1 May 2023, crew members of non-Brazilian boats will no longer be permitted to enter Brazil using a Seafarer’s Identity Document (SID) issued under Convention 108 of the International Labour Organization (C-108). From that date, they will only be allowed to enter Brazil using a SID issued according to Convention 185 (C-185).

SID C-185 holders will be able to enter Brazil without a visa for up to 90 days in a migratory year (starting from the date of their first entry) when working on non-Brazilian maritime support ships and/or platforms; or for up to 180 days in a migratory year (starting from the date of their first entry) when working on non-Brazilian long-trip ships and/or cruises.

When C-108 was revoked in 2010, Brazil ratified C-185 but continued to accept C-108 SIDs until 2020.  Successive grace periods were granted for the use of C-108 SIDS during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Federal Police has now indicated that this relaxation will not be extended beyond 1 May 2023.

China: COVID-19 testing requirements

Effective 29 April 2023, all inbound travellers will be permitted to take an antigen test instead of a PCR test within 48 hours before boarding their flight. Airlines will no longer be required to check pre-departure test certificates.

This is already allowed for travel from some countries and will be extended to those travelling from all countries.

Hong Kong: Exit-Entry Permit eligible age adjusted

The Immigration Department (ImmD) has announced that, with effect from 29 April 2023, the eligible age for holders of electronic Exit-Entry Permits for travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macao (e-EEP) for using the e-Channel service will be adjusted to 11 years old or above.

Previously, eligible e-EEP holders aged 16 or above could use the e-Channel service.

Japan: Lifting of all COVID-19 border measures

The lifting of all border measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been brought forward to 29 April 2023.  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.

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

The lifting of COVID-19 entry requirements was originally intended to take effect on 8 May 2023.

Spain: New visa guidance for remote workers

The Spanish government has issued new guidance on applications for visas for teleworking. The guidance confirms the following:

  • Applicants for a visa for teleworking must submit evidence that they graduated from a prestigious university or that they have three years of relevant work experience.
  • The authorities retain the right to request additional verification of education or of relevant experience during application processing.
  • Those working in government-regulated positions, such as lawyers, architects and some engineers, must have their degrees evaluated and verified.
  • Applicants for an entrepreneurial visa must submit a report, including information about their business partners, services provided, processing of the company and proprietary technology used, to the National Agency of Innovation (ENISA), providing evidence that their business activities in Spain are entrepreneurial. ENISA will provide a decision on the report within 10 business days.


The 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 latest guidance is part of the implementation of the new law.

The 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.

United States: COVID-19 vaccination requirements

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced a loosening of COVID-19 vaccination requirements for foreign travellers.

On 19 April 2023, the CDC allowed most US nationals adults to bring their COVID-19 vaccination schedule up to date with a single “bivalent” dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, regardless of whether they previously completed their (monovalent) primary series.

The CDC has now clarified that it will consider anybody with record of a single dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine issued on or after 16 August 2022 to meet the COVID-19 vaccination requirements for foreign travellers, because “some traveler vaccine records might not specify whether recent Moderna or Pfizer doses received were bivalent”.

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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