Latest updates in global
16 May 2023
This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Canada, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
Canada: Agri-Food Pilot extended
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has extended its Agri-Food Pilot until 14 May 2025.
Launched in May 2020, the pilot helps facilitate the transition of experienced workers in agricultural and food industries to permanent residence in Canada.
The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship also announced the removal of the annual occupational caps, or the limits for how many candidates can apply for a specific occupation under the pilot, enabling more eligible candidates to apply.
By the end of the year, IRCC intends to introduce new changes to the pilot in stages, including:
- Expanding open work permit access to family members of all participants in the Agri-Food Pilot—regardless of the participant’s job skill level;
- Allowing unions to attest to a candidate’s work experience, as an alternative to employer reference letters;
- Giving applicants residing in Canada the option to either meet the job offer requirement, including the median wage requirement for the job offer, or the education requirement, including educational credential assessment verification;
- Accepting work experience gained under an open work permit for vulnerable workers, giving more workers an opportunity to qualify.
The pilot and these changes are intended to meet longstanding labour market needs in the meat processing, mushroom, greenhouse crop production and livestock-raising industries.
Russia: Visa-free travel for Georgian nationals
The Russian government has restored visa-free travel for stays of up to 90 days for nationals of Georgia. It has also lifted its ban on direct flights between the two countries.
The visa requirement was imposed in 2000 and the flight ban implemented in 2019. Georgia permits visa-free entry for Russian nationals, as well as the right to work, for up to one year.
Russia’s transport ministry announced that Russian airline would operate seven flights per week between Moscow and Tbilisi.
Spain: Changes to Golden Visa scheme being considered
According to reports, the Spanish government is considering either an increase in the minimum investment required for the Golden Visa Program, or the abolition of the scheme.
The Mas Pais party has proposed cancelling the scheme, which allows non-EU nationals to obtain residency in Spain with an investment of at least EUR 500,000.
In 2022, the European Commission appealed to Member States to stop selling citizenship and residence to investors, as it considers them a risk to security.
The UK scrapped its Tier 1 Investor Visa in 2022 in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In February 2023, Ireland cancelled its golden visa scheme and Portugal announced a plan to close its scheme.
Italy and Greece both still maintain residency-by-investment schemes.
Sweden: Proposed increase to salary requirement
The Swedish government has proposed an increase in the salary requirement for work permit holders.
According to the proposal, foreign workers will be required to have a salary of at least 80% of the median salary. This translates to a maintenance requirement of SEK 26,560 per month (currently approximately GBP 2000 or USD 2600).
The regulation amendment is proposed to enter into force on 1 October 2023.
Thailand: Long-Term Resident (LTR) visa
The government has updated the application process for the Long-Term Resident (LTR) visa.
Under the new process, applicants must wait for approval of their LTR visa applications by the Immigration Office before they can submit an application for a digital work permit to the Department of Employment.
Previously, the LTR visa and work permit applications could be submitted and were approved together and could be issued at the same time at the One Stop Service Centre (OSSC).
The Long-Term Resident Visa (LTR) is offered to four categories of foreigners:
- Wealthy Global Citizens (holding at least USD one million in assets and investments in Thailand;
- Wealthy Pensioners (aged 50 years and above with an annual pension or stable income);
- Work-from-Thailand Professionals (working remotely for well-established companies overseas);
- Highly Skilled Professionals (in targeted industries, working for business entities or higher education institutes or specialized training institutions in Thailand or Thai government agencies).
Spouses and dependent children (under the age of 20 years) of LTR visa holders also qualify for the same visas.
The LTR is a 10-year visa (an initial five years and one extension of five years) with multiple entry and various other benefits including:
- Exemption from the Thai-foreign national employment ratio of 4:1;
- Fast-track service at international airports in Thailand;
- An annual immigration report instead of the usual 90-day report;
- A digital work permit (“DWP”);
- Personal income tax at 17% for Highly Skilled Professionals on income from a Thai business entity in the targeted industries;
- An exemption from the personal income tax for other categories on income received abroad and brought into Thailand in the relevant tax year; and
- The right to change the LTR Visa to another type of visa subject to the rules and regulations of the Thai Immigration Bureau.
LTR visa holders cannot start work in Thailand until their digital work permit has been issued, unless they are in the Work-from Thailand Professionals (WTP) category.
Prospective applicants must first apply for a qualification endorsement letter (QEL) from the Board of Investment (BOI) before submitting an application for an LTR visa.
United Arab Emirates: Fines imposed for companies violating Emiratisation targets
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) has announced fines of up to AED 500,000 for companies attempting to circumvent Emiratisation targets.
Applicable violations include the reduction of the number of employees and changes to job titles, among others.
For a first offence, a fine of AED 100,000 will be imposed. A company repeating a violation will be subject to a fine of AED 300,000. If the company repeats a violation a third or subsequent times, the fine will reach AED 500,000.
Penalized companies will then be required to meet their Emiratization target correctly.
Under Emiratisation, companies with 50 or more employees are required to increase the number of their Emirati employees in skilled jobs by 1% every six months, ultimately achieving a 2% Emiratisation by the end of the year. Targeted companies are expected to achieve a 10% Emiratisation rate by the end of 2026.
Non-compliant companies face an AED 42,000 financial contribution for eachg Emirati not appointed according to the semi-annual targets.
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