Latest updates in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Spain and Sweden.

Australia: Immigration changes following Australia / UK FTA

Australia and the United Kingdom have agreed to establish more generous arrangements under the Working Holiday Maker program and Youth Mobility Scheme.  This follows the entry into force of the Australia/UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The principal changes are as follows:

  • Effective 1 July 2023, UK nationals will be able to apply for a Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa if they are between 18 and 35 years old, an increase from the previous upper limit of 30 years old.
  • From 1 July 2024, they will also be eligible for a second and third Working Holiday visa without having to show (as currently) that they have completed at least three or six months of ‘specified work’. Specified work is work that is undertaken in a ‘specified’ industry and in a specified area of Australia.

UK passport holders can choose to apply for a first, second and third Working Holiday visa at any time while they still meet the eligible age requirement. They do not need to stay in Australia for three years in a row. Applicants can lodge applications for second and third Working Holiday (subclass 417) visas in or outside Australia.

If a UK passport holder has already spent one or two years in Australia on a Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa before the new arrangements commence, they can apply for the remaining visa(s) under the new arrangements from 1 July 2024, avoiding the ‘specified work’ requirement.

Canada: Category-based selection for Express Entry

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced the first ever category-based selection for Express Entry. Invitations to apply will be issued to prospective permanent residents with specific skills, training or language ability.

This year, category-based selection invitations will focus on candidates who have the following skills or experience:

  • a strong French language proficiency; or
  • work experience in the following fields:
    • healthcare;
    • science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions;
    • trades, such as carpenters, plumbers and contractors;
    • transport;
    • agriculture and agri-food.

The categories have been determined following consultations with provincial and territorial partners, stakeholders and the public, as well as a review of labour market needs. A complete list of eligible jobs for the new categories is available here.

The first category-based invitations to apply are expected to be sent this summer.

Express Entry is Canada’s flagship application management system for those seeking to immigrate permanently through the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, the Canadian Experience Class and a portion of the Provincial Nominee Program.

Canada: New measures for family reunions

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced new measures to facilitate family reunion. These measures include:

  • Faster temporary resident visa (TRV) processing times for spousal applicants. Most of these applications will be processed within 30 days.
  • New and dedicated processing tools for spousal TRV applicants.
  • A new open work permit for spousal and family class applicants who reside with their sponsor in Canada and have temporary resident status. They are now able to apply for and receive an open work permit as soon as they submit a complete permanent residence application under the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class (SPCLC) or other family class programs.
  • Open work permit extensions of 18 months for holders of open work permits expiring between 1 August 2023 and the 31 December 2023. A similar option was recently offered to many with expiring post-graduation work permits.

Canada / South Korea: New Youth Mobility Agreement

The government has announced the signing of a Canada-South Korea Youth Mobility Agreement. The agreement is expected to come into force in 2024, after it is ratified by both countries.

This new agreement extends the ways in which Canadian and Finnish youth can work and travel in each other’s country under International Experience Canada (IEC) or the Korean equivalent.

The new arrangement features a number of improvements over the existing memorandum of understanding signed in 1995:

  • The eligibility age will increase from 18–30 to 18–35.
  • Two new streams—International Co-op (Internship) and Young Professionals—will be added to complement the existing Working Holiday category.
  • Most youth will also have the option to participate twice in the program—each time for up to 24 months.

International Experience Canada (IEC) is a reciprocal program that allows Canadian and international youth to work and travel in each other’s countries. The program has three categories:

  • Working Holiday participants receive an open work permit that allows them to work anywhere in the host country to support their travels.
  • International Co-op (Internship) participants receive an employer-specific work permit that allows students to gain targeted experience in their field of study.
  • Young Professionals participants receive an employer-specific work permit to gain targeted, professional work experience that is within their field of study or career path.

For the 2023 season, Canada is extending this opportunity to come to Canada through IEC to nearly 90,000 international youth. This expansion will help Canadian employers find the workers they need to fill labour shortages across the country.

Hong Kong: New rules on declaring criminal convictions

Effective 19 June 2023, the Immigration Department will adjust application requirements for visas and entry permits for dependents, foreign domestic workers, imported workers, students and those wishing to enter Hong Kong for a working holiday.

Applicants in these categories will be required to declare whether they have any criminal convictions.

The department will process applications received by 18 June 2023 with or without a criminal conviction declaration.

This change does not apply to extension applications.  In addition, foreign domestic helpers currently working in Hong Kong applying for contract renewal with the same employer or for completing the remaining/extended period of the current contract with the same employer or for change of employer in Hong Kong are not affected by this adjustment.

Spain: Revised EU Blue Card Directive

On 10 May 2023, the Spanish government passed amendments (Law 11/2023) to Law 14/2013 that implement the revised EU Blue Card Directive (EU 2021/1883).  The changes, which took effect on 29 May 2023, also affect Spain’s national residence permit for highly qualified professionals.

The principal changes are as follows:

  • EU Blue Cards and national residence permits for highly qualified professionals are both now issued with an initial validity of up to three years (previously one year for EU Blue Cards) or, if the duration of the contract is shorter, up to three months after the end of the contract term.
    • Renewal may be requested (in the 60 days prior to expiry) for a further two years, if the original requirements are still being met. After this total period of five years, the holder may apply for long-term residence.
  • As part of the EU Blue Card application process, employers are no longer required to conduct a labour market test. Previously, smaller companies (those with up to 500 employees or annual revenues of up to EUR 200 million were required to carry out a labour market test before sponsoring applicants for EU Blue Cards.
  • Employees applying for EU Blue Cards must be paid a salary of between 1 and 1.6 times the average gross annual salary. In some cases, however, a lower salary threshold may apply (more details are expected). Previously, applicants were required to earn at least 1.5 times the average gross annual salary.
  • Applicants for EU Blue Cards must demonstrate educational qualifications at least equivalent to Level 2 of the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (i.e., a bachelor’s degree on completion of a program of at least four years). Alternatively, they must have at least five years of relevant work experience in their sector or profession (three years for IT professionals).
    • Employees holding a higher vocational training certificate are now eligible to apply for an EU Blue Card. Previously, these applicants were not eligible.
  • Applicants for national residence permits for highly qualified professionals must demonstrate educational qualifications at least equivalent to Level 1 of the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education. Alternatively, they must have at least three years of relevant work experience in their sector or profession.
  • Holders of EU Blue Cards issued in other EU Member States may enter Spain for up to 90 days in any 180-day period for professional purposes (i.e., to conduct business or work) without obtaining a Spanish visa or work authorization document.
  • Spanish EU Blue Card holders who become residents of another EU Member State and obtain a Blue Card in that Member State will have their Spanish EU Blue Cards cancelled (this rule was previously enforced but is now clarified in the law).
  • Residence applications of dependent family members will now be processed together with the application of the main applicant.

Other EU Member States which have recently proposed or implemented amendments to their immigration rules to transpose the revised EU Blue Card Directive include Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Slovakia and Sweden.

Sweden: Changes to permanent residence permits and work permits

The Swedish government has published a report proposing new requirements for permanent residence permits.

The report proposes that new language and knowledge requirements for a permanent residence permit should apply to individuals who are over 18 years of age (with some exceptions for age) from 1 July 2027.

The report proposes a two-part online test. One part would test Swedish language listening skills at A2 level according to the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR). The other part would test basic knowledge needed to live and work in Swedish society, written in Swedish at CEFR A2 level. The tests would cost SEK 700 each (SEK 1400 in total).

Separately, the Swedish government has also published a memorandum proposing that, to be granted a work permit, an applicant must have a wage equivalent to at least 80% of the median wage in Sweden. This currently amounts to SEK 26,560 per month. It is proposed that this amendment to the immigration rules enter into force on 1 October 2023.

Expert advice on global immigration

If you need support with any aspect of global immigration, Smith Stone Walters is here to help.

To speak to a member of our global immigration team, please contact us today.

Share story
Back to top of page