Latest updates in global

The Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovenia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Australia: High income threshold increased

The Fair Work Commission has published its annual increase to the high-income threshold. Permanent residence applicants aged over 45 years must meet this threshold for the previous three years before application submission.

From 1 July 2023, the high-income threshold is AUD167,500 – an AUD5,500 increase from the 2022/2023 threshold.

Canada: More Hong Kong residents eligible for permanent residence

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has announced the removal of the education requirement under the Canadian work experience stream (Stream B) of the Hong Kong permanent residence pathways effective 15 August 2023.

As a result, more Hong Kong residents with work experience in Canada will be eligible for permanent residence regardless of their education, and applicants will no longer have to submit proof of their education.

In February 2023, Canada extended the deadline for Hong Kong residents to apply for an open work permit until 7 February 2025. The open work permit allows eligible Hong Kong residents to gain work experience in Canada. Under the Hong Kong open work permit public policy, spouses or common-law partners and dependent children are also eligible to apply for a study or work permit.

At the same time, the government also expanded eligibility to Hong Kong residents who have graduated within the past 10 years (previously 5 years) from a post-secondary learning institution in Canada or abroad.

Two pathways to permanent residence for Hong Kong residents currently in Canada were opened in June 2021 and will be in effect until the end of August 2026.

Germany: Parliament approves reforms to Skilled Immigration Act

The upper house (the Bundesrat) of the German parliament has approved the government’s reformed Skilled Immigration Act.

The new Skilled Immigration Act aims to attract more skilled workers with several major changes:

  • Lower salary thresholds will be established for the EU Blue Card;
  • A new “Opportunity Card”, allowing qualifying foreign nationals without a job offer to spend up to a year in Germany seeking work;
  • Lower qualification requirements for certain workers.

Ireland: General Employment Permit renewals for Health Care Assistants

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has established that Health Care Assistants with relevant health and social care qualifications comparable to a Level 5 Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) qualification may be deemed to have met the skills and proficiency requirements for the renewal of their general employment permit.

To renew their General Employment Permit a Health Care Assistant must achieve a relevant Level 5 QQI qualification within two years employment in Ireland.

To prove that this requirement has been met, the clinical lead in the healthcare facility must certify that the individual has demonstrated their technical ability, qualifications, and suitability to the Health Care Assistant role during their employment. The clinical lead, employee and employer will need to complete the required form and submit this to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment as part of the application process for the renewal of the general employment permit.

Those Health Care Assistants who have obtained the relevant Level 5 QQI qualification can proceed with the standard renewal process.

All other Health Care Assistants who have not attained Level 5 QQI should download this form and submit it through the EPOS (Employment Permits Operations System) along with the renewal documents.

Italy: Changes to work permit rules

According to recent amendments to the immigration law, a foreign national who has received a work permit (“nulla osta”) and entered Italy with a visa is now permitted to start work before they have signed the contract of stay (“contrato di soggiorno”) at the immigration office.

The so-called “decreto Cutro” of 23 March 2023 added paragraph 6-bis to Article 22 of the immigration law stating that work is allowed pending the signing of the Contract of Stay.

Previously, work permit holders could only start working in Italy once they had signed the Contract of Stay.

The new rule applies not only to work permits issued under the quota (“Flussi”) decree, but also to subordinate and seasonal work, Blue Card holders, intra-corporate transferees and other non-quota workers.

Italy: Three-year immigration plan 2023 – 2025

On 6 July 2023, the government approved a decree establishing a three-year immigration plan with a quota of 450,000 non-EU nationals permitted to enter for work between 2023 and 2025. In the past, quota decrees have been issued annually.

The proposed 2023-25 quota (“Flussi”) decree increases the entry quotas for work and extends the professional categories and production sectors involved. Moreover, the proposed quotas increase in each of the three years.

The 2022 quota decree allowed 82,705 entries: The proposed decree allows for 136,000 entries in 2023, 151,000 in 2024 and 165,000 in 2025.

The government also approved a decree supplementing the 2022 quota with an additional 40,000 seasonal admissions in the agricultural and tourism sectors.

Luxembourg: Deadline to replace old-style residence permits

The Directorate of Immigration of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has announced that residence cards and permanent residence cards for third-country nationals who are family members of a Union citizen, issued before June 2021 in the form of a card printed on secure paper with a photograph affixed, will cease to be valid on 3 August 2023.

Holders of an old-style residence permit, who must exchange it for a new-style permit before 3 August 2023, have been informed by letter of the procedure to follow, and should do so as soon as possible.

Netherlands: New duty for sponsors to assess salary

The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) has informed recognized sponsors that it will no longer check whether a highly skilled migrant is entitled to a reduced salary criterion. It is now the duty of the sponsor to assess this for themselves and to gather and maintain internally the relevant documents relating to this self-declaration.

Slovenia: Replacement of old-style residence permits

The government has announced that certain old-style laminated residence permits issued before 14 February 2022 can be used until they expire, but no later than 3 August 2023.

These laminated residence permits were issued to:

  • citizens of the Swiss Confederation and
  • their family members,
  • family members of European Union (EU) citizens,
  • family members of citizens of the Member States of the European Economic Area (EEA), and
  • family members of citizens of Slovenia.

Holders of such laminated residence permits must exchange them for a new Swiss residence permit card or a new second-generation residence card at the administrative unit of their place of residence at any time before the expiry date, but by 3 August 2023 at the latest.

No processing fee is charged for the issuing of the card, but the holder must pay the costs of printing the residence permit card:

  • a residence permit card for a citizen of the Swiss Confederation costs EUR 19.85,
  • a residence permit card for a family member of a citizen of the Swiss Confederation and for a service provider costs EUR 15.47,
  • a residence permit card and a permanent residence permit card for a family member of an EU citizen, a family member of an EEA citizen and for a family member of a Slovenian citizen costs EUR 15.47.

Since 14 February 2022, residence permits and residence registration certificates have been issued in a new format with additional security features.

United Arab Emirates: Expansion of Emiratisation targets

The Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation (MOHRE) has announced the expansion of its emiratisation targets to include companies with 20 to 49 employees in 14 sectors, requiring them to hire at least one UAE citizen in 2024 and another in 2025.

Non-compliant companies in 2024 will face a fine of AED96,000 in January 2025, payable in installments, while non-complaint companies in 2025 will face a fine of AED108,000 in January 2026.

The applicable economic sectors include:

  • information and communications
  • financial and insurance activities
  • real estate
  • professional and technical activities
  • administrative and support services
  • arts and entertainment
  • mining and quarrying
  • transformative industries
  • education
  • healthcare and social work
  • construction
  • wholesale and retail
  • transportation and warehousing
  • hospitality and residency services.

Targeted companies, chosen based on criteria such as types of jobs, work environment, geographical location, nature of growth in these economic sectors and Emiratisation priorities, will be informed by the Ministry’s digital channels.

Companies employing 50 or more employees are already required to achieve 1% growth in the number of Emiratis working in skilled jobs every six months.

United States: Eight new fields added to STEM list

Effective 12 July 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has amended the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List by adding eight qualifying fields of study and a corresponding Department of Education Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code for each. No CIP codes from the existing list are being removed.

The list is used to determine whether a degree obtained by certain F–1 nonimmigrant students following the completion of a program of study qualifies as a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree as determined by DHS, as required for the F–1 student to be eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion optional practical training (OPT).

OPT is one type of work permission available to certain F–1 nonimmigrant students. It allows eligible F–1 students (except those in English language training programs) to obtain real-world work experience directly related to their major area of study.

The STEM OPT extension is a 24-month extension of OPT available to F–1 nonimmigrant students who have completed 12 months of OPT and received a degree in an approved STEM field of study as designated by the STEM list.

The eight fields newly added to the list are:

  • Composite Materials Technology/Technician (CIP code: 15.0617).
  • Demography and Population Studies (45.0501).
  • Developmental and Adolescent Psychology (42.2710).
  • Geospatial Intelligence (43.0407).
  • Institutional Research (13.0608).
  • Landscape Architecture (04.0601).
  • Linguistics and Computer Science (30.4801).
  • Mechatronics, Robotics and Automation Engineering Technology/Technician (15.0407).

The STEM list was previously updated in 2022.

Expert advice on global immigration

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