What's new in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain and the United States.

China: 15-day visa-free policy for citizens of Brunei and Singapore

Effective 26 July 2023, the Chinese government has resumed the 15-day visa-free policy for citizens of Brunei and Singapore entering China for business, tourism, family visit and transit purposes.

Visas already issued to national of these countries are still valid. Visa applications that are pending will be processed as normal.

The 15-day visa-free policy available to nationals of Brunei, Singapore and Japan was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The policy has not yet been restarted for Japanese nationals.

However, Japanese nationals do qualify for the 72/144-hour visa-free transit policy and for port visas, along with nationals of 52 other countries.

China also has bilateral visa exemption agreements with holders of ordinary passports from over 150 countries, including for ordinary passport holders from the following 18 countries: Armenia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dominica, Ecuador, Fiji, Grenada, Maldives, Mauritius, Qatar, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Suriname, Tonga and the United Arab Emirates. Nationals of these countries can enter China for business, tourism or family visit for between 30 and 90 days.

Further visa-free agreements exist for tour groups from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Turkmenistan; and for tour groups from certain countries to Guilin, Hainan, Shanghai, the Pearl River Delta region.  Multiple visa-free entries are permitted for holders of an APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC).

China resumed the issuance of all types of visas on 15 March 2023 after suspension during the COVID-19 pandemic.

China: Compensation for 10-year multiple entry visa holders

The Chinese government has announced that it will compensate holders of 10-year visas for the suspension of their visas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Holders of 10-year multiple-entry visas whose visas were temporarily suspended between 28 March 2020 and 14 March 2023 due to COVID-19 can now apply free of charge for a three-year extension. However, this extension is not applicable to a suspended visa if a new 10-year visa or residence permit has already been issued since 28 March 2020.

Alternatively, holders of 10-year multiple-entry visas can apply for a new 10-year visa on expiry of their current visa, on payment of the standard fee.  However, the authorities will no longer accept applications for new 10-year visas if the current visa has six months or more of validity remaining.

Japan: Specified Skilled Worker route expanded

The Japanese government has decided to expand the Specified Skilled Worker (ii) (SSW-2) route to workers in nine additional industries.

Industries eligible for the SSW-2 route will soon include building cleaning management; industrial machinery, electric, electronics and information; automobile repair and maintenance; aviation; accommodation; agriculture; fishery and aquaculture; food and beverage manufacture; and food service.

SSW-2 is currently only available for construction; and shipbuilding and ship machinery.

The date of implementation of this expansion has not yet been announced.

Saudi Arabia: Replacement of visa stickers with e-visas

The Saudi general Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has issued a circular to airlines extending the replacement of visa stickers with printed e-visas to visas issued in 12 more countries.

Visa stickers will be gradually replaced by e-visas in the following countries on the following dates:

  • Pakistan from 24 July 2023
  • Yemen from 26 July 2023
  • Sudan from 2 August 2023
  • Uganda from 7 August 2023
  • Lebanon from 9 August 2023
  • Nepal from 14 August 2023
  • Turkey from 16 August 2023
  • Sri Lanka from 21 August 2023
  • Kenya from 23 August 2023
  • Morocco from 28 August 2023
  • Thailand from 30 August 2023
  • Vietnam from 4 September 2023.

Earlier this year, the Saudi authorities implemented printed e-visas for visas issued in Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jordan, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates.

Singapore: Enhanced Self-Assessment Tool (SAT)

From 1 August 2023, employers and employment agents can use an enhanced Self-Assessment Tool (SAT) to obtain an indicative outcome, including COMPASS scores for Employment Permit (EP) applications. The enhanced SAT should be used to assess EP applications which are to be submitted from 1 September 2023 onwards.

Due to the sensitivity of the firm-level scores required for the COMPASS framework, an EP eService (formerly EP Online) account is needed to use the enhanced SAT.


From 1 September 2023, new EP candidates must pass a two-stage eligibility framework. In addition to meeting the qualifying salary (Stage 1), EP candidates must pass a points-based Complementarity Assessment (COMPASS) Framework (Stage 2). COMPASS will also apply to renewals for passes expiring from 1 September 2024.

COMPASS evaluates EP applications based on a set of individual and firm-related attributes, with four foundational criteria (individual salary and qualifications, company diversity and support for local employment) and two bonus criteria (for jobs on the shortage occupation list, and for strategic partnership with government).

Candidates re exempted from COMPASS if they fulfil any of these conditions:

  • Earning at least SGD 22,500 fixed monthly salary (similar to the prevailing Fair Consideration Framework job advertising exemption from 1 September 2023).
  • Applying as an overseas intra-corporate transferee under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services or an applicable Free Trade Agreement that Singapore is party to.
  • Filling a role on a short-term basis (i.e., 1 month or less).

Spain: Changes to temporary residence permits

The Spanish Supreme Court has nullified a clause in Spain’s immigration rules which permitted the authorities to cancel a temporary residence permit if the holder spent more than six months in a year outside Spain.

The Supreme Court suggested that such a rule should be codified in law, rather than remain a regulatory norm. As such, the rule could be reinstated in future if the Spanish parliament passes it as law.

For now, holders of a temporary residence permit can renew their residence even if they have been absent from Spain for six months or more in a one-year period, if they meet all other requirements.

This also implies that non-working residence permit holders can maintain their residence status even if they are present in Spain for less than 183 days per year, in which case they are not classified as tax residents.

It is important to note that applicants for permanent residence permits in Spain cannot spend more than 10 months in total outside the country in the five-year period prior to their application.

Moreover, nationality applicants will have to show that any absences from Spain do not detract from their effective residence in Spain.

United States: Second random H-1B selection

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will carry out a second random selection from previously submitted registrations for the fiscal year (FY) 2024 H-1B cap, to reach the FY 2024 numerical allocation.

In March 2023, USCIS conducted an initial random selection on properly submitted electronic registrations for the FY 2024 H-1B cap, including for beneficiaries eligible for the advanced degree exemption. Only those petitioners with selected registrations for FY 2024 are eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. The initial filing period for those with selected registrations for FY 2024 was from April 1, 2023, through June 30, 2023.

Once the second selection process is completed, USCIS will notify all prospective petitioners with selected registrations from this round who are eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for the beneficiary named in the applicable selected registration. Those with selected registrations will have their myUSCIS accounts updated to include a selection notice, including details of when and where to file their petitions.

United States: Revised version of Form I-9

On 1 August 2023, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will publish a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (PDF, 899.28 KB) (edition date 08/01/23).

The revised Form I-9:

  • Reduces Sections 1 and 2 to a single-sided sheet;
  • Is designed to be a fillable form on tablets and mobile devices;
  • Moves the Section 1 Preparer/Translator Certification area to a separate, standalone supplement that employers can provide to employees when necessary;
  • Moves Section 3, Reverification and Rehire, to a standalone supplement that employers can print if or when rehire occurs or reverification is required;
  • Revises the Lists of Acceptable Documents page to include some acceptable receipts as well as guidance and links to information on automatic extensions of employment authorization documentation;
  • Reduces Form instructions from 15 pages to 8 pages; and
  • Includes a checkbox allowing employers to indicate they examined Form I-9 documentation remotely under a DHS-authorized alternative procedure rather than via physical examination (see below).

Employers can use the current Form I-9 (edition date 10/21/19) until 31 October 2023. Starting 1 November 2023, all employers must use the new Form I-9.

DHS-authorized alternative procedure for remote document checks:

On 21 July 2023, DHS announced a final rule that recognizes the end of temporary COVID-19 flexibilities as of 31 July 2023 and provides DHS the authority to authorize optional alternatives for employers to examine Form I-9 documentation. At the same time, DHS also published an accompanying document  describing and authorizing employers enrolled in E-Verify the option to remotely examine their employees’ identity and employment authorization documents under a DHS-authorized alternative procedure.

This accompanying document provides an alternative for certain employers to remotely examine Form I-9 documents, instead of the current requirement to examine documents in-person. To participate in the remote examination of Form I-9 documents under the DHS-authorized alternative procedure, employers must be enrolled in E-Verify, examine and retain copies of all documents, conduct a live video interaction with the employee, and create an E-Verify case if the employee is a new hire.

Employers who were participating in E-Verify and created a case for employees whose documents were examined during COVID-19 flexibilities ( 20 March 2020 to 31 July 2023), may choose to use the new alternative procedure starting on 1 August 2023 to satisfy the physical document examination requirement by 30 August 2023. Employers who were not enrolled in E-Verify during the COVID-19 flexibilities must complete an in-person physical examination by 30 August 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