What's new in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Germany, New Zealand, the United States and Vietnam.

Germany: Delays possible for visa applicants in India

The German Missions in India have announced that longer waiting times for appointments and longer visa processing times currently apply, due to increased demand.

Appointments are booked with the external service provider, VFS, and availability can be checked on their website.

Appointments can be booked and Schengen visa applications can be submitted in all Visa Application Centres run by VFS Global all over India, regardless of the applicant’s place of residence. If the Visa Application Centre closest to the applicant’s home town is already fully booked, they can check for available appointment slots in one of the other major Indian cities. This does not apply to applications for national visas (D-visa category) such as student, employment or family reunion visas.

The German authorities remind applicants that the processing time for Schengen visa applications starts only once the application reaches the consulate. This might take up to six working days, depending on the delivery conditions and public holidays.

Due to the peak season, it currently takes an average time of 15 days to process a Schengen visa application after it has reached the consulate.

New Zealand: Independent review into the AEWV

The Minister of Immigration has announced an independent review into the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV). Details and timings of the review will be announced later.

The AEWV was implemented in May 2022 as an employer-led model. As of 14 August 2023, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has approved 80,576 AEWV applications, and there are 27,892 accredited employers.

United States: Reopening of international field office in Havana

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced the reopening of an international field office in Havana, Cuba.

The Havana office will assist with US immigration benefits and services, including conducting interviews and processing cases for pending Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) cases and Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petitions.

On 10 August 2023, DHS published Federal Register notices that will update and modernize the Cuban and Haitian family reunification parole (CFRP and HFRP) processes. Effective August 11, 2023, most steps of the updated processes will be completed online, with the exception of the completion of a panel physician exam overseas and the in-person parole determination made upon arrival by air at an interior US Port of Entry. Eligible beneficiaries must be outside the United States and are no longer required to be physically present in Cuba or Haiti.

Both processes begin with the Department of State’s National Visa Center issuing an invitation to the petitioning U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member whose Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, filed on behalf of a Cuban or Haitian beneficiary, has been approved. The petitioner can then initiate the FRP process by filing Form I-134A, Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support, on behalf of the principal beneficiary and any derivative beneficiary spouse and children to be considered for advance travel authorization and parole.

USCIS will send a letter to CFRP petitioners who have a pending Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, filed for a principal beneficiary who is waiting for an interview in Havana. Additionally, DHS is making the HFRP process more accessible by opening the process to all Haitian approved principal beneficiaries, regardless of when USCIS approved the Form I-130 (previously, eligibility was limited to those approvals issued on or before December 18, 2014).

The USCIS Havana Field Office will also provide other limited services, which may include refugee processing and collecting biometrics for U visa petitions. Services at the Havana Field Office will be available only by appointment.

Under the previous administration, USCIS officially closed the Havana Field Office on 10 December 2018.

United States: Global Entry for Dominican citizens

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that citizens of the Dominican Republic are now eligible to apply for Global Entry, a program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers upon arrival in the United States.

This increases the number of qualifying countries to 16, including Croatia (the last country to qualify, in March 2023), Bahrain, Argentina, Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.

Dominican citizens who apply and are approved for the Global Entry program will be able to enter the U.S. using the Global Entry portals in the Federal Inspection Service areas of 85 airports in the U.S. and other countries. Successful Global Entry applicants will also receive the benefit of the TSA PreCheck program, which will allow for a smoother screening process at security control for domestic and international flights departing the US, eliminating the requirement to remove shoes, jackets or belts, and computers from carry-on bags.

Vietnam: New e-visa system launched

Effective 15 August 2023, the Vietnamese government has introduced a new electronic visa (e-visa) system, available to travellers of all nationalities. Previously, this was only available to nationals of 80 countries.

Under the new e-visa rules, the e-visa validity has increased from 30 days to 90 days, and now permits multiple entries.

Also from 15 August 2023, the visa exemption for nationals of certain countries has increased from 15 days to 45 days.

This applies to nationals of Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

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.

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