Latest updates in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, Finland, New Zealand and Taiwan.

Australia: Pandemic Event visa closed to new applicants

Home Affairs has announced that, effective 2 September 2023, the Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408) Australian Government endorsed events (COVID‑19 Pandemic Event) will close to new applicants.

From that date this visa will only be available to people who already hold a Pandemic Event visa. These visa holders may be eligible for a subsequent visa until the visa is closed to all applications on 1 February 2024.

The Australian Government introduced the Pandemic Event visa in April 2020 to enable temporary visa holders to remain in Australia lawfully while the border was closed. It also addressed labour shortages in critical sectors in the local economy.

Existing Pandemic Event visa holders

  • The announcement does not change the visa expiry date of existing Pandemic Event visa holders.
  • Pandemic event visa holders may be eligible for a subsequent visa for up to 6 months on or after 2 September 2023. This will apply until the visa is closed to all applications on 1 February 2024.
  • Visa applications made on or after 2 September ​​​2023, will receive a visa stay period of up to 6 months if granted. This will give visa holders time to consider their options.
  • From 2 September 2023, Pandemic Event visa holders are only eligible for a further visa if, at time of application, their current visa is expiring within 28 days or less, and they have a job or job offer in Australia. From 2 September 2023, applications will include a VAC of $405. There is also a visa charge for each family member included in the application.
  • Pandemic Event visa holders with a visa expiring after February 2024 will not be eligible for another Pandemic Event visa. This cohort should explore other visa options if they wish to remain in Australia or make arrangements to depart before their visa expires.
  • Employers of Pandemic Event visa holders should check what the visa holder’s plans are. It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure their workers hold a visa with work rights or they risk significant penalties. Employers can check their workers’ visa conditions and period of stay using VEVO.

Other temporary visa holders

  • Temporary visa holders with 90 days or less remaining on their visa, who are working or have a job offer, may continue to apply for a Pandemic Event visa prior to 2 September 2023 with a nil Visa Application Charge (VAC).
  • Temporary visa holders who applied for a Pandemic Event visa before 2 September ​​​​2023, will have their applications assessed under the arrangements in place at the time they lodged their visa application. This includes their period of stay in Australia.
  • Temporary visa holders no longer eligible for a Pandemic Event visa may need to consider other visa options to remain in Australia or make arrangements to depart.

Belgium: New shortage occupation list

The new list of shortage occupations in the Flanders region will take effect on 1 September 2023.

If an occupation appears on the list of shortage occupations, there is no need for the employer to prove that there is a structural shortage of suitable employees in the labour market.

The current list of shortage occupations was valid from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2023. However, the validity of the list has been temporarily extended until 31 August 2023.

The upcoming new list of medium-skilled occupations which are considered to have a shortage of workers, and which are therefore open to migration, will contain 29 positions.

The following jobs were added to the list: piling technician, bus driver, coach driver, refrigeration technician, industrial sheet metal worker, plasterer-iron fixer, bricklayer, floor tiler/placer of wall and floor coverings, construction calculator and quality controller of mechanical and metal structures.

On the other hand, the following positions were removed from the list: chef, installer of data communication works and rigger-mounting engineer.

From 1 September 2023 (or after publication of the new Ministerial Decree in the Belgian Official Gazette) no new applications can be submitted for these three positions in the shortage occupation’ category. Future applications for these positions should therefore be submitted in the ‘other’ category.

  • Applications already submitted for these three positions by 31 August 2023 will be treated as a position appearing on the old list.
  • Existing admissions for these three positions can be extended by the same employer, even after 1 September 2023. However, changing employer is not possible, even when the same position is being renewed. A renewal with a different employer must therefore be submitted in the ‘other’ category.

The current list of 75 shortage occupations in Wallonia is valid until 30 September 2023. The current list of shortage occupations in Brussels is here.

Brazil: Visa measure for Australian, Canadian and US nationals postponed

The Brazilian Government has postponed the entry into force of the visa requirement for citizens from Australia, Canada, and the United States.

The measure, which was due to come into force on 1 October 2023, will now take effect on 10 January 2024. Until then, the visa exemption will remain valid, so that those entering by 09 January 2024 are still exempt from a Visit Visa, even if they leave after 10 January 2024.

The Brazilian Government will introduce an e-visa platform, which is expected to go live at least 30 days before the enforcement of the visa requirement.

The Embassy of Brazil in Australia states that it may grant physical visas to Australian passport holders before the official reinstatement of the visa requirement on an exceptional basis.  The cost of the physical visa in Australia is AUD 228 and the list of the requirements can be found here. The fee for the e-visa will be AUD 152.

China: COVID-19 testing requirement scrapped

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson has announced that, effective 30 August 2023, travellers to China are no longer required to undergo PCR or antigen COVID-19 testing before entry.

Finland: Fee increase proposals

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has proposed an increase in the fees for certain services provided by Finland’s missions abroad and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The new fees would enter into force on 1 September 2023.

For example, the fee for a passport issued by a mission would rise from EUR 175 to EUR 235, and the fee for notarial services would increase by EUR 10–20. On the other hand, the fee for an identity card issued by a mission would decrease from EUR 96 to EUR 60.

The proposed fee changes are listed here (in Finnish).

The Decree of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on Fees for Services Produced by the Foreign Service in 2023 will be submitted for consideration by the Ministerial Finance Committee on 31 August 2023.

Finland: Finnish Consulate General in St Petersburg closed

As previously, the customer service at the Finnish Consulate General in St Petersburg will close on 1 September 2023. This follows the Russian government’s announcement on 6 July 2023 that the Consulate General will close on 1 October 2023.

Now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland has released further details of its replacement services at its embassy in Moscow:

  • As of 1 September 2023, Finland’s Embassy in Moscow will take on the duties for consular and entry matters previously handled in St Petersburg. Applications for a visa to Finland may be submitted at VFS Global Visa Applications Centres. From the beginning of September, VFS Global Visa Application Centres in St Petersburg and elsewhere in Northwest Russia will only receive visa applications. As of 1 September 2023, applications for a visa will be received five days a week from Monday to Friday. Applicants can book an appointment for submitting an application here.
  • From the beginning of September, customers must visit the Embassy in Moscow in all matters concerning residence permits. Applications for a residence permit will be received three days a week from Monday to Wednesday. Applicants can book an appointment for submitting an application here.
  • Appointments for submitting a visa application and for supplying biometric information for a residence permit may be booked from 1 September 2023 onwards. However, the number of slots available both for visa application submission and for biometric enrolment for a residence permit application will be significantly reduced from earlier levels due to limited resources.

New Zealand: Ukraine Residence Visa Pathway

A Ukraine Residence Visa pathway is being established for holders of a temporary Special Ukraine Visa who arrive in New Zealand before 15 March 2024.

Qualifying individuals will be able to apply for the residency pathway if the principal applicant was granted the visa and travelled to New Zealand before 15 March 2024.

The Special Ukraine Visa was initially established to be open for Expressions of Interest for 12 months from 15 March 2022 as part of the Government’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was later extended by a further 12 months to 15 March 2024. The temporary visa allows Ukrainians with close relatives who are New Zealand citizens or residents to come to New Zealand for two years.

Requirements for residency:

  • Special Ukraine Visa holders who apply for residency will only be required to provide a Limited Medical Certificate. Normal character checks and identity requirements will apply.
  • An NZD $1200 residency visa application fee will apply to those who apply through the Special Ukraine Residency pathway. However, applicants will not be charged the Immigration Levy.
  • To maximise accessibility applicants do not need to sit English language tests or have access to suitable funds. There are no sponsorship requirements for the residence pathway.

Taiwan: Relaxed rules for Chinese business visitors

Effective 28 August 2023, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has announced a relaxation of the restrictions on visits by mainland Chinese citizens to Taiwan for business exchanges.

From that date, mainland Chinese citizens will be able to apply to enter Taiwan for short-term business exchanges, including participating in business shows, attending exhibitions, and participating in business training programs.

However, a case-by-case review process remain in place for inviting units and mainland Chinese applicants in specific high-tech industries, including the following: Manufacture of Integrated Circuits (Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code 2611), Manufacture of Discrete Devices (2612), Packaging and Testing of Semiconductors (2613), Manufacture of Liquid Crystal Panels and Components (2641), Manufacture of Light Emitting Diodes (2642), Manufacture of Other Communication Equipment (2729), and Manufacture of Electronic and Semiconductors Production Equipment (2928).

Additional restrictions will be added to the existing management framework, including eligibility conditions, invitation quotas, and duration of stay in Taiwan:

  • Exhibition Participation: The inviting or invited parties must be exhibitors. Depending on the total number of booths leased by an exhibitor, two people are allowed for each standard booth (nine-square-meter), with one additional person allowed for each additional booth, up to a maximum of 10 people in principle. The period of stay is limited to two days before to two days after the exhibition.
  • Exhibition Attendance: Inviting exhibitors must be companies that are approved and registered in Taiwan; invited parties must be the partners, potential partners, or potential buyers of the said exhibitors. Each Taiwanese exhibitor can invite up to 10 people, with a maximum of two people from each invited company. The period of stay is limited to one day before to one day after the exhibition.
  • Business Training Programs: The number of invitees is limited by the annual revenue of the inviting unit, up to a maximum of 100 people in principle (companies with annual revenues under NT$10 million can invite up to 10 people, companies with revenues between NT$10 million and NT$50 million can invite up to 25 people, companies with revenues between NT$50 million to NT$100 million can invite up to 50 people, and companies with revenues exceeding NT$100 million can invite up to 100 people).

Expert advice on global immigration

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