Global immigration news

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Canada, China, Denmark, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Peru and Saudi Arabia.

Canada / India: Fewer Canadian diplomatic staff in India

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced that it is reducing its number of employees in India from 27 to five. CC will continue to accept and process applications from India, but reduced staffing levels are expected to impact processing times.

The large majority of applications from India are already processed outside the country, with 89% of India’s applications processed through the global network. The 5 Canada-based IRCC staff who remain in India will focus on work that requires an in-country presence such as urgent processing, visa printing, risk assessment and overseeing key partners.

Clients from India can expect to see some delays over the next few months. This includes delays in overall processing times, responses to enquiries and returning visas or passports.

IRCC noted that this decision follows India’s intent to unilaterally remove immunities for all but 21 Canadian diplomats and dependents in Delhi.

The Ministry of External Affairs of India responded by stating that the much higher number of Canadian diplomats in India, and their continued interference in our internal affairs warrant a parity in mutual diplomatic presence in New Delhi and Ottawa; and by rejecting any attempt to portray the implementation of parity as a violation of international norms.

On 26 October 2023, the High Commission of India in Ottawa, along with the Indian consulates in Toronto and Vancouver, resumed the processing of entry, business, medical and conference visas.  All Indian visa services in Canada had been suspended for several weeks.

China: Relaxed visa policy for Macau residents

Effective 25 October 2023, foreign national residents of Macau can apply for multiple-entry visas for mainland China with extended validity.

According to the Commissioner’s Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Macau SAR:

  • Foreign permanent residents of Macao can apply for multiple-entry visas valid for up to five years;
  • Foreign non-permanent residents of Macao can apply for multiple-entry visas valid for up to two years;
  • Foreign professional employees can apply for multiple-entry visas valid for up to one year.
  • Foreign non-professional employees and domestic helpers can apply for multiple-entry visas valid for up to six months.

Denmark: Updated calculation of residence under short-term track

SIRI has updated the guidelines for calculating residence under the short-term track, within the Fast Track Scheme.

Under the short-term track, applicants can be granted a residence and work permit that will last for up to 90 days. The update provides further information on how to calculate the distribution of the 90 days across these several stays.

When calculating the multiple stays within 90 days, the method being used is referred to as a ‘rolling’ calculation. This means that the method only accounts for the number of days of residence within a 365-day period. When calculating the period, the count starts from the first day that your permit is to be valid, and is then counted 365 days back in time.

Applicants who have used a calculation of a short-term stay which is attached to their first entry into Denmark in connection to a pending application under the short-term track can contact SIRI no later than 1 December 2023.

Hong Kong: New immigration measures announced

In his annual policy address on 25 October 2023, the Chief Executive announced the following measures intended to attract more foreign investment and skilled workers to Hong Kong:

  • Effective 26 October 2023, foreign national staff of companies registered in Hong Kong may apply with the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre in Hong Kong for “multiple-entry visas” valid for two or more years to mainland China, enjoying priority processing.
  • Following the launch of the Hong Kong Talent Engage (HKTE) online platform last year, a physical office will be established by the end of October 2023. The office will provide support for incoming talents and follow up with their development and needs after arrival. In 2024, the government will organise a “Global Talent Summit cum Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area High-quality Talent Development Conference” to promote regional exchange and co-operation in talent attraction.
  • Effective November 2023, the government will add eight “top-notch” institutions from mainland China and overseas to the list of eligible universities under the Top Talent Pass Scheme, making a total of 184 institutions.
  • Effective 25 October 2023, the government will relax the visa policy in respect of employment for Vietnamese talents and the criteria for Vietnamese applying for “multiple-entry visas” for business and travel. It will also relax the visa policy for Laotian and Nepalese talents for employment, training and study in University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded institutions.
  • Under the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme, eligible investors who make investments of HKD 30 million or above in assets such as stocks, funds, bonds, etc. (excluding real estate) can apply for entry into Hong Kong. Details of the scheme will be announced by the end of 2023.
  • To alleviate the manpower shortage in skilled trades, starting from the 2024/25 admission cohort, non-local students of designated full-time professional Higher Diploma programmes of the Vocational Training Council (VTC) will be allowed to stay in Hong Kong for one year after graduation to seek jobs relevant to their disciplines. The Vocational Professionals Admission Scheme will be a pilot arrangement and will be reviewed after two years.

Iceland: New online information service

The Directorate of Immigration has launched a new website providing immigration information.

The “Service Web” offers detailed information about visas, residence permits, citizenship, international protection and application tracking, as well as step-by-step guides to visa and permit requirements, frequently asked questions and an online enquiry form.

Ireland: Stamp 4 work permission expanded

On 23 October 2023, the government announced that holders of Stamp 4 immigration permission are now eligible to apply for civil service jobs.

Stamp 4 is an immigration permission allowing work without an employment permit. It is issued for two years and is renewable. It may be granted after a foreign national has had permission to work in Ireland with a Critical Skills Employment Permit for two years, with an employment permit for five years or as a researcher for two years.

Kazakhstan: Visa-free agreement with China

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan has announced that the agreement on the mutual exemption from visa requirements between China and Kazakhstan, signed on 17 May 2023, will come into force on 10 November 2023.

According to the agreement, nationals of the two countries are exempt from visa requirements for the purposes of business, tourism, private affairs, medical treatment, international transport and transit. The period of stay must not exceed 30 calendar days from the moment of crossing the border, and a total of 90 calendar days within 180 calendar days.

If citizens need to stay for more than 30 days, they will need to obtain an entry visa of the appropriate category in advance. The visa-free regime does not provide the right to work, study or carry out missionary activity.

Kyrgyzstan: Visa-free entry for certain citizens of China and India

The government has introduced visa-free entry for up to seven days for nationals if China and India holding long-term multiple-entry visas issued by the United Kingdom or a Schengen zone country. Eligible nationals are also permitted to re-enter Kyrgyzstan after 21 days after departure from the country.

Moreover, the government has announced visa-free entry for up to 30 days (with a return air ticket) for permanent residents of Hong Kong or Macau, with the right to re-enter after 30 days after departure from the country.

Malaysia: Expatriate Services Division restarts iKad issuance

Effective 24 October 2023, the Expatriate Services Division (ESD) of the Immigration Department of Malaysia has begun issuing the i-KAD to ESD-registered holders of Employment Pass (EP) Category I, II and III and Residence Pass-Talent (RP-T). i-KAD will be issued for new, renewal and transfer of endorsement applications It will  be issued to dependents of RP-T holders but not to dependents of EP holders.

The i-KAD is an identification document for foreign national residents in Malaysia and has not been issued since 2019.

Updates to the ESD Online Guidebook:

The latest version of the Expatriate Services Division (ESD) Online Guidebook has been released, with the following important updates:

  • Companies regulated by Agencies are required to submit an approval letter for each Employment Pass (Category I, II, and III) application from the relevant Agencies in the Xpats Gateway platform to obtain their approval letter.
  • All new Employment Pass (EP) Categories I, II, and III (knowledge/skilled workers) applications must obtain an Approval Letter and Visa with a Reference Letter (VwR) for the purpose of employment. The Approval and VwR Letters must be produced at Malaysia’s Entry Point for verification purposes.
    • For categories I, II, and III, nationalities that require a visa to enter Malaysia can apply at the nearest Malaysian Embassy, High Commission, or Consulate General in the respective country or can apply through the eVISA website (If applicable).
  • All new Professional Visit Pass (PVP) applications must obtain an Approval Letter before entering Malaysia for the purpose of employment. The Approval Letter must be produced at Malaysia’s Entry Point for verification purposes.
  • Applicants who have entered the country will have 30 days from the date of entry to endorse the EP sticker and 14 days for the PVP sticker via pass delivery by Pos Malaysia (for new and renewal applications); alternatively, applicants who have entered Malaysia via KLIA Terminal 1 will be able to collect and endorse the EP or PVP sticker at the ESD Satellite Centre (ESC), KLIA Terminal 1 (for new applications only).
  • Endorsed stickers will be delivered within Klang Valley in one working day, outside of Klang Valley in three working days and to Labuan in five working days upon collection by Pos Malaysia.
  • An ePASS (for Employment Pass and Dependent Pass renewals only) can be generated through the ESD Online for applicants with a previously endorsed sticker on the passport, subject to the discretion of the Immigration Department of Malaysia.

Peru: Changes to immigration law

On 22 October 2023, the Single Text of Administrative Procedures (TUPA) of Migraciones (the immigration authorities) was published. With this publication, the modification and incorporation of several articles in the Regulation of the Legislative Decree of Migraciones No.1350 entered into force.  These measures were established in two Supreme Decrees published earlier this year – No. 003-2023-IN of 27 April 2023 and No. 004-2023 of 28 April 2023.

The changes to the immigration law include the following:

  • The procedure is established for applications for temporary residence for nationals of MERCOSUR countries and for nationals of the Andean Community countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru). Applications are submitted from outside Peru; the status is extended to the applicant’s family members (including if they are not nationals of member countries); the status is valid for a stay of up to two years and is not renewable.
  • The procedures for in-country change of status applications for temporary residence, permanent residence and extension of tourist stay for nationals of Andean Community countries are also established.
  • The application, change or extension of resident, temporary immigration statuses, temporary stay permit card or immigration regularization procedure for children and adolescents can now also be carried out by a representative who has been granted Power of Attorney for a maximum of 90 days.
  • Immigration statuses and temporary stay permit cards can also be cancelled by a firm court order.
  • Immigration permits are not immigration statuses but are complementary mechanisms and are registered in the Migratory Information Registry (RIM).
  • Authorizations to stay outside the country for 30 days that are granted when immigration procedures for change or extension of immigration statuses are processed can also be granted in procedures for obtaining stay permit cards or immigration regularization.
  • Authorizations to stay outside the country for more than 183 days (or for more than 365 days for holders of permanent immigration status) are granted only for reasons of emergency or force majeure.
  • New conditions are established for the granting of Special Resident Immigration Status for holders of a Temporary Stay Permit Card, and for the extension of this status.
  • A parent or guardian may act as the legal representative of a minor in immigration procedures even if they have an irregular immigration status.
  • A temporary stay permit is granted for up to two years to foreign nationals who are in Peru with an irregular immigration status.  This permit is lost if the holder is absent from Peru for more than 183 consecutive days in a 365-day period.
  • A temporary stay permit card (CPP) is exceptionally extended if it expires up to 30 days after the publication of the modification of the conditions for the Special Resident Immigration Status.

Saudi Arabia: Expansion of e-Visa

The Ministry of Tourism has announced that it will grant e-Visas to visitors from six newly eligible countries: Mauritius, Panama, Türkiye, Thailand, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Seychelles, for leisure, business and religious (Umrah only) travel.  This brings the total number of nationalities eligible for visitor e-Visas to 63.

A visitor e-Visa is also available to holders of valid Schengen, UK and US visas that have been used to enter those countries before arriving in Saudi Arabia, and to permanent residents of EU and GCC countries, the UK and the US.

Saudi Arabia also grants the free 96-hour Stopover Visa, allowing passengers traveling via SAUDIA and Flynas airlines to stay in the country for up to 96 hours for tourism or Umrah before reaching their final destination.

The Ministry of Tourism launched the visitor e-Visa in 2019.

Visa rules reminder:

The General Directorate of Passports is urging all holders of visit visas currently in the Saudi Arabia to follow the visa regulations and extend their visa validity electronically at least seven days before the expiration date, eliminating the need to visit a Passports office.

To extend a single visit visa, the Passports Directorate recommends using the services of the Ministry of Interior’s electronic platform Absher (individuals, businesses) or the Muqeem electronic portal. The host can access their account on these platforms and pay the service fees to extend the visit. It is important to note that the visa holder must meet the medical insurance requirements, and the maximum extension period for a visit visa is 180 days.

In cases where the extension request cannot be completed electronically for any reason, the visitor can submit a request through the communication service on the Absher platform. The General Directorate of Passports will study and process the request, and the beneficiary will receive a notification via text message regarding the status of their request.

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