What's new in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Denmark, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy and the United States.

Denmark: New short-term work permit exemption

According to Danish business groups, from 17 November 2023, a new rule issued by the Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration will exempt non-EU/EEA nationals employed by an intra-company group from requiring a work permit for two separate 15-day periods within a 180-day period.

  • The employee must leave Denmark for at least 14 days between the two 15-day periods.
  • The company in Denmark must have a minimum of 50 employees.
  • Temporary workers from an agency abroad are not eligible for the exemption.
  • Skilled and unskilled work is not covered by the exemption in the following industries:
    • building and construction
    • agriculture, forestry and horticulture
    • cleaning (including window cleaning)
    • hotel and restaurant
    • road freight transportation
  • However, the exemption does apply to highly-skilled and managerial workers in the above-mentioned industries.

Hong Kong: Talent Engage office opens

The Hong Kong Talent Engage (HKTE) office opened in Hong Kong on 30 October 2023.  Following the launch of the Hong Kong Talent Engage (HKTE) online platform last year, the physical office will provide support for incoming talents and follow up with their development and needs after arrival.

The office will also partner with different organizations as well as the Dedicated Teams for Attracting Businesses & Talents under the Government’s Mainland and overseas offices, to get the needed information and services for the incoming talent.

In 2024, the government will organize 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.

Israel: Visa extensions for hotel workers

On 7 November 2023, the Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA) announced an automatic three-month extension of the visas and work permits of all foreign nationals in the hotel sector who are in Israel and whose work permit has expired or will expire before 31 December 2023.  The extended visas and work permits are now valid until 31 March 2024.

At the end of this period, and if no further notice of extension is published, these permit holders must file applications to the Foreign Worker Administration of PIBA to extend their visas and employment permits, according to the usual procedures.

Italy: Start date for new EU Blue Card rules

The decree which transposes EU Directive 2021/1883 into Italian law, and introduces new rules for the entry and residence of highly qualified foreign nationals under the EU Blue Card scheme, was published in the official gazette of 2 November 2023.  The new rules will enter into force on 17 November 2023.

Under the new rules:

  • Applications for unregulated professions now require a two-year university degree, or post-secondary professional qualifications of at least two years, or five years of relevant professional experience (or three years of relevant professional experience for information technology managers and specialists. Previously, a three-year university degree was always required.
  • Beneficiaries of international protection and seasonal workers are now entitled to apply for an EU Blue Card.
  • A job offer of at least six months is required, with an annual salary not lower than that established by national collective agreements. Previously, a job offer for at least one year was required, with a minimum salary at least three times the minimum wage.
  • During the first 12 months of legal employment (rather than 24 months as previously), the EU Blue Card holder is restricted in terms of changing employer and carrying out works not fulfilling the criteria for admission.
  • An EU Blue Card holder can now conduct self-employed work alongside their highly-skilled employment. This was not previously permitted.
  • A holder of an EU Blue Card issued by another EU member state can enter Italy and stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period to work. Previously only business activities were allowed.
  • A holder of an EU Blue Card issued by another EU member state can enter Italy without a visa and stay for work for more than 90 days if they have been legally resident in the issuing state for at least 12 months (previously 18 months).

United States: Additional H-2B visas made available

On 11 November 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would make available an additional 64,716 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024.

This is a supplement to the congressionally mandated 66,000 H-2B visas available every fiscal year.  These additional H-2B visas represent the maximum permitted under the September 2023 Fiscal Year 2024 Continuing Resolution.

The H-2B supplemental is expected to include an allocation of 20,000 visas to workers from Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, and Honduras.

In addition to the 20,000 country-specific allocation, 44,716 supplemental visas would be available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa, or were otherwise granted H-2B status, during one of the last three fiscal years. The regulation would allocate these supplemental visas for returning workers between the first half and second half of the fiscal year to account for the need for additional seasonal and other temporary workers over the course of the year, with a portion of the second half allocation reserved to meet the demand for workers during the peak summer season.

The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labour or services in the United States. The employment must be of a temporary nature, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, or intermittent need. Employers seeking H-2B workers must take a series of steps to test the US labour market. They must obtain certification from DOL that there are not enough US workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to perform the temporary work for which they seek a prospective foreign worker, and that employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed US workers.

The maximum period of stay in H-2B classification is three years. A person who has held H-2B nonimmigrant status for a total of three years must depart and remain outside of the United States for an uninterrupted period of three months before seeking readmission as an H-2B nonimmigrant.

The forthcoming temporary final rule implementing this allocation is expected to feature several provisions to protect both U.S. and H-2B workers.  Additional details on H-2B program safeguards, as well as eligibility and filing requirements, will be available in the temporary final rule when published and on the USCIS webpage.

United States: Bolivia added to list of eligible H-2A and H-2B countries

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Department of State (DOS), has announced the lists of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs in the next year. The notice listing the eligible countries was published in the Federal Register on 9 November 2023.

Effective 9 November 2023, DHS and DOS have added Bolivia to the list of countries eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs.

The H-2A and H-2B visa programs allow US employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural and nonagricultural jobs, respectively. Typically, USCIS approves H-2A and H-2B petitions only for nationals of countries that the secretary of homeland security has designated as eligible to participate in the programs. However, USCIS may approve H-2A and H-2B petitions, including those that were pending as of the date of publication of the Federal Register Notice, for nationals of countries not on the lists on a case-by-case basis only if doing so is determined to be in the interest of the United States.

This notice does not affect the status of H-2 beneficiaries who currently are in the United States unless they apply to extend their stay in H-2 status on the basis of a petition filed on or after the date of publication of the Federal Register Notice. Similarly, this notice would not affect the eligibility of an H-2 beneficiary to apply for an H-2 visa and/or seek admission to the United States based on an H-2 petition approved prior to the date of publication of the Federal Register Notice. It does apply to nonimmigrants changing status in the United States to H-2A or H-2B. Each country’s designation is valid from 9 November 2023, until 8 November 2024.

United States: New filing locations for premium processing form

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin transitioning the filing location for Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing, when filed with Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, from the service centres to the relevant USCIS lockbox (as listed here) on 13 November 2023.

This change in filing location does not apply for applicants filing Form I-907 for a currently pending Form I-140, or for those filing Form I-140 with an associated application (such as Form I-765, Form I-131, or Form I-485). USCIS will soon announce filing location changes for these forms, but at this time, they should be filed with the service centres, as listed on the Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker page.

Starting 13 December 2023, USCIS will reject any Form I-907 filed with Form I-140 that is received at the previous service centre address.

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