Latest updates in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from China, the European Union, India, Switzerland and the United States.

China: Visa-free pilot

The foreign ministry has announced a unilateral visa waiver for nationals of France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands or Spain entering China for up to 15 days for business, tourism, family visits or transit. The visa-free policy is effective 1 December 2023 until 30 November 2024.

China: Expansion visa-free transit policy

Effective 17 November 2023, China has extended its 72/144-hour transit visa-free policies to visitors from Norway, increasing the number of countries covered by the policies to 54.

The updated list below of eligible countries is as follows:

  • Europe: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine;
  • The Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and the United States;
  • Oceania: Australia and New Zealand;
  • Asia: Brunei, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Qatar, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.

European Union: EU Long-Term Residents Directive

The Council of the EU has agreed its negotiating mandate for updating the EU Long-Term Residents Directive.

This directive, from 2003, sets out the conditions under which third-country nationals can acquire EU long-term resident status. In order to acquire EU long-term resident status, third-country nationals have to legally and continuously reside in a member state for at least five years. This EU status exists alongside national long-term resident schemes.

On the basis of this agreed negotiation mandate, the Council can enter into interinstitutional talks with the European Parliament to conclude a final legal text.

Acquiring long-term resident status:

The Council has agreed that third-country nationals can cumulate residence periods of up to two years in other member states in order to meet the requirements of the five-year residence period. However, in the event of an applicant having resided in another member state, the Council has decided to accept only certain types of legal residence permits, such as holders of EU Blue Cards or residence permits issued for the purpose of highly qualified employment.

Certain conditions will apply in order for applicants to be able to acquire long-term resident status. For instance, third-country applicants must provide evidence of stable and regular resources that are sufficient to maintain themselves and the members of their family, as well as sickness insurance. Member states may also require third-country nationals to comply with integration conditions.

Long-term resident status is permanent. However, it can be withdrawn in certain cases, for instance when a person has not had their main residence in the EU for a certain period of time.

Intra-EU mobility rights:

Unlike national residence systems, EU long-term resident status grants status holders the possibility to move and reside in other EU countries, for instance for work or studies. This right to intra-EU mobility is not automatic but is subject to a number of conditions. Such a condition is that member states may assess the situation of their national labour markets in case an EU long-term resident moves to their country from another EU member state for work.

Equal treatment with EU nationals:

EU long-term residents enjoy the same treatment as nationals with regard to access to employment and self-employment, education and vocational training and tax benefits, for example. There are a number of conditions, such as the requirement that holders of a residence permit live within the territory of the member state concerned.

India: eVisa service resumed for Canadian nationals

Effective 22 November 2023, the consular posts of India in Canada have resumed the eVisa service for all eligible Canadian citizens holding ordinary passports.

On 26 October 2023, suspended in-person visa services resumed at the Indian consular posts in Canada, including for entry, business, medical and conference visas, after “a considered review of the security situation”.

Switzerland: Further extension of safeguard clause for Croatia

On 22 November 2023, the Federal Council decided to extend for another year the safeguard clause provided for in the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) for Croatian nationals coming to work in Switzerland. The number of new work permits for 2024 will remain at the same level as for 2023.

The AFMP concluded with the EU provides for a phased opening of the Swiss labour market to Croatian nationals. Full freedom of movement was introduced on a trial basis in 2022, resulting in a sharp increase in the number of Croatian workers in Switzerland. The Federal Council therefore unilaterally activated the safeguard clause provided for in the AFMP from 1 January to 31 December 2023 and reintroduced permit quotas for Croatian nationals.

Between January and the end of October, Switzerland issued the entire quota of B permits (i.e. 1,204 permits, valid for five years) and 76 per cent of the available 1,053 L permits (i.e. short-term permits, renewable beyond twelve months) for 2023. Given the high demand for permits this year, the Federal Council has decided to extend the safeguard clause for a further year. In 2024, the number of permits issued to workers from Croatia will be capped at the same level as in 2023.

Under the AFMP, the safeguard clause can only be invoked for two consecutive years. Full freedom of movement for Croatian nationals will therefore come back into force again in 2025 on a trial basis. The transitional arrangements for Croatian nationals run over a period of ten years, until 31 December 2026.

Switzerland: New tax agreement with Italy for cross-border commuters

On 10 November 2023, Italy and Switzerland signed a declaration regulating the taxation of home working for cross-border commuters.

According to the declaration, from 1 January 2024 all cross-border commuters as defined in the agreement on cross-border commuters signed in December 2020 will be able to work from home for up to 25% of their working hours, without this affecting either the country which is eligible to collect tax on income from salaried employment or the status of cross-border commuters.

It was also decided to expand the interim solution agreed between the two countries on 20 April 2023. By end-November 2023, the competent authorities of both states will agree on special rules for the taxation of home working for cross-border commuters for the period from 1 February 2023 to 31 December 2023.

Switzerland: New tax agreement with France for cross-border workers

On 22 November 2023, the Swiss Federal Council adopted the dispatch on the approval and implementation of an additional agreement supplementing the double taxation agreement (DTA) with France. The additional agreement regulates in particular the taxation of cross-border remote working of up to 40% of working hours per year.

The additional agreement signed with France on 27 June 2023 regulates the taxation of cross-border remote working of up to 40% of annual working hours. Within the limits, the agreement makes provision for remuneration in connection with remote working to be taxed in the contracting state in which the employer is located. The agreement also envisages that the country of the employer will transfer to the employee’s country of residence 40% of the tax which it has levied on the remuneration from remote working in the country of residence. In order to ensure that the new rules are applied, an automatic exchange of salary data is planned.

The additional agreement also updates other provisions in the double taxation agreement between Switzerland and France. In particular, it brings the double taxation agreement into line with the results of the OECD’s efforts to combat base erosion and profit shifting.

Furthermore, the Federal Council dispatch makes provision for the federal government to contribute around CHF 50 million per year to the equalization payments made annually by the canton of Geneva to two French departments. This will achieve a certain degree of equal treatment with other cantons that have federal rules for the taxation of cross-border commuters.

The cantons and interested business sectors have welcomed the conclusion of the additional agreement. It still has to be approved by the legislator in both countries before it can come into force.

United States: USCIS extends myProgress to Forms I-485 and I-821

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on 21 November 2023 that it is expanding myProgress (formerly known as personalized processing times) to Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, and Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. myProgress will initially only be available for family-based or Afghan special immigrant I-485 applicants.

myProgress provides applicants with access, in their online account, to personalized estimates of their wait time for major milestones and actions on their case, including their final case decision. While estimates are based on case type and historical patterns, they are not a guarantee of timing, and cannot take into consideration all possible unique application processing factors.

In addition to Form I-485 and Form I-821, myProgress is available for applicants with a USCIS online account who file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; Form I-131, Application for Travel Document; Form N-400, Application for Naturalization; Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card; or Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

To view myProgress, applicants must first create a USCIS online account or log into their online account and select their pending application. If they filed online or linked one of the applicable forms to their online account using an online access code, they will see a myProgress tab for their application. The myProgress tab displays the estimated wait time until their case has a decision, along with a checkmark beside milestones as they are completed:

  • Confirmation that the application was received;
  • Movement of the application through preprocessing and adjudicative steps; and
  • Case decision.

Applicants will still need to visit the public Check Case Processing Times webpage to determine if they are eligible to file an Outside of Normal Processing Times service request.

Expert advice on global immigration

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