Global immigration news

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

China: Visa-free entry for Irish nationals

On 17 January 2024, after a meeting between Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Chinese Premier Li Qiang, the government of China announced that it will apply a unilateral visa-free policy to Ireland,

In November 2023, China allowed citizens from five European nations including France, Germany and Italy to enter the country without a visa. On 15 January 2024, China also announced a unilateral visa-free policy for nationals of Switzerland.

Finland: Residence permits for temporary protection to be extended

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migris) will extend all residence permits granted on the basis of temporary protection until 4 March 2025.

Migris will send the holder a letter when they have extended a permit on the basis of temporary protection. If Migris has their phone number, they will also receive a text message stating that their permit has been extended.

Migris recommends that holders of residence permits granted on the basis of temporary protection apply via the online service for a new residence permit card after their permit has been extended.

However, it is legal for them to stay in Finland even if they do not apply for a new card. All residence permit cards issued on the basis of temporary protection are valid, even if their last day of validity is 4 March 2023 or 4 March 2024. The right to work on the basis of temporary protection will also be valid until 4 March 2025.

Germany: New flexibilities for Israeli nationals

The Ministry of the Interior has announced that Israeli nationals who are currently residing in Germany can remain in the country until 26 April 2024 without having to apply for a residence permit or an extension to their visa-free stay.

Usually, Israeli nationals can stay in Germany for up to 90 days without a visa. From 26 January to 26 April 2024, they will now be exempt from the requirement for a residence permit to stay. The ordinance was promulgated in the Federal Law Gazette on 22 January 2024 and will enter into force on 26 January 2024. It will apply retroactively from 7 October 2023.

Hungary: Measures to control foreign worker numbers

The Hungarian government has announced that only up to 65,000 guest worker permits and employment residence permits can be issued in 2024.  This is significantly lower than the quota of 81,000 which could have been allowed, based on the average number of vacant positions over the previous four quarters.

The government has also defined a list of approximately 300 occupations for which guest worker permits cannot be issued.

Pause in application processing:

Meanwhile, applications for a residence permit or for an interim/a national/an EU residence card (former interim/national/EC permanent residence permits) may not be submitted between 1 January 2024 and 29 February 2024.

The processing of applications for a residence permit or for a permanent residence permit submitted before 1 January 2024 will be suspended between 1 January 2024 and 29 February 2024 and the authorities will not make a decision on these applications. Attaching a supporting document to a pending application is available.

After 29 February 2024, the authorities will continue to process applications submitted by 31 December 2023 and take a decision in accordance with the legislation in force at the time of submission of the given application; submitting a separate application for this purpose is not required.

The validity of residence permits and permanent residence permits expiring between 1 January 2024 and 29 February 2024 will be extended until 30 April 2024. For this purpose, no further actions are required to be taken by the persons concerned; neither to appear at the Client Service Offices nor to submit an application. No separate certificate will be issued on the extension of the validity of the documents. The provision on the extension of the documents concerned allows for legal residence in Hungary. However holders of expiring residence documents may have trouble re-entering Hungary from another Schengen country during this period.

During the period from 1 January 2024 to 29 February 2024, administration of only the following types of cases will be available:

  • Submitting biometric data for applications submitted electronically by 31 December 2023;
  • applications for the replacement or substitution of a document;
  • extension of an expiring certificate entitling its holder to temporary residence;
  • extension of the validity of an immigration permit document;
  • applications of EEA nationals for the issuance of a registration certificate or for a permanent residence card;
  • applications of family members of EEA nationals for the issuance or extension of a residence card or a long-term residence card.

India: PIO card validity extended again

The government has extended the deadline for converting Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards to 31 December 2024.  Until this date, PIO cardholders can use their cards as valid travel documents.

The deadline has been repeatedly postponed since 2015.

New Zealand: 2024 opening dates for capped Working Holiday Schemes (WHS)

The table linked here outlines the date each scheme will open, as well as how many places are available in each scheme for 2024.

Once each scheme opens, applications will be open until the quota is filled. Once the quota is filled, the scheme will close until 2025.

Working holiday schemes that still have places left from 2023 will remain open until the quota is reached. The quota will then reset on the 2024 opening date.

Vietnam Working Holiday Scheme:

In 2022, New Zealand and Vietnam agreed changes to increase the Vietnam WHS cap from 100 to 200.

A date for when the scheme will open for 2024 is yet to be confirmed. Work is under way to have formal agreements in place to allow these changes to be implemented.

Singapore: Mutual 30-Day Visa-Exemption Arrangement with China

The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) of Singapore has announced that, effective 9 February 2024, holders of ordinary passports issued by China will be exempted from visa requirements for a stay of up to 30 days in Singapore. There will be no refund of the visa processing fee for those who had earlier submitted an application.

Similarly, holders of ordinary passports issued by Singapore will be exempted from visa requirements for a stay of up to 30 days in China. This reciprocal visa exemption arrangement was announced at the 19th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation on 7 December 2023, and subsequently affirmed through an exchange of diplomatic notes between Singapore and China.

Under long-standing agreements, holders of diplomatic, public affairs and service passports issued by China are exempted from visa requirements for a stay of up to 30 days in Singapore.

Holders of all other travel documents issued by China must continue to apply for an entry visa before travel into Singapore.

United States: Updated guidance on untimely filed extension of stay and change of status requests

On 24 January 2024, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced an update to its Policy Manual providing that USCIS, in its discretion and under certain conditions, may excuse a nonimmigrant’s failure to timely file an extension of stay or change of status request if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or petitioner.

The update clarifies that extraordinary circumstances may include, but are not limited to, where the delay was due to a slowdown or stoppage of work involving a strike, lockout, or other labour dispute, or where the primary reason for the late filing is the inability to obtain a certified labour condition application or temporary labour certification due to a lapse in government funding supporting those certifications.

This Policy Manual update addresses a commitment made in the report by the H-2B Worker Protection Task. The report requires that DHS clarify that a worker who has remained in the United States after the expiration of their period of admission identified in their Form I-94 due to a workplace labour dispute will not be negatively affected solely for these reasons when applying for a subsequent visa or a change of immigration status.

While USCIS does not issue visas, it does adjudicate extension of stay and change of status requests. Generally, certain nonimmigrants present in the United States who are admitted for a specified period, or their petitioners, may request an extension of their admission period in order to continue to engage in those activities permitted under the nonimmigrant classification in which they were admitted. Also, certain nonimmigrants present in the United States, or their petitioners, may seek to change their status to another nonimmigrant classification if they meet certain requirements.

In general, USCIS does not approve an extension of stay or change of status for a person who failed to maintain the previously accorded status or where such status expired before the filing date of the application or petition. If certain conditions are met, however, USCIS, in its discretion, may excuse the failure to file before the period of authorized stay expired.

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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