Latest updates in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

Australia: Pandemic Event visa has closed

Effective 1 February 2024, the Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408) Australian Government endorsed events (COVID-19 Pandemic event) visa closed to new applicants.

The Australian Government introduced the Pandemic Event visa in April 2020 to allow 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.

Now that Australia’s borders are open and temporary visa holder numbers in Australia have returned to pre-COVID-19 levels, the Pandemic Event visa is no longer required.

Visa holders should ensure they remain lawful if they wish to stay in Australia and are encouraged to use the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) system to check their visa conditions and visa validity. Individuals who remain in Australia without a valid visa risk being detained and removed. They may also incur a debt to the Australian Government for the cost of their removal. 

The Department will continue to process all visa applications received before 1 February 2024.

Canada: Extension of permanent residence programme for out-of-status construction workers in Greater Toronto

The policy making available permanent residence for construction workers (and their family members) in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) who have fallen out of status has been extended for another six months until 2 July 2024.

All existing program criteria remain the same, including the cap of 1000 principal applicants. More information about the policy is available here.

China / Thailand: Mutual visa exemption agreement

On 28 January 2024, the governments of China and Thailand signed an agreement on mutual visa exemption.

The agreement, which will enter into force on 1 March 2024, allows ordinary passport holders from each country to enter the other country for a stay of up to 30 days for tourism, business or family visit (with a maximum cumulative stay of 90 days in 180 days).

In January 2024, China also announced unilateral visa waivers for nationals of Ireland and Switzerland; and in November 2023, China allowed citizens from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia to enter the country without a visa for a trial period until November 2024.

France: New immigration law published

On 27 January 2024, France’s new immigration law took effect.

The principle changes affecting work immigration include:

  • A new residence permit for health care professionals;
  • French language proficiency requirements for certain residence categories;
  • Limited renewals in certain residence categories;
  • Stricter family reunification rules;
  • A temporary (until the end of 2026), new, one-year (renewable) residence permit category for foreign workers in France who are undocumented and have been resident in France for at least three years, and employed for at least 12 of the previous 24 months. This category regularizes certain undocumented workers and allows them to work in sectors and areas which are experiencing labour shortages.

A clause providing British nationals owning a second-home in France with an automatic long-stay visa was rejected by the Constitutional Court on 25 January 2024, along with 31 other provisions of the new law.

France: Nationality application now online

Effective 6 February 2024, foreign nationals can apply directly for French nationality online.

It is no longer necessary to travel to the prefectural office to submit an application, or to send the application by post.

Applicants can track the progress of their application online and upload any additional documents supporting required.  It will only be necessary to appear in person for an integration interview during processing, and for the welcome ceremony if the application is successful.

Germany: New nationality law passed

On 19 January 2024, the German parliament passed a law to modernise the German Nationality Act.  The legislation is expected to come into force at the beginning of the second quarter of 2024.

The key changes under the new law are as follows:

  • Multi-nationality is generally possible: Naturalization applicants no longer have to give up their previous nationality during naturalization, unless this is required under the nationality law of the country of origin. German nationals who acquire a different nationality can also easily retain their German nationality. A retention permit is no longer required.
  • Naturalization is accelerated: Instead of after eight years, people will be able to obtain German citizenship after five years.
  • Special performance is rewarded: With “special integration services” naturalization is possible after only three years.
  • Eased Ius-soli purchase: All children of foreign parents born in Germany will acquire German citizenship in the future and can retain the nationality of their parents if at least one parent has been legally living in Germany for more than five years and has a permanent right of residence. The option regulation is completely eliminated and the pre-stay period of the relevant parent is shortened from eight to five years.
  • Life performance of the guest worker generation is recognized: Proof of oral language skills is sufficient for naturalization and no naturalization test is necessary.

Ireland: Introduction of email application form for Reactivation Employment Permit Scheme

From 1 February 2024, Domestic Residence will accept applications for Reactivation Employment Permit Scheme via

Applicants should use this application form. It is important that applicants read the qualifying criteria before submitting an application.

The Reactivation Employment Permit scheme is operated by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE).   Reactivation Employment Permits are designed to provide a pathway to re-employment for non-EEA nationals who entered the State on a valid Employment Permit but who fell out of the system through no fault of their own or who has been badly treated or exploited in the workplace.

Either the foreign national or the employer can apply for a Reactivation Employment Permit and the Employment Permit is issued to the foreign national, and a certified copy sent to the employer, which permits his or her employment in the State, by the employer, in the occupation and location/s specified on the permit.

Italy: Foreign worker “click days” postponed

On 29 January 2024, the government announced the postponement of the opening days (“click days”) for the submission of applications to hire foreign workers under the 151,000 quotas authorized by the government for 2024 through the flows decree (“decreto flussi”).

A Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers has amended the calendar of click days (initially scheduled for 5, 7 and 12 February 2024) for the different types of workers as follows:

  • from 18 March 2024, applications can be sent for non-seasonalemployees who are citizens of countries that have cooperation agreements with Italy;
  • from 9:00 am on 21 March 2024, applications can be sent for other non-seasonalemployees (also in the family and social and social assistance sector);
  • from 9:00 am on 25 March 2024, applications for seasonal workers can be sent.

For 2024, the 151,000 quotas are to be allocated as follows:

  • 89,050 quotas for seasonal work in agriculture, hospitality and tourism, reserved to certain nationalities;
  • 61,250 for non-seasonal work as an employee;
  • 700 quotas for self-employment.

Netherlands: Visa-exempt nationals can stay for 90 days beyond their residence permit

Effective 15 February 2024, visa-exempt nationals are permitted to remain in the Netherlands for up to 90 days immediately after the expiry of their residence permit. It will no longer be necessary to first leave the Schengen area.

The foreign national does not have to submit an application for the 90-day visa-exempt period, but must meet all the requirements for a short-stay visa.

This new benefit does not apply if the foreign national’s residence permit has been withdrawn or if a return decision has been issued.

The sponsor (i.e., employer, spouse, parent) of the holder of the expired residence permit is responsible for any costs of returning to the country of origin for up to one year after expiry or cancellation.

Netherlands: Termination of temporary protection for third-country nationals from Ukraine

The Dutch immigration authorities (IND) have announced that non-Ukrainians with a temporary Ukrainian residence permit will receive a letter from the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). In this letter the IND informs the third-country nationals about the consequences of stopping temporary protection for this group after 4 March 2024.

The IND will send three different letters to three different groups. These letters include more information about appeal and other court proceedings, reception, assistance with return and the residence document.

Return decision:

The largest group of third-country nationals have no other permit to reside in the Netherlands, nor do they have an asylum or regular residence permit process in progress. The letter they will receive tells them, among other things, that temporary protection will end for them on 4 March 2024. Until that time they can make use of assistance with leaving the Netherlands by the Repatriation and Departure Service (DT&V). After 4 March 2024, they will no longer be allowed to work and they will have a time of 28 days to depart. This means that they will be allowed to stay in the municipal reception centre up to and including 1 April 2024.

The IND will also inform these third-country nationals that the former return decision dated 4 September 2023 will be withdrawn. Anyone who has appealed against this will have their legal costs reimbursed. They will receive a new return decision before 4 March.

Going through the asylum process:

Third-country nationals with a current asylum process will not receive a return decision. They are allowed to wait for the decision on their asylum application in the Netherlands. The IND will inform them in early February 2024 that the Service will continue processing their asylum applications after 4 March 2024. They are allowed to work under the normal requirements belonging to an asylum process.

Regular residence:

A small number of third-country nationals have a different right of residency, for example a regular residence permit. At the beginning of February 2024, they will receive a letter from the IND about the consequences of the termination. They will be allowed to reside in the Netherlands under the conditions of their permit, as long as it is valid.

Residence documents:

The residence pass (Type O) of all third country nationals for whom the TPD will end will no longer be valid after 4 March 2024. Anyone who has applied and still does not have a Foreign Nationals Identity Document (Type W) can pick this up at an IND desk. They can also surrender their old Type O passes there.

New Zealand: Permanent Resident Visa applications now online

As of 29 January 2024, the applications for the Permanent Resident Visa (PRV), Second or Subsequent Resident Visa (SSRV) and Variation of Travel Conditions of a resident visa (VOTC) are online.

Applicants must apply for these visas online and will be able to see the status of their application online.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will only accept paper applications in special circumstances or if an exception applies.

Applicants must have held their resident visa for at least two years to be eligible for permanent residence. If they were outside New Zealand when their resident visa was issued, their first day in New Zealand on their resident visa must have been at least two years ago. Applicants can check the Permanent Resident Visa page for the full list of criteria.

If an application is incomplete or missing supporting documents it may be delayed.

If the applicant submits an application before they are eligible, it is likely that it will be declined, and they will need to re-apply once they have met all of the eligibility criteria. They will also need to pay another processing fee.

Other permanent resident visa types, such as the Global Impact Permanent Resident Visa, and the Afghan Emergency Resettlement Permanent Resident Visa are not being moved online at this time. Eligible applicants for these visas should continue to use the paper form. More information is available here.

Poland: Business Harbour Programme suspended

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has suspended its participation in the Poland.Business Harbour Programme until solutions are in place that guarantee proper verification of its beneficiary companies and foreigners.

The programme was launched in 2020 to encourage IT professionals and companies from Belarus to work in Poland, and was later extended to include Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.  As of September 2022, it included a Business Path designed for strategic sector companies from across the world.

According to the MFA, the programme has failed to achieve its goals, and there have been concerns about the misuse of visas issued under the programme.

Foreign national IT specialists can still apply for a work visa.  The MFA says that it will start work on streamlined visa procedures for applicants from high-demand industries.

Saudi Arabia: Three-year entry ban lifted

Effective 16 January 2024, the Saudi General Directorate of Passports (Jawazat) has lifted the three-year entry ban on foreign workers who did not return to Saudi Arabia before their exit and re-entry vidsas expired.

Jawazat notified various Saudi departments and ports of entry of its decision to amend this policy.

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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