What's new in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Australia, Canada, China, Finland, Iceland, Kuwait, Oman and the Philippines.

Australia: ImmiAccount security enhancements

From 31 January 2024, all new and existing users of ImmiAccount must verify their email address. This first phase of security enhancements is designed to better protect ImmiAccount users.

Existing users with an unverified email address must verify or update their email address when they next log in.

New users must verify their email address when they create an ImmiAccount. They must ensure their email address meets the security requirements.  This change will ensure all active users in ImmiAccount have a valid email address linked to their account.

Canada: Ban on foreign ownership of Canadian housing extended

The government has announced that its ban on foreign ownership of Canadian housing is to be extended for a further two years.

The ban, originally introduced on 1 January 2023, was originally set to expire on 1 January 2025 but will now be extended until 1 January 2027.  Foreign commercial enterprises and people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents will continue to be prohibited from purchasing residential property in Canada.

China: Rules for entry to Hainan Province loosened for some nationalities

On 9 February 2024, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) announced that, effective immediately, nationals of certain countries can enter Hainan Province visa free for up to 30 days for purposes including commercial activities and trade, visit and exchange, and family reunions, receiving medical treatment, attending exhibitions and taking part in sporting events, excluding long-term work and study.

The eligible countries are as follows:

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

Foreign nationals who need to enter Hainan for the aforementioned purposes can enter through any open port in the province and remain in the province’s administrative area during their stay period (subject to the relevant provisions of any mutual visa exemption agreement, if applicable).

Each entry period is calculated from 00:00 on the day following the day of entry.

Finland: No more service point visits for child applications

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) has announced that children (aged under 18 years) are no longer required to visit a service point when applying for an extended permit, a new residence permit card or a new residence card via the Enter Finland account of their parent or guardian.

The parent or guardian must use strong identity authentication to access Enter Finland and must include the child’s customer number when completing the child’s application.

To avoid having to visit a service point, the application must be for one of the following reasons:

  • The card will expire soon;
  • The card is lost or stolen;
  • The card is so worn out that the information on it is unreadable;
  • A passport containing a residence permit sticker is about to expire.

Iceland: Increased financial support requirement

The Directorate of Immigration has announced that, effective 15 February 2024, the amount an individual residence permit or citizenship applicant is required to show they have to support themselves is raised from ISK 217,799 to ISK 239,895 per month. The amount for married couples is raised from ISK 348,476 to ISK 383,832 per month.

The amounts refer to pre-tax income and apply to applications received from 15 February 2024.

Kuwait: Expanded family visa

Effective 28 January 2024, the government has resumed the issuance of family residence visas.

Eligibility has also been expanded to include the dependent spouse and children of foreign national residents who have a minimum salary of KD 800 (up from KD 550 before these visas were suspended in 2022). The minimum salary requirement may be waived for applications for children aged up to five years whose parents are both resident in Kuwait.

Other family members of the principal applicant are not currently eligible for family residence visas.

The principal applicant must also have a university degree corresponding to their field of work in Kuwait. Certain professions are exempt from this requirement:

  • Advisors, judges, prosecutors, experts, and legal researchers in the government sector;
  • Medical professionals, including doctors and pharmacists;
  • University, college, and higher institute professors;
  • School administrators, vice principals, education mentors, teachers, social workers, and laboratory attendants in the government sector;
  • Financial and economic advisors in universities;
  • Engineers;
  • Imams, preachers, and muezzins in mosques;
  • Librarians in government agencies and private universities;
  • Ministry of Health staff, including nurses, paramedics, medical technicians, and social service workers;
  • Social workers and psychologists in the government sector;
  • Journalism, media professionals, and correspondents;
  • Sports coaches and athletes in federations and clubs;
  • Pilots and flight attendants;
  • Professionals overseeing burial preparations and services.

Family residence visa applications must be submitted within Kuwait after arrival on an entry visa, and the process must be completed within two months of entry.  This visa does not permit employment.

Kuwait: Visit visas resumed

On 5 February 2024, the Ministry of the interior announced the resumption of visit visas for family , commercial and tourist purposes, effective 7 February 2024.

A family visit visa is issued to the parents, spouse or children of foreign national workers earning a monthly salary of at least KD 400, and to other relatives if the foreign national worker earns at least KD 800 per month.

A commercial visit visa can be issued at the request of a Kuwaiti company or institution to foreign nationals with university or technical qualifications, for purposes in line with the company’s field of activity.

A tourist visit visa can be issued to nationals of 53 countries either directly on arrival at the port of entry or online via the Ministry of Interior website (the list of eligible nationalities is also at this link).

The tourist visit visa can also be issued to residents of Gulf Cooperation Council countries with professions specified in the Ministerial Resolution no. 2030/2008 and its amendments.

Finally, the tourist visit visa can be issued by hotels and companies connected to the Residency Affairs Department’s system.

Oman: New Wages Protection System deadline

On 14 January 2024, the Ministry of Labour of Oman announced that small and micro companies must register in the Wages Protection System (WPS) within 55 days. The registration period for large and medium companies has already passed.

The Wages Protection System (WPS) is an electronic salary transfer system that allows companies in Oman to pay workers’ wages through banks or financial institutions approved and authorized to provide the service.

In July 2023, the government issued a decree requiring private sector employers to transfer workers’ wages to locally licensed banks within seven days of the due date and giving large and medium size companies six months to implement the new rules.

The employer must update employment contracts with the Ministry when there is any change in the wages of the workers, and these contracts must specify the actual wage that the worker receives.

The decree allows certain exemptions from the requirements for labour disputes, unjustified resignations, new employees and employees on unpaid leave.

Violations of the WPS requirements can lead to administrative penalties including a warning, suspension from work permit services and a fine of OMR 50, which can be doubled.

Philippines: Medical clearance requirement lifted

On 1 February 2024 the Bureau of Immigration announced that Bureau of Quarantine medical clearance is no longer required for nationals of 53 countries listed in annex A of BI Operations Order No. SBM-2014-059 for any of the visa applications listed in annex B of the same order.

The 2014 order was a response to an Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

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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