Latest updates in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Canada, New Zealand and Singapore.

Canada: Post-graduation work permit (PGWP) update

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has confirmed that the previously-announced new, longer, three-year post-graduation work permit (PGWP) is now available to those who are graduating from a master’s degree program that is less than two years and who meet all other PGWP eligibility criteria.

The length of PGWPs for programs other than master’s degrees will continue to align with the length of the study program, to a maximum of three years.

Graduates of programs that are at least two years in length at PGWP-eligible designated learning institutions are eligible for a three-year PGWP, as are graduates of master’s degree programs less than two years in length.

Canada: New visa application centre in Portugal

On 19 February 2024, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced the opening of a new Canada visa application centre (VAC) in Lisbon, Portugal on 26 February 2024.  Applicants can make an appointment as of 12 February 2024.

VACs are managed by private companies that have contracts with the Government of Canada. Their primary role is to accept documents required in the visa application process, securely transmit them to IRCC offices and provide biometric collection services. VAC service agents are available by phone, email or in person to answer questions in local languages and to help make sure that applications are complete.

Portuguese citizens visiting Canada for up to six months typically only need an electronic travel authorization. Those who plan to visit or study for longer than six months or to work in Canada are required to apply for a visa and a study or work permit.

With the opening of the Lisbon VAC, applicants in Portugal will no longer need to travel outside of the country. Non-Portuguese citizens living in Portugal who need a visa to come to Canada can also access services at the Lisbon VAC.

New Zealand: Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) threshold to increase

The New Zealand minimum wage will increase on 1 April 2024. This means that the wage threshold for all Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers will also increase to align with the new minimum wage.

RSE workers must be paid at the New Zealand minimum wage plus 10 percent. This means that from 1 April 2024 employers in this sector must pay workers NZD$25.47 per hour to ensure that RSE remuneration continues to increase in line with the minimum wage.

Currently, RSE workers are required to be paid a minimum of NZD$24.97 per hour for actual hours worked.

Employers who fail to update wages in line with the new minimum hourly wage would breach their Agreement to Recruit (ATR) commitments.

If a worker transfers from one RSE employer to another, the new employment agreement must also comply with minimum pay.

New Zealand: New wage thresholds imminent

Immigration New Zealand has confirmed that Wage thresholds for the Skilled Migrant Category, the Green List Straight to Residence and Work to Residence visas, and the Parent Category residence class visa will increase in line with the median wage (NZD 31.61 an hour) on 28 February 2024.

The wage threshold for the Transport Sector Work to Residence Visa will also increase in line with the new median wage (excluding bus drivers).

This increase does not apply to the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV), which the Government signalled in December will remain at the current rate of NZD 29.66 an hour.

For consistency the pause also applies to AEWV-linked work visas that are either set at or indexed to the median wage rate from February 2023 (NZD 29.66 an hour) including:

  • the Partner of a Worker Work Visa
  • variation of conditions for AEWVs, legacy Essential Skills work visas, interim visas granted under the Skilled Migrant Category, and Partner of a Worker work visas
  • Subsequent Migrant Exploitation Protection Visas.

This pause allows time for decisions to be taken on alternatives to the median wage threshold to ensure it is attracting the workers New Zealand needs and filling genuine skill shortages.

Migrants who already hold an AEWV which is paid at the paused wage rate (NZD 29.66 an hour) may continue to accrue work experience for Skilled Residence, despite the increase in wage requirements. However, they will need to have a job or job offer that meets the skilled residence pathway rate in line with the median wage at the time that they apply.

Migrants who do not yet hold an AEWV and are looking to apply for one of the Skilled Residence pathways in the future should note that to meet eligibility they will be required to meet the higher threshold (NZD 31.61 an hour) rather than the lower one they need for an AEWV.

We use median wage data published by Stats NZ:

  • NZD 29.66 an hour reflects the June 2022 quarter
  • NZD 31.61 an hour reflects the June 2023 quarter.

All sector agreements and exemptions to the median wage will also remain in place with current wage rates until further decisions are taken on the use of the median wage under the AEWV.

The expiry of the tourism and hospitality wage exemption and the transport sector agreement have been delayed.

Singapore: Local Qualifying Salary will increase

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) of Singapore has announced that, effective 1 July 2024, the Local Qualifying Salary (LQS) will increase from SGD 1400 per month to SGD 1600 per month.

The LQS determines the number of local employees who can be used to calculate a firm’s Work Permit and S Pass quota entitlement. It ensures that local workers are employed meaningfully, rather than on token salaries for firms to access to foreign workers, and was previously known as the Full-Time Equivalent salary.

A Singaporean or Permanent Resident employee employed under a contract of service, including the company’s director, is counted as:

  • 1 local worker if they earn the LQS;
  • 0.5 local worker if they earn at least half the LQS but less than the LQS.

Since 1 September 2022, firms employing foreign employees (e.g., Work Permit, S Pass or Employment Pass holders) are required to pay:

  • Progressive Wages (PWs) to local employees covered by the relevant Sectoral or Occupational PWs;
  • At least the LQS to all other local employees not covered under the PWs.

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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