What's new in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Austria, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Nigeria and the United States.

Austria / United States: New working holiday program established

On 20 February 2024, Austria and the United States signed a Professional Development and Cultural Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a Working Holiday Program (WHP).

The exchange program promotes mutual understanding by offering young Austrian and U.S. citizens the opportunity to get to know the culture, everyday life and working world in the other country. Young people between the ages of 18 and 30 can (co-)finance their stay of up to 12 months by taking up paid employment and using the educational facilities in the partner country.

Austrian citizens, between 18 and 30 years of age who are enrolled in or recently graduated from an Austrian-accredited post-secondary or a dual/vocational education program will be eligible to participate.  Similarly, United States citizens aged 18 to 30 years of age who have recently graduated from a United States degree, diploma, or certificate granting educational institution will be eligible.  The United States is expanding educational exchange opportunities, enabling post-secondary or vocational education students to participate alongside students from colleges and universities.

Bahrain: Visit visas can no longer convertible without a sponsor

On 12 February 2024, the Ministry of Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs (NPRA) announced that visit visa holders are no longer allowed to convert to a work or dependent visa without a sponsor.

Moreover, the fee for converting a visit visa to a dependent or work visa has increased from BD 60 to BD 250, and the sponsor for the conversion application must be the same sponsor as for the original visit visa.

Canada: New entry requirements for Mexican nationals

Effective 29 February 2024 at 11:30 pm Eastern time, Mexican citizens who hold a valid US non-immigrant visa or have held a Canadian visa in the past 10 years and are travelling by air on a Mexican passport will be able to apply for an electronic travel authorization (eTA).

Those who do not meet these conditions will need to apply for a Canadian visitor visa.

All eTAs issued to Mexican passports before 11:30 pm Eastern time on 29 February 2024, will no longer be valid, except for eTAs linked to Mexican passports with a valid Canadian work or study permit.

Mexican citizens travelling to Canada without a valid work or study permit will need to apply for a visitor visa or reapply for a new eTA—if they are eligible.

Mexican citizens holding a valid work or study permit can still travel by air to Canada with their existing eTA as long as it remains valid, and they can continue to study or work in Canada based on the validity and conditions of their permit. Mexican visitors who are already in Canada on an eTA can stay for as long as they are authorized (up to six months from the date they arrive in Canada). However, if they plan to leave Canada and wish to return, they must have the proper travel documents (visa or new eTA).

Most approved visa applicants receive multiple-entry visas, which allow them to visit Canada as many times as they want, for up to 10 years, or until their passport expires.

The eTA is a digital travel document that most visa-exempt travellers need in order to travel to or transit through Canada by air. IRCC first began expanding its eTA program to eligible citizens from visa-required countries in 2017. Mexico will now be among 15 countries whose citizens can fly to Canada on an eTA, instead of a visa, if they meet certain requirements.

The application process for Mexican citizens seeking a work or study permit will not change.

Denmark: Increased flexibility for certified companies

The government has proposed a bill introducing more flexible rules for foreign workers in Denmark.  The government has put the bill out for consultation and proposes that it come into force on 1 July 2024.

With the bill, the government will exempt certain foreign workers from the requirement that wages be paid to a Danish bank account. The exception will include the researcher scheme and the fast-track scheme’s pay limit track, researcher track, educational track and short-term track.

In order for foreign nationals to be granted residence through the fast-track scheme, it is a requirement that the company in which they are employed is certified. In order to be certified, a company must, among other things, have at least 10 full-time employees in Denmark, pay and employment conditions must be customary according to Danish conditions, and the company must not have outstanding claims with the Norwegian Working Environment Authority.

For companies that are still subject to the bank account requirement, it is proposed that the time limit for setting up a Danish bank account be extended from 90 days to 180 days.

At the same time, the government will extend the job change rule so that foreign nationals who change their residence without changing jobs are also covered. For example, a foreign national who is currently in Denmark on a one-year residence permit and who would like to switch to the pay limit scheme, which is granted for four years at a time. Would be able to do this without interrupting their current employment while the case is being processed.

The government also proposes to make it possible to extend a stay on the fast-track scheme’s short-term track, as long as the stay in Denmark does not exceed a total of 90 days per year. It is not currently possible to extend a short-term stay. Instead, the foreign national must apply for a new first-time residence permit, and may only continue their work once they have obtained a new provisional work permit.

Denmark: Working holiday quotas for nationals of Argentina and Chile

A new quota period for working holiday residence permits for nationals of Argentina and Chile begins on 1 March 2024.

On that day, the VFS visa application centres in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile open for appointments at 9 am local time (UTC-3).

For the period 1 March 2024 until 31 August 2024, up to 75 residence permits for citizens of Argentina and up to 75 residence permits for citizens of Chile can be granted under the Working Holiday Scheme. Permits are granted on a first come, first served principle.

When the quota of 75 residence permits under the Working Holiday Scheme for both Chilean and Argentinian citizens has been fully used, no more residence permits will be issued until 1 September 2024 when the next quota period begins. Any remaining applications will be rejected and the case processing fee paid to SIRI will be refunded. Any fee paid to the representation in Chile or Argentina will not be refunded if the application is rejected.

Working holidays in Denmark are also available to nationals of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Korea; and Japan.

France: New immigration law takes effect

On 26 January 2024, the new law “controlling immigration while improving integration” was enacted by the President. This law aims to strengthen the integration of foreign citizens in three ways: learning and mastering French, respecting the principles of the Republic, and integration through work.

The changes include:

  • The modification of the designation of the residence permit “talent passport” to “talent residence permit” in order to limit the confusion caused by the use of the word “passport”;
  • The merger of residence permits issued for the purposes of new business, innovative business projects, and business investor into a single residence permit called “innovative business project”.
  • The merger of residence permits issued to young, qualified graduates, employees of an innovative new company and employees on assignment into a single residence permit called “talent-qualified employee”;
  • The creation of a new residence permit for medical professionals called “medical and pharmacy professional talent”;
  • Enhancement of French language learning. Proficiency levels in French are specified for different types of residence permits. Companies are encouraged to contribute to the linguistic training of their foreign employees;
  • A new regularization pathway is introduced for illegal immigrant workers in sectors facing labour shortages;
  • Improvements for issuing residence permits will be based on a comprehensive experimentation of applications. Three regional platforms will be launched for pre-instruction of residence permits and renewal will be simplified through the Digital Administration for Foreign nationals in France by 2025;
  • Sanctions for the employment of foreign workers without proper work permits are increased.

Iceland: Extension of stay for Ukrainian nationals

The Minister of Justice has decided to extend, until 2 March 2025, the period of validity of humanitarian residence permits issued to Ukrainian nationals.

To extend their permit, eligible Ukrainian nationals must have their photo taken for the purpose of obtaining a new plastic card, no earlier than four weeks before the expiration of the current permit and no later than four weeks after its expiration. Photo appointments in Reykjavik can be booked here, or the photos can be taken at the nearest sheriff’s office.

Nigeria: New Expatriate Employment Levy

On 27 February 2024, the government launched the Expatriate Employment Levy (EEL), a new obligatory contribution imposed on employers of foreign national workers in Nigeria.  An EEL handbook was published by the Ministry of Interior.

According to the Interior Ministry, companies can complete registration for their foreign national employees immediately; however, the effective date of implementation of the EEL is 15 March 2024 and the payment portal may not be functional before that date. All employees must be compliant with the EEL by 15 April 2024.   The EEL card must be presented on entry and exit.

The EEL must be paid annually for foreign national workers employed for at least 183 days within a year, in any size of business in any sector or industry.  Those on cross-border assignments or secondments are also liable to pay the EEL if they occupy a quota position.

The EEL is set at USD 15,000 for a director-level position and USD 10,000 for other levels.  Employees will be sanctioned with fines of up to NGN 3,000,000 for failure to submit the EEL on time and other offences.

United States: Premium processing fee change takes effect

As previously announced, US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ new inflation-adjusted premium processing fees took effect on 26 February 2024 , increasing the filing fee for Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing. USCIS published a final rule announcing the change on 28 December 2023.

The USCIS Stabilization Act established the current premium processing fees and the authority for the Department of Homeland Security to adjust the premium fees on a biennial basis. After leaving these fees unchanged for the three years following passage of the Act, DHS is now increasing the premium processing fees USCIS charges for all eligible forms and categories to reflect the amount of inflation from June 2021 until June 2023 according to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. The adjustment increases certain premium processing fees from USD 1500 to USD 1685, USD 1750 to USD 1965, and USD 2500 to USD 2805.

If USCIS receives a Form I-907 postmarked on or after 26 February 2024, with the incorrect filing fee, it will reject the Form I-907 and return the filing fee. For filings sent by commercial courier (such as UPS, FedEx, and DHL), the postmark date is the date reflected on the courier receipt.

DHS will use the revenue generated by the premium processing fee increase to provide premium processing services; make improvements to adjudications processes; respond to adjudication demands, including reducing benefit request processing backlogs; and otherwise fund USCIS adjudication and naturalization services.

Applicants may only request premium processing for a benefit if USCIS has announced on its website that premium processing is available for that benefit.

United States: FY 2025 H-1B Registration Period and myUSCIS Organizational Account Reminders

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reminded its customers about the financial year 2025 (FY 2025) H-1B registration period and the new myUSCIS organizational accounts.

The new organizational accounts, launched on 28 February 2024, allow multiple people within an organization, as well as their legal representatives, to collaborate on and prepare H-1B registrations, H-1B petitions, and any associated Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service. A new organizational account is required to participate in the H-1B Electronic Registration Process, starting in March 2024.

The initial registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap will open at noon (Eastern time) on 6 March 2024, and run until noon (Eastern time) on 22 March 2024. During this period, prospective petitioners and their representatives, if applicable, must use a USCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated registration fee for each beneficiary.

Starting with the FY 2025 initial registration period, USCIS will require registrants to provide valid passport information or valid travel document information for each beneficiary. The passport or travel document provided must be the one the beneficiary, if or when abroad, intends to use to enter the United States if issued an H-1B visa. Each beneficiary must only be registered under one passport or travel document.

In March 2024, USICS will launch online filing of Form I-129 and associated Form I-907 for non-cap H-1B petitions. On April 1, USCIS will begin accepting online filing for H-1B cap petitions and associated Forms I-907 for petitioners whose registrations have been selected.

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.

Share story
Back to top of page