Global immigration news

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Brazil, China, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Poland, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

Brazil / China: Extended visa agreement

Effective 19 February 2024, China and Brazil have signed an agreement for the reciprocal granting of visas valid for up to ten years for tourism, business or family visits.  The validity limit was previously five years.

The visas allow stays of up to 90 days at a time and up to 180 days in a 12-month period.

China: Unilateral visa-free policy extended to six more countries

The Chinese government has announced the extension of its unilateral visa-free policy to Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg and Switzerland.  Effective 14 March 2024 to 30 November 2024, nationals of these countries holding ordinary passports will be permitted to enter China for up to 15 days for business, tourism, family visits or transit.

In November 2023, China introduced a unilateral visa waiver for nationals of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia.

China also recently signed a mutual visa waiver agreement with Thailand, effective 1 March 2024.

Finland / Canada: New youth mobility agreement

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland have announced that the Canada–Finland Youth Mobility Agreement, signed on 19 May 2023, took effect on 1 March 2024.

This agreement will allow Canadian and Finnish nationals aged 18 to 35 to work and travel in each other’s country.

International Experience Canada (IEC) enables working holidays between Canada and over 35 partner countries.  Citizens of partner countries who do not have a job offer but want to work in more than one location and/or for more than one employer in Canada may qualify for an open work permit.

Finland already has working holiday agreements in place with Australia (2002), New Zealand (2004) and Japan (2023).  An individual applicant may be granted a residence permit on the basis of the agreement once on each of the three grounds (working holiday agreement, work or internship). Each time, a residence permit can be granted for up to a year.

Ireland: Emergency travel provisions for travellers from Dominica, Honduras and Vanuatu

Immigration Service Delivery (ISD) has announced that it will try to accommodate emergency travel for travellers from Dominica, Honduras and Vanuatu who had made plans to travel to Ireland before the new visa requirement came into force on 7 March 2024, and who plan to arrive in Ireland before 7 April 2024 in the following circumstances:

  • A critical medical case involving a family member being seriously ill or undergoing medical treatment. Evidence from the relevant medical institution must be provided;
  • Visiting for a significant family event – a birth, wedding or funeral. Suitable evidence must be provided;
  • Taking up a place obtained in a third-level institution on an undergraduate or post graduate degree course. Evidence must be provided from the relevant institution;
  • Taking up employment and holding an Employment Permit for Ireland. Evidence of the permit issued by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment must be provided;
  • Travelling for business. Confirmation of the arrangements for the visit from the business in question must be provided.

Travellers who may qualify should email with the subject line “VISA IMPOSITION – EMERGENCY TRAVEL REQUIRED”.

All other customers are asked to complete the online visa application form at the following website:

Italy: Quota application forms made available

On 29 February 2024, it became possible to begin prefilling applications for hiring non-EU workers under the quotas authorized by the government for 2024 through the quota decree (“decreto flussi”). The forms are available on the dedicated ALI Portal, along with further instructions, which are also given here.

However, applications cannot be submitted until the relevant “click day”, as follows:

  • from 18 March 2024, applications can be sent for non-seasonal employees 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-seasonal employees (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.

Kuwait: Three-month fingerprinting deadline

The Kuwaiti Ministry of the Interior has given citizens, Gulf Cooperation Council citizens and foreign residents a deadline of 1 June 2024 to register their fingerprints in the national biometric database.   After that date, anyone who has failed to register will be denied access to Ministry of Interior transactions.

Registration centres with biometric scanners have been opened at all border crossings including at Kuwait international airport, and at certain shopping centres. Kuwaitis can also book an appointment through the Meta platform or the Sahel app (Play Store or App Store).

Travellers are permitted to leave Kuwait without registering their fingerprints, as they will be registered on their return.

Poland: New average monthly wage affects EU Blue Card salary threshold

On 9 February 2024, Statistics Poland announced that the average wage in the national economy in 2023 rose to PLN 7155.48.

The minimum salary threshold for foreign nationals applying for an EU Blue Card in Poland is set at 150% of the average wage in the national economy.  This has therefore also increased, by PLN 1214, to PLN 10,733.22 per month.

The new threshold applies to all applications received since 1 January 2024, including those submitted before 9 February 2024.  Therefore, applications submitted between 1 January and 9 February 2024 should be updated with an appropriate salary increase, if necessary.

The threshold increase does not affect EU Blue Cards that have already been issued.

Singapore: Foreign workforce policy updates

On 4 March 2024, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) set out upcoming foreign workforce policy updates.

Employment Permit qualifying salary:

A revised qualifying salary will apply to new Employment Permit (EP) applications from 1 January 2025 and to renewal applications from 1 January 2026.

The benchmark for the EP qualifying salary is based on the top one-third of local Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMET) wages, to ensure that EP holders are of high quality. The EP qualifying salary is reviewed annually against the benchmark. In line with how the benchmarks have moved, MOM will be increasing the EP minimum qualifying salary from SGD 5000 to SGD 5600 per month. The qualifying salary will continue to increase progressively with age, up to SGD 10,700 for a candidate in their mid-40s. This maintains a level playing field for locals across all age groups.

For the Financial Services sector which has higher wage norms, a higher EP qualifying salary will continue to apply. The EP minimum qualifying salary for the Financial Services sector will be raised from SGD 5500 to SGD 6200 per month. This will also continue to increase progressively with age, up to SGD 11,800 for a candidate in their mid-40s.

Marine Shipyard sector:

From 1 January 2026, the following policy changes will be made for the Marine Shipyard sector:

  • Reduce the Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) from 77.8% to 75% (or from a ratio of 1 local employee to 3.5 Work Permit Holders (WPHs), to 1 local employee to 3 WPHs);
  • Increase the levy from SGD 400 to SGD 500 for ‘Basic Skilled’ R2 WPHs, and from SGD 300 to SGD 350 for ‘Higher Skilled’ R1 WPHs.

To minimise business disruptions, firms exceeding the new DRC on 1 January 2026 will be allowed to retain their existing WPHs and S Pass holders until the work passes expire. However, these firms will not be able to renew, or apply for new WPHs and S Pass holders, until they bring their firm’s workforce within the new DRC of 75% (1:3). Firms are encouraged to plan ahead for the changes. The new levy rates will apply to all WPHs, including existing WPHs, from 1 January 2026.

Local Qualifying Salary:

As previously reported, effective 1 July 2024, the government will raise the Local Qualifying Salary (LQS) from SGD 1400 to SGD 1600 per month. Firms hiring foreign workers will have to pay all their local workers at least the LQS (or Progressive Wage Model wages where applicable):

  • At least SGD 1600 per month for full-time local workers; or
  • At least SGD 10.50 per hour for part-time local workers.

Firms hiring foreign workers are required to pay all their local workers at least the LQS. The number of local workers paid the LQS is used to determine the firm’s foreign worker quota entitlement.  Foreign worker quota computation will correspondingly be adjusted with the new LQS:

  • 1 local workforce count: Per local worker who is paid at least SGD 1600 per month; or
  • 5 local workforce count: Per local worker who is paid at least SGD 800 but less than SGD 1600 per month.

Thailand: Visa-free entry extended for nationals of China and Kazakhstan

Effective 1 March 2024, Thailand and China signed a mutual visa exemption agreement, permitting holders of ordinary Chinese and Thai passports to enter, exit or transit each other’s territory for stays of up to 30 days for tourism or business.  Cumulative stays must not exceed 90 days in any 180-day period.

Separately, Thailand has extended the 30-day tourist visa waiver for nationals of Kazakhstan until 31 August 2024.  A Memorandum of Understanding is expected to be signed in April to make the visa waiver permanent.

United States: Certain Updated Forms Take Effect on April 1 with No Grace Period

United States Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) has issued a reminder that, effective 1 April 2024, applicants must use new editions of the following forms:

Although USCIS usually provides a grace period when publishing new forms, the forms listed above include changes necessary to administer the new fees. USCIS has published preview versions of each of these forms on each form’s webpage linked above.  Beginning 1 April 2024, applicants and petitioners must submit the “04/01/24” edition of these forms with the appropriate fee listed on the USCIS Fee Schedule G-1055. USCIS will reject prior versions of the above forms, but will only accept the “04/01/24” edition of these forms if they are postmarked on or after 1 April 2024.

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