Latest updates in global

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Australia, Ecuador / Mexico, Finland, France, New Zealand and Thailand.

Australia: Migration measures in 2024-25 budget

On 14 May 2024, the government delivered the 2024-25 Federal Budget, which includes several measures in the area of migration policy which may affect employers of foreign nationals in Australia.

The government:

  • has set the permanent Migration Program planning level for 2024-25 at 185,000 places and allocated 132,000 places (around 70%) to the Skill stream (including both employer-sponsored and independent skilled visas);
  • will reduce the work experience requirement for the Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa from two years to one year for all applicants from 23 November 2024;
  • will implement a new National Innovation Visa to replace the current Global Talent Visa (subclass 858) from late 2024. The Business Innovation and Investment visa program (BIIP) will close, with refunds of the visa application charge provided from September 2024 for those who wish to withdraw their BIIP application;
  • will introduce a pre-application ballot process for the capped Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa program for China, India and Vietnam, to help manage demand and application processing times. A ballot charge (initially AUD 25) will apply;
  • will implement a new Mobility Arrangement for Talented Early-professionals Scheme (MATES) program for Indian nationals from 1 November 2024, as part of the Australia-India Migration and Mobility Partnership Arrangement (MMPA). This will provide a new mobility pathway for 3000 Indian graduates and early career professionals  (aged 18-30 years at the time of application) with knowledge and skills in targeted fields of study to live and work in Australia for up to two years. The visa will have a pre-application (ballot) charge of AUD 25 and am application charge of AUD 365;
  • has lengthened the validity of the Visitor Visa (subclass 600) Business Visitor stream for Indian nationals from up to three years to up to five years, also as part of the MMPA.

Several measures proposed in the government’s Migration Strategy in December 2023 have not been included in the latest budget – it is not clear when these changes will be introduced.

Ecuador / Mexico: Ecuador suspends consular services in Mexico

The Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility has announced that, effective 16 May 2024, its consular services in Mexico City and Monterrey are suspended until further notice.

From that date, consular procedures will be carried out from its offices in Guatemala City (Guatemala), Houston (Texas, USA) and Phoenix (Arizona, USA).

On 7 April 2024, Mexico closed its embassy and suspended consular services in Quito, Ecuador, after Ecuadorian police forced entry into the Mexican embassy to make an arrest.

Finland: Updated salary requirement for EU Blue Card holders

Effective 13 May 2024, the salary requirement for an EU Blue Card as a highly-qualified worker will be lowered to the same level as that for a residence permit as a specialist. In 2024, the required monthly salary is EUR 3638.

Foreign nationals can apply for an EU Blue Card in Finland if:

  • they are coming to Finland for highly qualified employment (as a highly skilled worker);
  • their salary is at least EUR 3638 in 2024; and
  • they have completed a higher education degree that takes at least three years to complete, or they are a highly skilled worker.

Applicants must have confirmed employment lasting at least six months before applying for the permit.

An EU Blue Card can be granted for a maximum of two years. If the work lasts for less than two years, the EU Blue Card will be valid for the duration of the employment relationship and for three additional months thereafter.

France: Residence permit holders will receive expiry notifications

The Directorate General of Foreigners (DGEF) has launched a new digital notification system to help residence permit holders to remember to renew their permission on time.

Foreign nationals holding a residence permit issued as part of an application submitted online via the ANEF system will be alerted simultaneously by email and SMS of the imminent arrival of the period within which their renewal application must be submitted.

The system will send out two sets of notifications – the first four months before expiry and the second two months and one week before expiry.

Residence permit holders must apply for renewal no earlier than four months and no later than two months before the expiry of the permit. A renewal request after the expiry of this period is subject to a late payment fee of EUR 180.

New Zealand: Franchisee accreditation category to be removed

Immigration New Zealand has confirmed that the franchisee accreditation category for the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) will be disestablished on 16 June 2024, as signalled in April. This is because there is no compelling evidence to suggest franchisee employers are more likely to be non-compliant and in need of additional accreditation requirements.

Franchisee employers will instead be able to hold either standard, high-volume, or controlling third-party employment accreditation, depending on their circumstances.

This change will reduce costs for franchisee employers and put them on an even footing with other businesses operating in the same industry.

Franchisee employers looking to apply for accreditation or who currently hold franchisee accreditation do not need to act now and will be able to apply for another accreditation type of their choosing after 16 June 2024. Applying before this date means applications will need to meet existing franchisee accreditation requirements.

Current accredited employers should ensure they apply for renewal before the expiry of their current accreditation. In most cases interim accreditation will be granted if the renewal application is not decided before the expiry of the current accreditation.

Thailand: Cabinet approves ten-year Eastern Economic Corridor visa

The Cabinet has approved a special visa for foreign nationals working in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) to attract specialists and executives in various fields to work in the Corridor and promote the country’s target industries.

The EEC is a special economic area across three eastern provinces of Thailand, designated for foreign investment in target industries, such as future automotive, smart electronics, health tourism, agriculture and biotechnology, food for future, robotics and automation, aviation and logistics, bio-fuels and bio-chemical, and medical services.

The EEC visa has a ten-year validity, depending on the employment contract. Multiple entries and exits are allowed. The visa grants a period of stay in Thailand on the first entry not exceeding five years. The visa scheme also provides the benefit of a limited personal income tax rate of 17%.

The scheme is divided into four categories: EEC Visa “S” for Specialist, EEC Visa “E” for Executive, EEC Visa “P” for Professional, and EEC Visa “O” for Other, such as spouses and persons under the visa holder’s supervision.

The fee for issuing and changing the type of visa to an EEC visa is THB 10,000 (USD 273) per person per year. The EEC work permit application is THB 20,000 (USD 547) per person.

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