Global immigration news

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Canada, Czechia, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Canada: New visa application centres opened in Mexico

Canada has opened three new visa application centres (VACs) in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, Mexico.

The new VACs will initially provide biometric collection services only, and then we will work to expand the range of services to include transmitting and tracking passports or other documents. In the meantime, applicants can continue to access the full range of services at the existing VAC in Mexico City.

With these new centres, Mexico will have four VACs located in the country’s three largest metropolitan areas.

Applicants can make appointments to give their biometrics at any of the four VAC locations as soon as they receive their biometric instruction letter.

VACs are managed by private companies that have contracts with the Government of Canada. They don’t represent the Government of Canada. They don’t make decisions about applications and can’t provide any visa-related advice to applicants.

Czechia: Free access to the labour market for certain nationalities

On 1 July 2024, a government regulation will enter into force, introducing free entry to the Czech labour market for citizens of the following nine countries: Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States.

Citizens of these countries who wish to be employed in Czechia are no longer required to obtain a work permit, but only a residence permit. Employers of citizens of selected countries are no longer required to notify the Labour Office of vacancies for the purpose of including vacancies in the central register of vacancies.

Those planning to work in Czechia for up to three months must obtain a Schengen visa for employment purposes.  Visa-free entry does not permit work.  If the work period is extended beyond three months, the visa holder must exit Czechia and apply for a long-term residence permit at a Czech embassy abroad.

Those planning to work in Czechia for more than three months must apply for a so-called non-dual employee card at any Czech embassy. This type of employment card can be issued for a job that the employer has not reported to the Labour Office and is not included in the central register of vacant jobs that can be filled by holders of the employment card. The cardholder is then entitled to change jobs freely (and additionally notify the Ministry of the Interior of the change within three days).

A highly qualified foreign national can apply for a blue card, which includes benefits for the purposes of mobility within the EU, family reunification or social security. However, this card can only be issued for a vacancy announced to the Labour Office and included in the relevant central records, and the rules for its issuance therefore do not change for citizens of the selected countries with free access to the labour market.

A citizen of an eligible country who is to be temporarily transferred to Czechia as a manager, specialist or graduate-intern within the framework of a multinational business corporation for a period longer than three months should apply for an intra-company transfer employee card.

Free access to the labour market, without a work permit, will also apply to eligible foreign nationals who are sent by their foreign employer to a Czech client to perform work on the basis of a contract. The same approach will be applied in the case of eligible foreign nationals who have so far been able to enter the Czech labour market within the framework of closed memoranda and work leave programs, but who nevertheless had to apply for a work permit for this purpose.

Portugal: New procedure for pending post-arrival residence applications

A new procedure for speeding up pending post-arrival “expression of interest” residence cases has been published on the AIMA website. Foreign nationals with a pending expression of interest case, initiated on the old SAPA Portal up to 30 April 2023, will receive an email from AIMA to deal with their application. According to the document, in order to continue processing it is necessary to:

  • Change the password on a new platform;
  • Request a Single Collection Document (DUC) on the new platform to pay the fees, which must be paid within the next 10 working days;
  • After payment, the applicant will receive an appointment proposal within the next 20 working days, indicating the date, time and place;
  • A few days before the appointment, the applicant will receive instructions to update all the information and documents they sent at the beginning of the old process.

From the beginning of 2024, fees must be paid when the application is submitted, rather than after the decision, for both new and pending cases.


On 3 May 2024, the Council of Ministers approved an Action Plan for Migration which removes the “Expressions of Interest” procedure which allowed foreign nationals to apply for a residence permit while in Portugal as a visitor.

The plan also includes an expansion of capacity at Portuguese consular posts abroad to cope with the expected consequent increase in consular residence applications, as well as the creation of a mission structure, with additional resources, to address the existing backlog of pending residence cases.

Further details of the Action Plan can be found here in English and here in Portuguese.

Saudi Arabia: Wage Protection Service now obligatory for domestic workers

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) has announced the launch of a compulsory “Wage Protection Service” for domestic workers’ salaries, effective 1 July 2024.

This service aims to ensure transparency in the salary payment process and facilitate it by using digital wallets and accredited banks through the Musaned platform. This service enhances security and reliability in salary transfers, thus safeguarding the rights of contractual parties.

Implementation of this service will begin on 1 July 2024 for new domestic workers under new contracts. For existing contracts, the application will be gradual based on the number of domestic workers each employer has. For employers of more than four domestic workers, the service will apply from 1 January 2025. For those with three or more domestic workers it will apply from 1 July 2025. For employers with two or more domestic workers, the service will apply form 1 October 2025. The service is expected to include all domestic workers by 1 January 2026.

The wages protection service for domestic workers has been optionally available through the Musaned platform since 1 April 2022, but will only now become compulsory.

United States: New visa appointment system for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan

The U.S. embassies in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have announced the launch of a new visa appointment booking service, effective 10 June 2024.

All visa applicants should use this website beginning June 10 to obtain visa information, pay any required nonimmigrant visa fees, schedule a nonimmigrant visa appointment, and receive document courier services.

Through the new appointment system, applicants qualifying for interview waiver will be able to submit their visa application documents through a courier service and collect their documents following adjudication at designated pick-up locations.

Please note that the visa application fee will not increase as a result of these process changes.

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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