Start your week off right by staying up to date with these key changes in immigration.

Featured Update

RUSSIA / TURKEY | Political Tensions May Affect Immigration Between Russia & Turkey
In light of the recent increase in political tensions between Russia and Turkey, more stringent border checks, immigration requirements, and an end to visa-free travel between the two countries may be imminent. Visa-free travel between the countries was first established in 2010 and allowed Turkish and Russian citizens to stay in each other’s country for up to 30-days (90-days for Highly Qualified Specialists).

However, on November 27, 2015, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs publically announced Russia’s intentions of suspending visa-free travel for Turkish citizens as of January 1, 2016. While this temporary freeze has not yet been officially announced, it is strongly anticipated that Russia will implement the suspension should political relations not improve between the two countries in the upcoming weeks.

At the time of this writing, Turkey has not announced any similar plans to suspend visa-free travel in response to Russia’s plans.

 

Immigration Changes from Around the World

AUSTRALIA | Clarification on Offshore Migration and Minor Subclass 457 Changes Announced
As Australia continues to focus on reforming their immigration system, several new announcements and regulations were recently published regarding the highly-utilized Subclass 457 Visa Program and the offshore oil & gas industry.

Final Clarification on Immigration Options for Offshore Oil & Gas Industry
The Australian authorities have published a final decree confirming that foreign nationals working in Australia’s offshore oil & gas industries may engage in work activities while holding a Subclass 400 (Temporary Work – Short Stay Activity) Visa, a Subclass 457 (Temporary Work – Skilled) Visa, or Australian Permanent Residence. This announcement is a welcome clarification after years of uncertainty regarding immigration options for Australia’s offshore oil & gas industry (see our blogs from July 2014 and May 2015). The declaration came into force on December 14, 2015.

Minor Changes to Subclass 457 Program Announced
With an emphasis on compliance, several minor changes were announced to the popular Subclass 457 Visa Program. Many of these changes are technical in nature and neither applicants nor their sponsoring companies are expected to detect any significant changes in requirements or procedures. The most significant changes that our clients should note include:

• “Payment for Visa” Regulations – new criminal and civil penalties, as well as possible visa cancellation procedures, have been officially introduced against “a person who asks for, received, offers, or provides a benefit in return for visa sponsorship or employment (that requires visa sponsorship).[i]
“Adverse Information” Declaration – sponsors will now be required to provide additional declarations advising whether the sponsor and/or associated persons have been found to guilty of, or are being investigated for, any “adverse” activities including, but not limited to, discrimination, immigration, industrial relations, occupational health and safety, and taxation. No additional documentation will be required as a result of this new regulation; rather, the declarations will be made on each SBS application form.
Changes to Subclass 457 Licensing & Registration Requirements – more stringent regulations have been introduced for those foreign nationals requiring licensing in order to work in their nominated occupations including, but not limited to, obtaining the licensing within 90 days of arriving in Australia and not engaging in work activities until the licensing process has been finalized.


BELGIUM | Belgium Faces European Court of Justice Over Lack of EU Single Permit
Pursuant to an EU directive requiring member states to combine work and residence authorizations for non-EU nationals into one “single permit,” Belgium was recently referred to the European Court of Justice by the European Commission for its continued failure to implement the directive. First handed down by Parliament in 2011, the Directive’s official deadline was December 25, 2013. Although many EU member states did not meet the original deadline, Belgium remains the only EU country not to offer a Single Permit at this time.

In light of the nation’s failure to comply with the directive, Belgium is now legally susceptible to monetary sanctioning of up to EUR €52,000 per day at the discretion of the EU’s highest court. With matter now pending before the court, global employers can anticipate that compliance is certainly on the horizon as it relates to immigration processing in Belgium in the months to come. Pro-Link GLOBAL continues to monitor the situation closely.


UNITED KINGDOM | Minimum Salary Thresholds to be Increased for Settlement Applicants
The Home Office recently announced an early-2016 increase to the minimum salary requirements for individuals applying for UK Permanent Residence status (also referred to as “Settlement” or “Indefinite Leave to Remain”). Beginning on April 6, 2016, applicants must earn at least GBP £35,000 in order to apply for Settlement. Further, to ensure that only high earners remain eligible for permanent residence, the Home Office also announced that this minimum threshold would increase each year through 2020. The Home Office was clear to indicate that there will be certain exemptions in this regard for Ph.D level occupations, positions where there is a designated shortage of available labor, and for those applications qualifying for settlement that are associated with certificates of sponsorship prior to April 6, 2011.

Foreign residents in the UK are eligible for Settlement after five (5) continuous years of lawful presence in the country. In addition, in order to finalize the applicant’s eligibility the employer must still hold a valid Tier 2 sponsorship license and must confirm active employment and salary details. As a result, global employers supporting applications for settlement should budget accordingly.


[i] Australia Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Work visa scams. Sydney, Australia, 2015. Web.


Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change a moment’s notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by Pro-Link GLOBAL’s Counsel and Knowledge Management teams.

Information contained in this Weekly Update is prepared using information obtained from various media outlets, government publications and our KGM network of immigration professionals. Written permission from the copyright owner and any other rights holders must be obtained for any reuse of any content posted or published by Pro-Link GLOBAL that extends beyond fair use or other statutory exemptions. Furthermore, responsibility for the determination of the copyright status and securing permission rests with those persons wishing to reuse the materials. Interested parties are welcome to contact the Knowledge Management Department (km@pro-linkglobal.com) with any additional requests for information or to request reproduction of this material.