Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Australia, India, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
AUSTRALIA | Citizenship Rules Changed – Along with Major Changes to Employment-Based Immigration
There were huge changes in corporate immigration this past week in Australia. Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the popular but controversial Subclass 457 Visa – Australia’s most common employment-based immigration stream – would be eliminated in March 2018 in favor of a more-narrow Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa with tighter eligibility criteria. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) then followed this announcement with specific statements covering the immediately-narrowed eligible occupations lists and the timetable of other changes for phasing out the 457 Visa. No sooner had Pro-Link GLOBAL issued its extensive Global Brief on all the changes, when the Australian government reconsidered the abrupt changes to the occupations lists and appeared to be withdrawing the changes, then re-reconsidered, and finally decided to proceed with the changes as originally planned. For an extensive discussion of all of the immediate and upcoming changes to Australia’s employment-based immigration system, see our complete Global Brief of April 19.
Amid all the hype and confusion surrounding the roll-out of changes to the employment-based visa system, other significant changes may have gone unnoticed by some. Those changes to the citizenship rules, announced last Wednesday with immediate effect, will make it significantly more difficult for foreign nationals to become citizens of Australia. The changes include:
- Increased Residency Requirement – The number of years of residency required before a foreign national is eligible to apply for citizenship has increased from one year to four years.
- English Language Proficiency – A new English language proficiency exam that tests English writing, listening, and speaking skills will be required prior to sitting for the citizenship exam.
- Two-Year Ban After Three Attempts – Candidates who fail the citizenship test in three attempts will be barred from submitting a new application for citizenship for two years. Previously, there was no limit on the number of times a candidate could retake the exam.
- Strengthened “Australian Values” Requirements – The statement of Australian values and Pledge of Commitment are being revised to reflect a strengthened commitment of allegiance to Australia and its values. The citizenship test will contain additional questions about Australian values, privileges, and responsibilities – including religious freedom and gender equality. Candidates for citizenship will also be required to show “integration into the Australian community.” To demonstrate integration into the community, candidates may be required to provide documentation proving employment, or active attempts to obtain employment, participation in community organizations, adherence to tax and social security obligations, and enrollment of children in public or private education institutions.
- Consideration of Conduct “Inconsistent with Australian Values” – Reportedly, immigration authorities will likewise consider any conduct of candidates which is considered “inconsistent with Australian values,” including criminal activity, domestic violence, and gang or organized crime affiliation.
For more information regarding the changes to the Australian citizenship application process and the new citizenship test – including revised application and test resources – visit the DIBP website here. For specific questions about, or assistance obtaining, Australian citizenship, please reach out to your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist or contact our Melbourne office.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
INDIA | Aadhaar Cards Now Required for All Foreign Nationals in India Over Six Months
The Indian Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) announced April 5 that foreign nationals residing in India for more than 182 days are now required to apply for Aadhaar Cards. While foreign nationals falling into this category have long been required to pay Indian domestic income tax, this announcement adds the additional requirement of obtaining an Aadhaar identification number and card in order to file the requisite tax return and pay any tax due.
India’s Aadhaar Card system, instituted by statute last year and administered through the newly-formed Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEIT), has quickly become the world’s largest biometric identification system with over 99 percent of adult Indians already registered. With a 12-digit identity number classifying holders based on extensive demographic and biometric data, it is also the world’s most sophisticated national ID system; and it is precisely that sophistication that has made the Aadhaar Card also perhaps the world’s most controversial such system.
Critics of the system view it as an invasion of individual privacy rights that requires residents to provide extensive biometric information – including pictures, fingerprints, and eye scans – in order to perform a host of public transactions that includes accessing government services, filing tax returns, applying for driver’s licenses, and opening bank accounts. As a central electronic repository of information on every resident in the country, critics also see the potential for abuse by law enforcement agencies and raise further data security concerns. The Indian government has assured the public that extensive protections are in place to ensure data security and integrity, but numerous lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Aadhaar system are still pending in India’s courts.
With the CBDT now announcing that the Finance Act of 2017 has made the Aadhaar Card mandatory for the filing of all tax returns – and therefore mandatory even for non-Indian foreign nationals residing in the country – many expatriates in India are understandably concerned. Previously, foreign nationals filed Indian tax returns using their Permanent Account Number (PAN). Many expats have turned to their tax advisors for a solution to avoid having to apply for the Aadhaar Card; but, thus far, there appears no alternative with the July 1 tax deadline approaching. Note that foreign nationals who are already outside of India and unable to obtain an Aadhaar Card from the CBDT in India, but who still need to file domestic tax returns, are being encouraged to contact their Indian overseas mission for instructions on how to obtain a card from overseas.
The new Aadhaar Card requirement also carries further significance for long-term expats in India. As an ITR-V income tax filing acknowledgement is mandatory for the visa renewal process in India, foreign nationals who have not obtained Aadhaar Cards, and thus are unable to file applicable tax returns, will also be unable to apply for visa extensions.
Information on obtaining an Aadhaar Card, including locations of the nearest enrollment centers, is available on the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) website here. For all tax-related questions, Pro-Link GLOBAL urges companies and their foreign employees to contact their Indian and international tax advisors. However, for any questions on how these new Aadhaar Card requirements impact the immigration process in India, please reach out to our New Delhi Office and your Pro-Link GLOBAL Indian Immigration Specialist.
UNITED KINGDOM | Home Office May Now Conduct Sponsor Checks at Third-Party Worksites
On April 17, the British Home Office released an updated “Tiers 2 and 5: Guidance for Sponsors.” Causing concern among companies employing foreign workers in the UK, Paragraph 17.3 in the Compliance section now contains a broad statement providing the Home Office with authority to perform sponsor checks by visiting not only the sponsor’s place of business but also the places of business of third-parties where sponsored foreign workers are performing services. Paragraph 17.3 specifies that it is the sponsoring company’s duty to “ensure that the third party is aware of the possibility of the unplanned and unannounced visits and checks being conducted at their premises and ensure their full cooperation.”
No clarification of the meaning on “full cooperation,” or guidance on how a sponsoring company can ensure a third-party’s cooperation is provided. However, at a minimum, Pro-Link GLOBAL is advising companies whose foreign workers perform their duties at third-party locations – including client locations – to expressly inform the third-party of the possibility of an announced Home Office visit and instruct them to immediately contact the appropriate company representative in the event of a visit by Home Office officials.
Pro-Link GLOBAL reminds companies that the consequences of failing to meet any sponsorship obligation can result in severe penalties: including in some cases criminal prosecution, curtailing the future sponsorship of foreign national employees, and the refusal of future visa applications. Companies in doubt as to whether their policies are fully compliant with the current Home Office obligations should reach out to their Pro-Link GLOBAL UK Immigration Specialists.
As most are already aware, there have been numerous changes to the UK immigration system in the past month, including major changes to the rules and fees of the popular Tier 2 stream and the start of Brexit negotiations. To keep abreast of all the changes, we encourage you to continue monitoring our alerts, and refer to the following helpful resources recently provided:
- “An Expert’s Webinar to April’s UK immigration Changes,” now available as a video recording here;
- “UNITED KINGDOM | April 6 Changes Confirmed and Brexit Date Set” Global Brief of March 21 available here;
- "Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Dispatch | March 7-13, 2017 available here; and
- “UNITED KINGDOM | Prepare to Brexit… Prime Minister Readies Article 50” Global Brief available here.
VIETNAM | New Online Work Permit Application System Coming Soon
The Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA) is in the process of transitioning to an online work permit application and processing system. The new electronic system is reportedly already being piloted in Dong Nai and Vung Tau City and will be rolled out nationally as a mandatory process on July 1. The new system will allow company representatives to complete immigration applications and upload scanned copies of the required documents via the online system. Once the new system is fully implemented, the processing times for work permit applications is expected to drop from seven business days to five business days, and applications for job position approvals are expected to drop from fifteen business days to ten business days.
Ahead of the July 1 nation-wide implementation, companies will be required to establish accounts, passwords, and e-signatures to use the new system. Pro-Link GLOBAL urges companies employing foreign nationals in Vietnam to begin to set-up their online accounts as soon as possible. While the system is currently only being used for actual application submission and processing in Dong Nai and Vung Tau City, the national portal is accessible for creating new accounts. Links and instructions for establishing accounts can be found on the new system portal here. For questions on establishing accounts, feel free to reach out to your Pro-Link GLOBAL Vietnam Immigration Specialist.
The new system has been made possible by a major government investment in technology last year aimed at automating much of its immigration systems. Those investments are now beginning to pay dividends for companies operating in the country through improved permit processing, as well as greater access to business e-visas. For more information on the expanding business visa opportunities in Vietnam, see our Immigration Dispatches of September 6, September 26, and February 27.
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 at 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. We worked with our PLG | KGNM Vietnam Offices “Asian Tigers Mobility Limited” and “Orientations” to provide you this update.
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