Discover key changes to immigration regulations in China, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iraq, Ireland, Malaysia, Russia, and South Africa.
CHINA | Work Permit Renewals Due 30 Days Ahead; Shanghai Entry-Exit Bureau Closing for System Upgrade
Immigration authorities in China continue to make changes to the country’s systems and requirements in an attempt to improve the operation of its employment-based immigration scheme. This week, Pro-Link GLOBAL reports on new rules for work permit renewals and a temporary closure of the Shanghai Entry-Exit Bureau for a systems upgrade.
Work Permit Renewals Must Be Submitted 30 Days Before Expiry
The State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA) has announced that, effective February 28, 2018, all work permit renewal applications nationwide will have to be submitted at least 30 working days before the expiry date. Those who fail to comply with this new deadline will be denied renewal and required to apply for a new work permit, rather than being able to renew their current permit. At present, there is no national standard establishing a deadline for submitting work permit renewal applications.
Pro-Link GLOBAL recommends allowing two to three months for the processing of work permit renewal applications and additional time for obtaining, preparing, translating, and legalizing documents where necessary. While non-criminal record certificates and proof of work experience are not required for renewals, the other application and document requirements are the same as for initial applications. Work permit holders and their employers should note the expiry dates of their current work permits and other immigration documents to ensure they begin the renewal process two to three months before expiry.
Shanghai Exit-Entry Expert Bureau Closing for System Upgrade
The Shanghai Entry-Exit Expert Bureau will suspend processing of all immigration applications from December 22 to 25, as the national immigration system undergoes an upgrade. During this period, the Bureau will not accept any applications for new or extended permits, or issue any permits on pending applications, through its headquarters, branches, self-service spots, on-line services, or WeChat. For applications already submitted and pending on December 22, applicants should expect processing times to be prolonged by 8-12 business days. Therefore, applicants for work and residence permits and visas, and their employers in China, should allow extra time for applications to be processed through the end of this year.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
COSTA RICA | New Social Security Requirements for Family Members
Effective immediately, dependent family members of applicants for permanent or temporary residence are required to register separately with the Social Security Administration of Costa Rica (CCSS) after completing the residence application process. Previously, dependent family members could be included in the CCSS registration of the principal applicant. This new requirement applies to all dependent family members over 18 years of age; children aged 17 years or under remain exempt from CCSS registration.
In cases where the principal applicant is employed, their employer is required to enroll them in a CCSS insurance program at the nearest CCSS office before the residence application is submitted. While registration processing for the principal applicant typically takes just one business day, this new CCSS registration for dependent family members, taking place after residency has been approved, can take up to ten days and requires more supporting documents. Included in the registration documents must be evidence of the relationship between the principal and the dependent family member and their economic dependence on the principal applicant.
HONG KONG | Speeches and Presentations Now Permitted on Visitor Status
Effective immediately, foreign nationals entering Hong Kong as visitors are allowed to attend events to give speeches and presentations without obtaining a separate employment permit under certain conditions. Conditions include:
- Duration of the event must be no longer than seven days;
- No remuneration for speaking or presenting at the event (other than reimbursement for accommodation, travel, meals and other expenses relating to the event); and
- Visitors can only attend one event to deliver speeches or presentations during each permitted stay.
Nationals of about 170 countries and territories may visit Hong Kong without a visa/entry permit for periods ranging from seven to 180 days. Other non-exempt nationals must obtain a visit visa to enter Hong Kong. Persons in Hong Kong on visitor status, either visa-free or on a visit visa, may not engage in paid or unpaid employment, establish or join any business, or enroll as a student.
In addition to these new permissions to give speeches and presentations as above, visitors may also engage in the following non-remunerated business-related activities:
- concluding contracts or submitting tenders;
- examining or supervising the installation/packaging of goods or equipment;
- participating in exhibitions or trade fairs (except selling goods or supplying services direct to the public, or constructing exhibition booths);
- settling compensation or other civil proceedings;
- participating in product orientation; and
- attending short-term seminars or other business meetings.
Companies sending employees to Hong Kong for any business-related activity should always consult their Immigration Specialists to confirm whether the proposed activity is allowed as a visitor or whether an employment visa is required.
IRAQ | Exit Visas No Longer Available at Airports
Effective immediately, foreign nationals exiting Iraq may no longer obtain their exit visas at the airport on their way departing Iraq. Just this morning, the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior (MOI) issued instructions with immediate effect that the MOI Visa Offices at all federal Iraqi airports will no longer issue exit visas. All requests for exit visas now must be submitted and processed through the MOI Residency and Immigration Office.
Under past practice, foreign nationals could typically submit exit visa request letters, pay any fines for overstay, and receive their exit visa at the airport visa office just prior to going through passport control at the departures terminal. Now, exit visa request letters and any overstay fines payments must be submitted at the MOI Residency and Immigration Office. The MOI will then affix an exit visa sticker to the individual’s passport, valid for ten calendar days in which to exit the country.
Iraqi exit visas authorizing departure are required for foreign nationals who have remained in the country for more than ten days from entry. With this change in procedure for obtaining exit visas, foreign nationals planning to exit Iraq are advised to contact their Immigration Specialists at least three business days prior to their expected departure dates to receive assistance in obtaining the required exit visa and avoid any delays in their travel plans.
IRELAND | Residence Permit Replaces GNIB Card
Effective December 11, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) has replaced the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) card with a new residence registration card called the Irish Residence Permit (IRP). With the change in residence registration cards comes some procedural changes as well.
For registration in Dublin, the IRP will not be issued on the day of application but will be sent by post. For those registering outside Dublin, there will continue to be a two-step process of presenting documents and payments and returning to the Immigration office to collect the IRP card. Current GNIB card holders may continue to use their GNIB cards and should not apply for a new IRP until their current GNIB card expires or needs to be replaced in the event that it is lost or stolen. The fee is for the new IRP remains at EUR 300 per registration.
The layout of the new IRP includes the applicant’s name, photo, date of birth, registration number, a brief description of their immigration permission, their permission stamp number, and a microchip with a copy of their photo, fingerprints, and personal details.
The IRP, like the GNIB, applies to all non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss nationals, aged 16 years or over, who wish to stay in Ireland for any reason for longer than 90 days. The new IRP has the same legal status as the old GNIB card. It does not give any new rights or entitlements, and the holder’s responsibilities remain the same. It should be carried at all times and presented to an immigration officer or a member of the police if requested and presented upon leaving or re-entering the country.
MALAYSIA | MYXpats Centre Year-End Closure
The Malaysian MYXpats Centre has announced that the Expatriate Service Division (ESD)’s online system will be closed for system maintenance and updates from December 26 at 6pm to January 2, 2018 at 8am. During the closure, the system will not be accessible for submission of online applications (ESD company registrations, Employment Passes, Dependent Passes, Long Term Visit Passes, and Professional Visit Passes) or for the monitoring of the status of these applications.
Applications for passes should be submitted as early as possible for approval to be obtained before the closure date. For applications submitted but still pending on December 26, the status can only be determined after the system resumes on January 2.
Further, the MYZpats Centre has announced the following cut-off dates for submissions:
- The agency will not accept any physical counter submissions in Surian Tower from December 28 to January 1;
- The cut-off date for passport submission for endorsement procedures is December 19. MYXpats aims to have passports received to that point endorsed by December 22. Note, however, that the immigration office on Putrajaya will remain open for endorsement procedures during this period;
- MYXpats will accept Resident Pass-Talent applications, including passports for endorsement procedures, only until December 15. Submissions after this cut-off date will only be processed starting January 2; and
- The last day for requesting transfer of endorsement or cancellation of a pass is December 27 to ensure completion by December 29.
Employers should ensure that applications for new or renewal passes, company registrations, endorsement procedures, and requests for pass cancellations are submitted as soon as possible to avoid delays due to this system closure.
RUSSIA | Moscow Migration Department Issuing Electronic Invitation Letters
Effective December 11, the Moscow Migration Department has temporarily stopped accepting requests to issue Letters of Invitation (LOIs) in paper form. The Department is for the time being only issuing LOIs as electronic documents; however, the issuance of paper LOIs is expected to resume in early 2018.
Until further notice, companies accredited with the Moscow Migration Department should include requests to issue the LOI in electronic form in their LOI applications to avoid delays.
SOUTH AFRICA | Hardcopy Police Clearances No Longer Required for In-Country Applications
Effective December 31, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) of South Africa is automating the process of checking a foreign national’s South African criminal record, It will then no longer be necessary to apply for a hardcopy South African Police Clearance Certificate (“SA PCC”). The DHA will continue to accept hard copy SA PCCs until December 31; but the automated verification process will become mandatory starting January 1. Welcomed news for foreign nationals residing in South Africa, the new automated process is expected to significantly reduce document procurement time, in some cases trimming months from the processing times.
All foreign nationals who have resided in South Africa for twelve months or more since their 18th birthday require an SA PCC to support any application to renew their visas, change visa conditions, change visa status, apply for a Permanent Residence Permit, or submit a new application for a long-term Temporary Residence Visa from abroad.
Note that this new automated process is only applicable to SA PCCs being obtained to support applications filed from within South Africa. Foreign nationals who require SA PCCs for applications submitted at South African Missions abroad are still required to provide hardcopy SA PCCs as part of their applications processes.
Currently, it is necessary in all cases to obtain a hardcopy SA PCC through the Criminal Records Centre of the South African Police Service (“SAPS CRC”), a process that can take six weeks or more. This oftentimes results in applicants failing to meet the requirement of submitting their applications no less than 60 days prior to the expiry of their existing visas.
Under the new process, the DHA will check the foreign national’s biometric fingerprints - which are digitally recorded at the Visa Application Centre (“VAC”) at the time of application submission - against the police database to check for any recorded criminal convictions in South Africa. An additional fee of R175.00 (including VAT) will be levied by the VAC per applicant for the new service.
Caveat Lector | Warning to ReaderThis 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 China Partner Offices FSG and Visa Care, our PLG Costa Rica Partner Office BLP, our PLG Hong Kong Partner Office Hong Kong Visa Centre, our PLG Iraq Partner Office New Frontiers Business Consulting, our PLG Partner Ireland Office Corporate Care, our PLG Malaysia Partner Offices Permit Pro and Rabin & Associates, our PLG Russia Partner Office Intermark Relocation, our PLG South Africa Partner Office J Fetting SPC, Newland Chase, and Peregrine Immigration Management to provide you this update.
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