Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Brazil, China, Czech Republic, India, Iraq, Panama, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine.
BRAZIL | More New Immigration Rules Published, Stricter Document Requirements for Police Registration
Authorities in Brazil continue to implement changes to the immigration system following the major statutory rewrite of the country’s immigration law in November. For more details on the extensive changes taking place in the Brazilian immigration process, see our Global Briefs of June 23 and December 12.
Residence Authorization and Intra-Company Training
On December 22, the National Immigration Council published additional Normative Resolutions regulating residence authorization for foreign professionals involved in intra-company training. Resolution 18/2017 replaces Resolution 79/2008 and regulates residence authorization for an employee of a Brazilian-owned multinational company to undergo training in the management methodology and corporate culture of the Brazilian head office while remaining on home-country contract and payroll. This visa is valid for a maximum stay of two years and is non-renewable. Previously, it was renewable once for up to another two years.
Resolution 19/2017 replaces Resolution 87/2010 and regulates residence authorization for an employee of a multinational company to undergo training at the Brazilian subsidiary, branch office, or head office while remaining on home-country contract and payroll. This non-renewable visa is valid for a maximum stay of two years, an increase from the previous maximum of one year. The new resolution also adds a new requirement for a simplified training plan in support of the application.
Visitor Visas While Residence Authorization Pending
On December 26, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a new rule which requires applicants for initial or extension residence authorization wishing to exit and re-enter Brazil to obtain visitor visas while their applications are pending. Ordinance number 1001/2017 provides for the granting of a single-entry, 90-day Visitor Visa under such exceptional situations. Previously, applicants in this situation could exit and re-enter Brazil with an initial residence request protocol or an extension of residence request protocol, plus an expired RNE (Registro Nacional de Estrangeiros) card.
Documents Required for Police Registration
Effective December 27, the Brazilian Federal Police introduced new documentary requirements for the mandatory in-country registration (Registro Nacional Migratório) (RNM). Changes include:
- Applicants must now submit original or legalized or apostilled copies of birth certificates (bearing the names of both parents) and marriage certificates (if applicable) and legalized copies of police clearance certificates covering the last five years.
- Copies must be notarized and legalized at the Brazilian Consulate abroad responsible for the jurisdiction where the document was issued or be apostilled under The Hague Apostille Convention, if the country is a signatory.
- Certificates not in Portuguese must be accompanied by an original sworn translation into Portuguese, completed in Brazil.
- If birth certificates do not clearly state the name of both parents, or if a disparity or abbreviation in the names of the parents appears, the applicant will have the option of presenting a recent, original consular attestation (cedula consular) in lieu of the certificate.
As the changes to the immigration process in Brazil over the past months are extensive and ongoing, companies and their foreign employees are encouraged to be in close contact with their Immigration Specialists early and throughout the planning and execution of international assignments in Brazil.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
CHINA | Relaxed Visa Rules for Top Talent
Effective January 1, new regulations for the Chinese “R Visa” for high-level talent allow multiple stays in China of up to 180 days at a time and a visa validity of up to ten years. The new regulations also call for a streamlined online application system and reduced processing times.
Those qualifying for the R Visa as high-level talent include highly-qualified scientists, international entrepreneurs, and others with specific high-level or in-demand skills. While details on specific qualifications have not been published, standards are likely similar to the qualifying criteria for “Category A” work permits. Purportedly, spouses and children of qualifying applicants will likewise be eligible for ten-year multiple-entry visas under the new regulations.
CZECH REPUBLIC | New Consular Appointment Booking System
Starting December 1, a new appointment booking system has been used by Czech consulates for scheduling appointments for visa applicants. As we reported previously, the previous Visapoint booking system was closed November 1 and is no longer available. However, the new system has done little to alleviate challenges in Czech consulates where timely appointments have been difficult to obtain, and processes and timing continue to vary significantly, with appointment ranging from several weeks to several months out, depending on the consulate.
The new appointment booking system essentially operates as follows:
- Applicants for long term visas and long term residency permits should now use the email address visa_[name of consulate]@mzv.czto request an appointment. Separate emails are required to request each appointment, and each email should come from the applicant requesting the appointment. Only minor children may be included in the parent’s email.
- Applications and requests for appointments will generally be accepted and processed chronologically and be considered based on the capacity at the consulate. Some consulates will only accept a limited number of applications per week, while others will add all applications to a waiting list. Some consulates only accept emails sent on a certain day of the month while still others will accept all emails and issue confirmation of appointments chronologically.
- Emails with incomplete information will not be considered.
- Emails and attachments may not be encrypted or password protected.
- Some consulates will require the application to include an alphanumeric code in the subject of the email request. These codes will be provided by the relevant consulate and will change regularly.
- All emails must contain at minimum the following identification information: first name and surname of applicant; date of birth; passport number; purpose of travel; phone number; email; attached copy of passport data page; and attached copy of document evidencing purpose of travel (g. employment contract, invitation letter).
- The appointment dates are final and unchangeable. If the applicant cancels their appointment, a new appointment must be requested by email with the identical procedure.
Companies and their foreign employees with questions on using this new system to obtain their visa appointments at the Czech consulates should reach out to their Immigration Specialists for assistance.
INDIA | Foreign Nationals Required to Obtain Aadhaar Cards by March 31
Reversing its previous stance issued in May of last year, the government of India is once again requiring foreign nationals to obtain Aadhaar Cards (India’s national ID card) if they intend to reside in India for 182 days or more. Residents without Aadhaar Cards will be unable to file required personal income tax returns or use Indian banking services. As part of the same December 13 announcement, the Indian Ministry of Finance extended until March 31, 2018 the deadline for residents, including foreign nationals, to link their Aadhaar numbers to their bank accounts, mobile SIM cards, PAN (Permanent Account Number) cards, and insurance policies.
Instituted in 2016, the Aadhaar Card is a 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEIT) and linking personal and biometric information for every individual resident of India. The Finance Act 2017 made it mandatory to include Aadhaar numbers in order to file income tax returns or to apply for or renew PAN numbers. For long-term expats in India for more than 182 days, who are required to file Indian income tax returns, the Aadhaar Card then became a necessity for visa and residence extensions, as proof of income tax filing is required.
After extensive objections by foreign residents, on May 11, 2017, the Indian Ministry of Finance exempted foreign nationals from the requirement to submit an Aadhaar number when filing tax returns. However, this most recent announcement reverses that position, once again making Aadhaar Cards required for many foreign nationals.
The Aadhaar Card system is the world’s largest biometric identification system, with over 99 percent of the adult Indian population enrolled. For various reasons, Aadhaar has been controversial, and a case challenging the legality and constitutionality of the system remains pending before India’s Supreme Court. For more details, see our previous Immigration Dispatches of May 15 and April 24.
Pro-Link GLOBAL now advises all foreign nationals who have been resident in India for more than 182 days in the previous 12 months to obtain Aadhaar Cards before the March 31 deadline, submit Aadhaar numbers when filing their Indian personal income tax returns, link their Aadhaar numbers to their Indian bank accounts, mobile SIM cards, PAN Cards, and insurance policies, and be prepared to provide Aadhaar numbers at various steps in the immigration process. For questions or assistance with obtaining Aadhaar Cards, companies and their foreign employees in India are encouraged to reach out to their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists.
IRAQ | Exit Visas at Airports Limited, Visa Letters of Approval Capped at Three Months Validity
Exit Visas - Effective immediately, foreign nationals exiting Iraq may no longer obtain most exit visas at the airport on their way departing Iraq. Requests for exit visas now must be submitted and processed through the Ministry of Interior (MOI) Residency and Immigration Office, other than for multiple entry and multiple entry-exit visas that expired before November 27, 2017.
Iraqi exit visas authorizing departure are required for foreign nationals who have remained in the country for more than ten days from entry. 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.
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.
Visa Letters of Approval - Effective December 19, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior began limiting the validity of Letters of Approval (LOAs) for all visas to three months. However, LOAs issued prior to December 19 will continue to have their own timeframes for activation under the previous practice. Previously, LOAs were issued with varying validity periods depending on visa type, giving LOA holders up to one year in which to enter Iraq and activate or renew their visas.
With this change, companies and their foreign employees should closely track the dates of any LOAs issued after December 19 and ensure that travel is planned to arrive in Iraq before 90 days from the date of issuance. Failure to arrive in Iraq within the 90 days will result in their LOA being canceled, requiring a new LOA to be issued. For questions on this new procedure and its impact on scheduled assignments in Iraq, companies are encouraged to reach out to their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists.
PANAMA | In-Person Appointment Required for Work Permit Application
On December 26, the Panamanian Ministry of Labour (MOL) issued a decree requiring all work permit applicants to visit the Ministry in person for biometric registration before submitting any initial or renewal work permit applications. The new registration system, which is expected to be implemented this month, will take scans of the applicant’s fingerprints and passport and a photograph. Note that this registration requirement does not apply to applicants for the SEM residence visa for permanent staff of multinational companies, who do not require a separate work permit application.
Employers in Panama should ensure that their foreign national employees applying for new or renewal of work permits are aware of the new requirement for biometric registration. Applicants should keep in close contact with their Immigration Specialists, so that they may visit the MOL as soon as possible once the new system is in place, to avoid possible delays.
SAUDI ARABIA | Companies with Five of Fewer Employees Exempted from Expanded Expat Fee
Effective January 1, as expected, the monthly levy on foreign national employees in companies where the number of foreign employees exceeds the number of Saudi employees doubled to SAR 400 per month, and a new levy of SAR 300 per month came into effect for companies where the number of foreign employees does not exceed the number of Saudi employees. Similarly, the monthly levy on foreign national dependents, just SAR 100 since first imposed in July, doubled to SAR 200.
However, in an unexpected development, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development has now announced that Saudi companies employing five people or fewer are exempt from the monthly expat levy, and companies employing nine people or fewer must pay the levy only for the number of employees exceeding five. The Ministry further announced that foreign nationals working in branch offices of general recruitment companies and recruitment companies for hiring domestic help are also exempt from the levy. Additionally, it is confirmed that the expat levy will not apply to spouses of Saudi citizens, citizens of GCC countries, and non-Saudi children of Saudi women.
The levy is imposed for the duration of the intended residence of each foreign national employee and dependent family members and is paid to the Jawazat office at the time of the initial or renewal Muqeem (residence permit) application. The levy may be paid by the principal applicant or by the sponsoring Saudi entity.
The expat levy is scheduled to increase again in 2019 and 2020. The fee for foreign national employees will increase to SAR 600 in 2019 and SAR 800 in 2020 for companies where the number of foreign employees exceeds local employees and increase to SAR 500 in 2019 and SAR 700 in 2020 for companies where the number of foreign employees does not exceed local employees. The fee for dependents will increase to SAR 300 in 2019 and SAR 400 in 2020.
UKRAINE | New Biometric Entry Procedures In Effect
Effective January 1, Ukraine has introduced a system of biometric border control for nationals of 70 countries (including Russia) when entering the country via international ports of entry. The new system is expected to increase the time required for border entry for affected travelers.
The new border controls, which include requiring biometric passports and fingerprint verification, are initially being implemented for nationals of “countries of migration risk” but may also be applied to nationals of other countries in the future. Additional border control measures are also being planned for future implementation, including compulsory electronic pre-notification of visits and address registration after arrival.
Travelers from the 70 applicable countries should plan for additional time at airports and other points of entry in order to complete the new biometric entry procedures, especially as the new procedure is being implemented.
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 Czech Republic partner office “International Business Support”, our PLG Indian partner offices IKAN Relocations” and “Lexagent”, our PLG Iraq partner office “New Frontiers Business Consulting”, our PLG Panama partner office “Morgan & Morgan Abogados”, our PLG Saudi Arabia partner office “Proven”, our PLG Ukraine partner office “Intermark”, Newland Chase, and Peregrine Immigration Management to provide you this update.
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