Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Colombia, Panama, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Plans to Increase Local Hiring Announced
The UAE’s Ministry of Emiratisation and Human Resources (MOHRE) has recently announced plans to further encourage the employment of Emirati nationals. The aim is to provide 15,000 job opportunities for Emiratis by the end of this year ̶ a significant increase from the 6862 Emirates that were recruited using the same process in 2017. For more details on the recent efforts to increase local hiring through the new “Tawteen Program”, see our Immigration Dispatch of February 5, 2017.
The first phase of the plan targets 400 occupations with monthly salaries of at least AED 10,000 in more than 2000 companies. MOHRE has not named yet specifically named any of the selected companies who are participating in the program, only describing them as important players in the UAE's economic supply chain with large numbers of employees. Participating companies will be given discounts on government fees relating to their businesses. In addition, the ministry also offers to set up satellite offices for participating companies in rural areas to facilitate recruitment and hiring.
Under the program, when one of the participating companies seeks to recruit a foreign national for an open position, the ministry will scan the market for a suitable Emirati. If a potential Emirati candidate is found, the company is encouraged to interview them and prioritize them if they are suitable for the role. If the company believes the Emirati candidate is unsuitable for the current position, they are required to justify the reasons to the ministry. If a suitable Emirati candidate cannot be found, the company is then free to recruit a foreign national.
While these current programs to increase local hiring appear to be voluntary and do present significant benefits for companies that participate, even nonparticipating companies are encouraged to look at their current recruitment and hiring policies to ensure they are making efforts to recruit and hire local workers. Like many nations around the world, this trend toward addressing local employment needs before recruiting from abroad is likely to play an increasing role in UAE immigration policy. Companies interested in finding out more about the Tawteen Program and the benefits available for participation in programs to increase local hiring are encouraged to reach out to their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
COLOMBIA | New Deadline for Special Stay Permits for Venezuelan Nationals
A new deadline has been established for Venezuelan nationals to obtain Special Stay Permits (PEPs) allowing them to stay and work in Colombia for up to two years. Venezuelan nationals who entered Colombia before February 2 now have four months from February 4 to apply for PEPs. Previously, only Venezuelan nationals in Colombia by July 28, 2017 could apply for a PEPs, with that deadline closing October 31, 2017.
PEPs may be granted only to Venezuelan nationals who have entered the country with a regular immigration status through an authorized immigration border checkpoint, have no national or international criminal records, and are not subject to current deportation or expulsion orders. However, PEPs will not be granted to Venezuelan nationals who entered Colombia using border mobility cards: a system of registration introduced earlier in 2017 with the aim of regularizing the heightened border traffic.
Applications for PEPs may be lodged online at www.migracioncolombia.gov.co. PEPs are issued for a period of ninety calendar days and are renewed automatically for ninety-day periods up to a cumulative maximum of two years. PEP holders cannot request additional PEPs after the expiration of their PEP, but after this period, must obtain visas. Automatic renewals of the PEP may be denied at the discretion of the immigration authority if there is improper use of the permit, there has been an infraction of the legal system, or the holder exits Colombia and stays abroad for a term longer than ninety days.
The PEP is used as the identification document for Venezuelan nationals in Colombia but does not replace the passport as a travel document. It must be presented (if required) to the Colombian authorities along with the passport or national identity document.
Individuals or companies that hire or receive PEP holders are required to file reports about the individual’s activities in Colombia with immigration authorities through the SIRE system. Employers of Venezuelan nationals in Colombia should ensure that they are authorised to work with either a work visa, a PIP-7 entry and stay permit, or a PEP Special Stay permit.
These new provisions are designed to deal with the flood of Venezuelan nationals exiting their country because of the ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by the failing government and collapsed economy in Venezuela. However, companies operating in Colombia should take note of both the opportunity to employee these Venezuelan nationals and the current differences in rules and requirements that apply. Companies with specific questions regarding hiring Venezuelan nationals in Colombia should reach out to their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists for the latest guidance.
PANAMA | Update on New Requirement for In-Person Visits to the Ministry of Labor
On December 26, the Ministry of Labor (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 application. The new registration system ̶ which is now expected to be implemented on March 6 ̶ will include scanning of the applicant’s fingerprints and passport and photographing. However, the registration will not apply to applicants for the SEM residence visa for permanent staff of multinational companies who do not require separate work permit applications. For more details, see our Immigration Dispatch of January 8.
On February 20, MOL Resolution No. DM-064-2018 was published, establishing the implementation date of March 6 and laying out more details of this new registration requirement. For new initial or renewal work permit applications after March 6, applicants must personally attend the Labor Immigration Department prior to submitting their applications. For work permit applications pending on that date, registration should be completed once the work permit is approved and the applicant attends the MOL to collect their work permit IDs. For registration, the applicant must bring their original passports, a copies of their immigration status certificates, their original immigration ID cards, receipts for the submission of their work permit applications, and powers of attorney. Companies employing foreign nationals in Panama should ensure their foreign employees attend the MOL for this new requirement as soon as possible once the new requirement takes effect to avoid possible delays.
UNITED KINGDOM | Indefinite Leave to Remain Closes for Tier 1 (General) Visa Holders on April 5
Foreign nationals in the UK under the Tier 1 (General) category will no longer be permitted to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after April 5. The Tier 1 (General) was a category aimed at “highly skilled migrants” who wished to come to the UK residence and employment (including self-employment) without requiring a sponsor. The category closed to new applicants in 2011, remaining open until April 2015 only to those making extension applications.
Up until April 5, Tier 1 (General) visa holders are still eligible to apply for ILR if they have lawfully resided in the UK for five continuous years and have not been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period during the five year qualifying period. Applicants for ILR must pass the “Life in the UK” test and score sufficient points in the points-based system in the areas of age, knowledge of the English language, education, and earnings. Holders of Tier 1 (General) visas who wish to make applications for ILR are encouraged to submit their applications ahead of the April 5 deadline.
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 Colombia partner offices “Brigard and Urrutia” and “Tannus & Asociados”, our PLG Panama partner office “Morgan & Morgan Abogados”, our PLG United Arab Emirates partner office “Proven”, Newland Chase, and Peregrine Immigration Management to provide you this update.
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