Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Australia, Azerbaijan, New Zealand, Peru, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
AUSTRALIA | Updates on Skilled Visa Rules – Including Skilled Occupation Lists and New TSS Visa
On January 11, the Australian Department of Home Affairs (DHA) published a clarification of various recent and upcoming changes to the skilled visa regulations – including some eagerly awaited details on the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa which is scheduled to replace the Subclass 457 visa in March 2018.
Updates to Skilled Occupation Lists for temporary and permanent skilled visas came into effect January 17, but apply only to applications lodged after January 17 and will not apply to pending applications. For further details, please see this DHA summary of 17 January 2018 changes to the lists of eligible skilled occupations. The next set of occupations lists will be published in March 2018 for the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa, the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS) (subclass 187) visa, and the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa consistent with the broader legislative changes being implemented at that time.
Same-Sex Married Couples are reminded that they should now indicate their spouse using “spouse” rather than the past practice of “de facto partner” on their visa application forms.
Incomplete Applications for 457 Visas may be refused without requests for further information first being issued (after a grace period of two calendar days), starting January 15. This new rule does not include cases where health and character documentation, or related nomination or sponsorship applications, are pending, or other cases where a reasonable and satisfactory explanation for the incompleteness is provided.
Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), as amended, came into force January 1. The SAFTA now exempts citizens, nationals, and permanent residents of Singapore from the requirement of Labour Market Testing (LMT) in the 457 Visa applications.
New Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa
The DHA is reminding interested parties that the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa program, coming in March, will take the form of three streams:
- Short-Term Stream – for employers to source genuine temporary overseas skilled workers in occupations included on the Short-Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) for a maximum of two years (four years if an international trade obligation applies);
- Medium-Term Stream – for employers to source highly skilled overseas workers to fill medium-term critical skills in occupations included on the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) for up to four years – with eligibility to apply for permanent residence after three years; and
- Labour Agreement Stream – for employers to source overseas skilled workers in accordance with a labour agreement with the Commonwealth, on the basis of a demonstrated need that cannot be met in the Australian labour market, where standard visa programs are not available, with eligibility to negotiate a permanent residence option.
A number of measures are planned to streamline processing of TSS Visas and other temporary skilled work visas. Measures include: a new standard five-year sponsorship agreement period, auto-approval of completed lower-risk nomination applications lodged by accredited sponsors, and new streamlined renewal process for existing sponsors.
To aid in the transition from the 457 Visa to the TSS Visa, various provisions are being implemented, among them being:
- Employers who are already approved standard business sponsors for Subclass 457 will be immediately able to sponsor skilled overseas workers under the TSS Visa program.
- If Subclass 457 nomination and visa applications are both lodged prior to the TSS Visa being implemented, they will be processed under the current framework.
- If a Subclass 457 nomination application is lodged without an associated 457 visa application being lodged before the TSS Visa being implemented, it will become “redundant”, as Subclass 457 nominations cannot be linked to TSS Visa applications, even where the nomination has already been approved. Withdrawal and refund requests for such redundant nominations will be available. However, employers are encouraged to lodge Subclass 457 nomination and visa applications prior to the end of February, or to wait and lodge the applications together under the TSS Visa once it takes effect.
- Dependent family members will be able to lodge TSS Visa dependent visa applications linked to pending 457 Visa applications or linked to current 457 Visa holders. The validity period of the dependent’s TSS Visa will match the expiry date of the primary 457 Visa holder.
- Subclass 457 Visa holders whose visa is not expiring but wish to change employer after the implementation of TSS Visa can have their new employer lodge a TSS nomination application and link this to the existing 457 Visa.
- Subclass 457 Visa holders who wish to change occupations or need a new visa (e.g. one with longer validity) will need to lodge a new TSS Visa application referencing a new TSS nomination application.
Finally, the DHA has confirmed that Labour Market Testing (LMT) exemptions based on occupation will not be available under the TSS Visa. More details will be provided in February 2018.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
AZERBAIJAN | E-Visas Valid for 90-Day Stays and Multiple Entries
Effective January 12, e-visas obtained through the ASAN Viza website allow stays of up to 90 days (rather than the previous 30 days) and multiple entries (rather than a single entry, as previously). The ASAN e-visa system was launched in January 2017. Currently, nationals of 94 countries are eligible for the 90-day multiple-entry ASAN e-visa valid for tourism and business purposes. Standard processing takes up to three working days, with an urgent e-visa option processed in under three hours.
Note that the e-visa is available for only tourist and business activities, and does not allow traditional work activities, for which a work visa is required. For a case specific assessment of whether an e-visa or a work visa is required for particular activities, companies should reach out to their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists.
NEW ZEALAND | New Salary Thresholds for Essential Skills Visa Increased for 2018
Effective January 15, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has increased the remuneration thresholds which affect length of stay and dependent sponsorship rights for family members of Essential Skills Visa applicants. The change is applicable only to those applications filed after January 15 and does not affect existing Essential Skills Visa holders or applications which were already pending on January 15.
The remuneration bands, which also affect the Skilled Migrant Category, were first implemented on August 28, 2017 as part of last year’s immigration reforms and are indexed against the New Zealand median income and subject to annual updates at the end of each calendar year. This year, the change was delayed until mid-January to give employers and migrants enough time to adjust to the new remuneration bands.
New to the New Zealand immigration system in August, the new remuneration bands affect work visa duration and dependent sponsorship in the following manner:
- Essential skills visa applicants earning less than NZD 20.65 per hour (previously NZD 19.97 per hour) will only be eligible for a 12-month work visa, regardless of the skill level of the job. After three work visas (three years in New Zealand), these applicants must leave New Zealand for at least 12 months. They may not sponsor a partner or children for dependent visas to stay with them in New Zealand.
- Likewise, applicants earning between NZD 20.65 per hour and NZD 36.44 per hour (previously NZD 19.97 to 35.24 per hour) and in ANZSCO skill levels 4 or 5 jobs will also only be eligible for 12-month work visas, must also leave New Zealand after three years for at least 12 months, and may not sponsor partners or children for dependent visas.
- On the other hand, applicants earning the same NZD 20.65 per hour and NZD 36.44 per hour (previously NZD 19.97 to 35.24 per hour) but in ANZSCO skill levels 1, 2 or 3 jobs will be eligible for three-year work visas. They will be able to renew the visas every three years (without leaving New Zealand for 12 months), and they may support a partner or children for dependent visas to stay in New Zealand.
- Finally, applicants earning more than NZD 36.44 per hour (previously NZD 35.24 per hour) will be eligible for five-year, renewable Essential Skills Visas and eligible to sponsor a partner and children to stay for dependent visas, regardless of the ANZSCO level of his or her job.
As these rules regarding the remuneration bands, and their impact on visa length and family sponsorship, are new since August, companies and their foreign employees in New Zealand are encouraged to reach out to their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists with any questions about the rules and these first threshold increases.
PERU | “Annual Aliens Rate” Fee on Expats Repealed
In welcomed news to foreign nationals residing in Peru, the Peruvian National Superintendency of Migration has repealed the previous requirement for foreign nationals resident in Peru to pay the "annual aliens rate" (TAE - Tasa Anual de Extranjeria). Foreign national residents who submit an initial or renewal residence application in 2018 will not need to pay the TAE, unless they have an outstanding balance from 2016.
More details regarding the Annual Aliens rate, the repeal, and instructions if foreign nationals have a balance overdue from 2016 can be found on the National Superintendency of Migration website here.
TURKEY | Significant Increases in Minimum Salary Requirements for 2018
Effective January 1, the Turkish Labour Ministry has announced increased minimum salary requirements, which represent a fourteen percent increase over last year. The new minimum salary rates are:
- Gross minimum monthly salary – TRY 2029.50 (up from TRY 1777.50); and
- Net minimum monthly salary – TRY 1603.12 (up from TRY 1404.06).
The minimum salary requirements in turn determine the minimum monthly salaries to be paid to foreign employees on work permits for various occupations:
- High level managers, pilots, engineers, and architects granted interim work permits cannot be paid less than 6.5 times the gross minimum monthly salary (TRY 13,191.75 gross per month);
- Departmental managers, engineers and architects cannot be paid less than 4 times the gross minimum monthly salary (TRY 8118 gross per month);
- Employees working in positions deemed to require “expertise” and teachers cannot be paid less than 3 times the gross minimum monthly salary (TRY 6088.50 gross per month);
- Employees working as acrobats or similar positions for tourism and entertainment organizations, masseurs, and spa therapists cannot be paid less than twice the gross minimum monthly salary (TRY 4059 gross per month); and
- All other positions cannot be paid less than 1.5 times the gross minimum monthly salary (TRY 3044.25 gross per month).
Note that the salary requirements above are base salaries, not inclusive of benefits of any kind, and must be maintained throughout the validity of the work permit. Companies employing foreign nationals on work permits are encouraged to review the salaries of their foreign national employees in Turkey to ensure compliance with these new minimum salary thresholds.
UNITED KINGDOM | New Method for Calculating Absences for Indefinite Leave to Remain Applications
Effective January 11, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has changed the method for calculating absences from the United Kingdom for the purposes of applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). UKVI caseworkers may now refuse applications for ILR based on five years’ continual residence in the UK if the 180-day absence limit has been exceeded in any rolling twelve-month period. Previously, applications needed to show fewer than 180 days' absences in any of the five consecutive twelve-month periods prior to the date of the application.
The new guidance issued states that UKVI may apply some discretion in granting applications even where applicants are deemed to have exceeded the 180-day absence limit, in the following cases:
- If the absences were due to “serious and compelling” reasons; or
- If it can be demonstrated that the present changes in the method for calculating the 180-day absence limit will cause the applicant “exceptionally harsh consequences”.
To receive this discretion, UKVI suggests applicants provide a detailed letter setting out the reasons why they believe a negative decision would indeed cause exceptionally harsh consequences.
This new calculation method is particularly relevant for Tier 2 (General) migrants as they may be caught by a six-year cap applicable to this visa category. This means that if Tier 2 migrants do not qualify for ILR due to excessive absences, and they have already spent six continuous years in the UK on this visa type, they may be required to return to their home countries (unless able to move into a different visa category) and may be subject to a “cooling-off” period, preventing them from returning to the UK under any Tier 2 category, with the only exception being those who are considered “high-earners”.
Recall that Pro-Link GLOBAL reported in December that applications for ILR lodged by partners of points-based system migrants will also be required to show that they have not been absent from the UK for more than 180 days per year, just as main applicants are required to do.
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 Azerbaijan partner office “Central Asian Business Consultants”, our PLG New Zealand partner offices “Cavell Leitch” and “Woburn International”, our PLG Peru partner office “AOV Abogados”, our PLG Turkey partner office “Bener”, Newland Chase, and Peregrine Immigration Management to provide you this update.
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