Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Austria, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Hungary, and Panama.
AUSTRIA | New Law Makes Extensive Changes to Posted Worker Requirements
Effective January 1, a broad new law has made extensive changes to Austria’s mandated company responsibilities regarding their foreign employees on assignment in Austria. The effects of the changes are varied: in some respects requirements have been tightened, certain requirements merely clarified, others expanded, and in other instances the regulations are slightly relaxed. In all instances, Pro-Link GLOBAL is recommending that companies with foreign employees on assignment in Austria review current employment policies with their Austrian labor counsel, as some applicable requirements may have changed.
The new Law on Combating Payroll and Social Dumping (Lohn- und Sozialdumping-Bekämpfungsgersetz, or LSD-BG) attempts to consolidate and clarify requirements in a myriad of statutes – including the statutes on employment contracts, subcontracting workers, labor inspection, social security, and equal opportunity – as they apply to posted foreign workers. The goal is to codify the obligations into one act, while also bringing Austria in line with the European Union’s Posted Worker Directive (2014/67/EU). See our Immigration Dispatches of October 3, September 26, September 12, August 15, and July 24 for more on the EU Posted Worker Directive and the recent implementation efforts in other EU nations.
While Austrian legal experts are still analyzing the details, the LSD-BG impacts the following:
- Posting Notices – The current ZKO3 and ZKO4 notices of posting must now be submitted to the Ministry of Finance’s Central Coordination Office (ZKO) by the start date of the assignment, rather than one-week prior as previously required, and subsequent changes in assignment must be likewise reported without delay. Generally, the ZKO notices that lack specific details, or “stock notices,” may not be sufficient, but under certain temporary group assignments, “framework notifications” and “collective messages” may be accepted.
- Document Retention Requirements – Regulations regarding permissible forms, storage methods, and locations of required employee documents (i.e. ZKO report, employment contract, time records, payroll records, social insurance documents) have been liberalized somewhat, depending on the assignment, but the location and responsible contact person must be specified in the ZKO report.
- Employee Rights – Requirements for various employee rights (including minimum wages, maximum work hours, and vacation time) have been further clarified. Provisions applicable to subcontractors and suppliers, and provisions governing the “assembly privilege,” “mounting privilege,” and “installation privilege,” have also undergone revision and clarification. Changes here will be of particular interest to companies in the construction sector.
- Legal Enforcement and Penalties for Non-Compliance – Provisions on enforcement activity (including increased inspections and cross-border cooperation), increased penalties for non-compliance, and standards of employer liability are also included in these new regulations.
- Exemptions for Certain Short-Term Work – High-earning employees (over EUR € 6,075 monthly) on short-term assignments, certain specialists on short-term assignments, individuals on assignments within the scope of a college or university education, training, or research program, and “mobile workers” and “crew members” are now exempt from ZKO reporting requirements.
The above explanation is merely an overview of broad aspects of the existing scheme affected by the LSD-BG. It is offered to assist companies in identifying where their current policies and procedures may need a closer look and not intended as a comprehensive compliance guide. Again, Pro-Link GLOBAL urges companies to contact their Austrian labor counsel with specific questions if the above discussion brings concerns to light, as the provisions of LSD-BG are extensive and are now in effect.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
AZERBAIJAN | Online ASAN E-Visa Portal Goes Live
The Republic of Azerbaijan’s online ASAN Visa portal is set to go live January 10. The new e-visa application and processing system has been online in test mode for several weeks, but the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations has announced that it will be fully operational for visa application submission this week.
The new system enables nationals from 81 countries to apply for Azerbaijan e-visas completely through the online system, without need of visiting a consular post or processing center. The issued e-visa is emailed to the applicant within three business days of application. The application fee, payable online by credit card, is just USD $20.00, and the 30-day, single-entry visa is applicable for both business and tourism purposes.
Azerbaijan is currently in the process of diversifying its economy away from dependence on oil and gas production, which had generated among the world’s highest GDP gains in its post-Soviet transition to a market economy. The lower global oil prices of recent years brought significant slowing in Azerbaijan’s GDP growth to its first contraction in 2016. Nevertheless, foreign investment in Azerbaijan remains high and will continue to be an important component of future growth. According to the World Bank, the key will be the government implementing the necessary policy reforms to create a more hospitable environment for international business. While further economic openness is certainly needed, the current immigration changes are a positive start.
BRAZIL | Federal Police Registration Rules Relaxed
As per new Administrative Regulation 286, effective December 15, foreign nationals renewing visas or converting visas to permanent residence in Brazil are no longer held to a 90-day deadline to register with the Federal Police for a new federal RNE identification card. Previously, foreign nationals had a 90-day window to register with the Federal Police after either the publication of the approval decision on renewal or the “transformation” of their visa. If they failed to complete the necessary registration within that window, applicants had to have the approval “republished” to reset the 90-day clock in which to register. Now, with the elimination of the 90-day deadline, the visa holder can register with the Federal Police at any time so long as their current visa is still valid.
Going forward, republishing approval will only be done where there is a material error requiring correction of a name, date, or other key data. Further, it should be noted that registration cannot be done retroactively under the new rule. If the visa has already expired, it cannot be republished. Therefore, all foreign nationals are still urged to register with the Federal Police as soon as possible after the approval of their visa renewal or transformation to permanent residence.
HUNGARY | Expedited Work Permit Process Designed to Attract More High-Demand Workers
Hungary has implemented an expedited work permit application process for certain foreign nationals in high-demand occupations. At present, the program is only open to nationals of Serbia and the Ukraine in 37 occupations on a published list of the Minister of National Economy – which includes primarily engineering, information technology, and certain specialized blue-collar occupations. However, indicators suggest that the program may soon be expanded to include nationals of other countries if successful.
The streamlined process exempts applicable foreign nationals from the work permit authorization steps, allowing them to receive their combined work and residence permit in 3 weeks, rather than the current typical 4 months processing time. The fast-track process is designed to help companies more easily fill vacancies in critical business sectors in Hungary.
While the program is initially being introduced only for Hungary’s bordering non-European Union neighbors Serbia and the Ukraine, Pro-Link GLOBAL believes recent government trends indicate that Hungary may eventually expand the initiative to take in similarly-skilled nationals from other non-EU countries. The move is in line with a January 3 statement by the Hungarian Minister of Financial Affairs announcing a 2017 GDP growth estimate of 4.1 percent, but which noted that the largest obstacle to this target would be the current shortage in skilled labor. Other recent government reforms aimed at bolstering Hungary’s economy have similarly focused on attracting in-demand labor, most notably a recent multi-year plan to increase wages in skilled manufacturing to bring the country in line with other EU nations.
PANAMA | Increase in Minimum Salary for International Executive Visa Reversed
In July, Pro-Link GLOBAL reported that a resolution of the General Director of Migration (GDM) was making it harder to obtain International Executive Visas in Panama. For more details, see our Immigration Dispatch of July 24, 2016. That resolution boosted the minimum monthly salary to qualify for the International Executive Visa from USD $1,000 to USD $5,000 – not an inconsequential increase in the cost of doing business for multinational companies with offices in Panama. That increase has now apparently been recognized as “too-much too-soon” by the Director, who has partially reversed the earlier resolution. Thus, with an effective date of November 29, 2016, the minimum monthly salary to qualify for an International Executive Visa has been rolled-back to USD $2,000.
As the “gateway” location in the Latin American region, Panama has seen a significant uptick in international business activity in recent years. In the almost 20 years since the U.S. invasion in 1989, Panama has enjoyed a relatively stable democratic government with proactive business-friendly policies, including minimalist government regulation and generous trade and tax incentives for international business. As a result, dozens of the world’s largest multinational corporations have located their primary or regional headquarters in Panama, with the accompanying investment in infrastructure.
However, the one common complaint from multinational companies in Panama has been the government’s over-protection of the local labor market and the immigration hurdles to bringing in top foreign talent. While the current roll-back of minimum salaries is admittedly a small move, it is hopefully a sign of greater responsiveness to the corporate mobility needs of companies located in Panama. Pro-Link GLOBAL will continue to monitor the business climate in Panama for more potential opportunities.
Reminders: Recent and Upcoming Immigration Implementations
The following are reminders of recent or upcoming implementation dates that you should know:
- January 1, United Arab Emirates: The General Directorate of Residence and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) has begun enforcing the provisions of Health Insurance Law No. 11 in the issuance and renewals of residence permits. Companies and foreign employees should be prepared to present proof of qualifying health insurance at the time of application. See our Immigration Dispatch of May 23, 2016 for additional details.
- January 1, Netherlands: Japanese nationals are no longer exempt from work permit requirements and must obtain TWV work permits from the Dutch Labor Office (UWV) for assignments beginning after January 1. See our Global Brief of July 15, 2016 and Immigration Dispatch of July 25, 2016 for additional details.
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 Austria Office “Relocation Services Strohmayer Gmbh”, our PLG | KGNM Azerbaijan Offices “Alibi Professional Legal & Consulting Services LLC” and “Partners in Relocation BV”, our PLG | KGNM Brazil Office “MRS Global”, our PLG | KGNM Hungary Office “Move One Inc.”, our PLG | KGNM Panama Office “Icaza Gonzalez Ruiz & Aleman” to provide you this update.
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