Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Austria, Oman, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
TAIWAN | New Foreign Recruitment Law Benefits Foreign Professionals
The new Act Governing Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals will come into effect on February 8, introducing various benefits for foreign nationals working in Taiwan and their employers. The Act introduces three categories of foreign professionals with differing qualifying criteria and benefits, as well as benefits for their dependent family members.
“Foreign Professionals” who have been approved for permanent residence (APRC) will be able to participate in a retirement pension scheme, a portion of which will be paid for by their employer. The current 183-days per year minimum duration of stay for Alien Permanent Residence Card (APRC) holders to maintain their permanent residence will be eliminated. Qualifying foreign professionals will also be eligible for a six-month multiple-entry "employment-seeking visa".
“Foreign Special Professionals” possessing specified special expertise in demand in Taiwan will qualify for additional benefits. Such foreign special professionals in Taiwan will be able to extend their work permits and Alien Residence Cards (ARCs) for stays of up to five years in total, compared to the current maximum of three years. They will also be eligible for a four-in-one "gold card", valid for one to three years, that incorporates a work visa allowing them to transition between jobs without legal restrictions, a residence visa, an ARC, and a re-entry permit. Foreign nationals in this category whose annual salary is TWD 3 million or more (approximately USD 103,000) will receive an income tax exemption on 50 percent of their annual income for three consecutive years. Also, family visit visas for parents and grandparents of foreign special professionals will be valid for up to one year, an increase over the typical maximum of six months.
“Foreign Senior Professionals” – possessing distinctive talents in scientific and technological research and development or management in special technology centres or scientific and technology institutes; or possessing unique capabilities in science, research, industry, commerce, or teaching; or those who have been conferred top awards at prestigious international competitions – will qualify for further benefits. Their dependents will be eligible for permanent residence (APRC) together with the principal applicant in a single application, without need of fulfilling the standard five-consecutive-years residence requirement.
Dependent family members of foreign nationals in these categories will benefit greatly as well. Dependent spouses and minor children who hold ARCs will be able to enrol faster in the National Health Insurance System, rather than waiting the current six months of residence. The permanent residency criteria for dependents of foreign professionals already holding permanent residence (APRCs) has been relaxed so that their dependents no longer need to produce proof of assets, and adult children may apply for work permits in their own right without going through an employer.
Already an attractive business climate, these significant immigration and tax benefits for top foreign talent should only enhance Taiwan’s attractiveness for international business expansion. For details on the corporate immigration process in Taiwan and how it might benefit your company, reach out to your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
AUSTRIA | Diploma Authentication Required for Initial Red-White-Red Card Plus Applications
Effective immediately, university diplomas and school certificates submitted in support of some initial applications for Red-White-Red Card Plus (RWR Card Plus) applications by dependent family members of RWR Card holders must be legalised and authenticated under the ENIC-NARIC framework. Previously, ENIC-NARIC recognition of university diplomas and certificates was not required for these applicants.
This new requirement only affects dependents of RWR Card holders who are applying for an initial RWR Card Plus and cannot demonstrate proof of German language skills at the A1 level (according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). Dependents applying for renewal of their RWR Cards Plus were already required to provide an ENIC-NARIC recognised diploma or proof of A2 level German language skills.
RWR Card Plus applicants who are dependents of EU Blue Card or ICT Card holders do not need to submit proof of German language skills or university diplomas for their initial applications. Likewise, RWR Card and EU Blue Card holders applying to switch to an RWR Card Plus after two-years residence do not need to submit proof of German language skills or university diplomas for their initial applications. ICT Card holders cannot switch to an RWR Card Plus.
The RWR Card Plus, valid for twelve months and renewable, entitles third-country nationals to work for themselves or for any employer and to change employer without applying for a new work permit. With this new requirement, applicants for RWR Cards Plus who cannot demonstrate proof of German language skills at A1 level should allow additional time to have their university diploma legalised and authenticated by the Ministry of Education in Austria under the ENIC-NARIC framework.
OMAN | Six-Month Ban on Hiring of Foreign Nationals in 87 Occupations
Effective immediately, Oman's Ministry of Manpower has suspended for six months the recruitment of foreign nationals in 87 occupations across ten industry sectors. The affected sectors include: information systems; media; "technical professions"; engineering; air transport; accounting and finance; insurance; sales and marketing; management and human resources; and medicine. A full list of the affected job titles was published in the Times of Oman here.
Exempted from the measure are work permits issued before January 29; these will remain valid until their date of expiry. Also, employers registered with the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development or the Public Authority for Social Insurance are exempt from the ban.
Companies potentially impacted by this temporary ban are encouraged to reach out to their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists for a case-specific analysis of their situation and foreign talent hiring needs.
THAILAND | Four-Year SMART Visa for Top Foreign Talent Now Available
Effective February 1, the Thai Board of Investment has now introduced the previously-announced SMART Visa for highly-skilled foreign workers and investors in selected industries. The SMART Visa is valid for up to four years (compared to the typical one-year for most visas) for qualifying highly-skilled professionals, senior executives, and investors and valid for one year (renewable for two years) for start-up entrepreneurs. Under this streamlined process, SMART Visa holders are exempt from the usual requirements to obtain work permits, to report to the immigration authorities every 90 days, and to obtain re-entry permits to exit and re-enter Thailand. Spouses and children of SMART Visa holders are also granted residence. Spouses can work in Thailand without a work permit, and dependent children over 18 years of age can work without a work permit under the SMART "T" Talent Visa.
The SMART Visa is only available to certain foreign experts, executives, investors, and entrepreneurs whose qualifications are endorsed by the designated agencies from any of the ten targeted "S-Curve" industries: Next-Generation Automotive; Smart Electronics; Affluent, Medical and Wellness Tourism; Agriculture and Biotechnology; Food for the Future; Automation and Robotics; Aviation and Logistics; Biofuels and Biochemicals; Digital; and Medical Hub.
The new SMART Visa is available in four categories:
- SMART "T" (Talent) – for highly-skilled professionals in the area of science or technology under employment contracts with at least one year remaining with an S-Curve company and earning a salary of at least THB 200,000 per month;
- SMART "I" (Investor) – for investors investing at least THB 20 million in companies using technology in manufacturing or delivering services in the targeted industries;
- SMART "E" (Executive) – for senior executives (such as Chairman or Managing Director) with an employment contract with at least one year remaining with an S-Curve company using technology in manufacturing or delivering services and earning at least THB 200,000 per month. Eligible executives must hold a bachelor's degree or higher and have at least ten years of experience in the relevant field; and
- SMART "S" (Start-up) – for start-up entrepreneurs participating in targeted industry incubators, accelerators, or similar programs, or receiving joint venture funding endorsed by a government agency. Eligible entrepreneurs must have a fixed savings account in Thailand or abroad with a balance of at least THB 600,000 with a remaining maturity term of at least one year. Finally, qualifying entrepreneurs must within one year set up a company in a targeted industry in which they hold no less than 25% of the shares or assume a directorship.
To apply, interested applicants must first apply for a qualification endorsement letter from the SMART Visa Unit of the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) at the One-Stop Center for Visas and Work Permits (OSC). This application can then be submitted at the OSC or at a Thai consulate, after which it will be verified within 30 days by the designated agencies in the relevant industries. Within 60 days of the issuance of the qualification endorsement letter, the qualified applicant can then proceed with applying for a SMART Visa at a Thai consulate, or at the OSC if they are already resident in Thailand. Note that, given these timeframes, current holders of non-immigrant visas should plan to apply for the necessary qualification endorsement letter at least 90 days before the expiry of their current visa.
For detailed, case-specific assessments of whether this new SMART Visa option would be beneficial in particular cases, companies should reach out to their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists.
UNITED KINGDOM | Immigration Health Surcharge to Double and Tier 2 General Oversubscribed for Second consecutive Month
In the United Kingdom, two recent developments have the potential to negatively impact companies employing foreign nationals.
First, the UK government has announced that sometime this year the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) will increase from £200 to £400 per year. Similarly, the discounted IHS for Tier 4 students and those on the Youth Mobility Scheme (Tier 5) will also rise from £150 to £300 per year. Introduced in 2015, the IHS is levied on those foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area coming to the UK to work, study, or re-join family for six months or longer.
Second, the supply of Tier 2 (General) Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (RCoS) available for January 2018 was exceeded by demand for a second consecutive month. The total number of RCoS available to employers in January 2018 stood at 1651 after 91 RCoS were borrowed by the December 2017 allocation, which was also exceeded. RCoS applications submitted in January were rejected where the applicant’s salary was less than £50,000, other than those employed in PhD-level or shortage occupations or those recruited via the milkround exercise for recent graduates. RCoS applications that were rejected in January may be resubmitted in February, provided that the advertising carried out by their prospective employer remains valid.
Under the Tier 2 scheme, there is an annual allocation of 20,700 RCoS, which divided into monthly allocations. The monthly allocations are set higher earlier in the year (starting in April) to ensure that there are enough RCoS available during the peak demand in the summer. If allocations are under-subscribed in any month, the surplus is carried over to the next month. However, if demand outstrips supply, a points threshold is triggered, and applications are evaluated on points based on salary and occupation. Jobs at the PhD level and those listed as shortage occupations are awarded higher scores.
The deadline for the present monthly allocation was February 5. As it is likely that many of the unsuccessful RCoS applications from January are likely to be resubmitted for February, employers may find that February’s RCoS quota will once again be oversubscribed. Employers using the Tier 2 General scheme in the UK should be prepared for the possibility of a qualifying application for a RCoS not being granted on first request and are encouraged to consult their Immigration Specialists for guidance.
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 Austria partner office “Relocation Services Strohmayer”, our PLG Oman partner office “HelpXPat Relocations”, PLG Taiwan partner office “People First Relocation”, Newland Chase, and Peregrine Immigration Management to provide you this update.
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