Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
SAUDI ARABIA | Medical Insurance Requirement Eliminated for US Nationals
The Consulate Generals of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the United States have reversed the recent global decision requiring business and work visa applicants to purchase additional medical insurance before being granted a visa to the Kingdom. Visa applications submitted by U.S. citizens at the Saudi Arabian consulates in Washington, D.C.; New York; Los Angeles; and Houston are being processed without requesting the purchase of an additional medical policy covering the applicant’s travel to Saudi Arabia.
On June 20th this year, the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry began requiring all foreign nationals applying for both short- and long-term visas to Saudi Arabia, including business and work visas, to purchase medical insurance covering their stay in the country (see our Global Immigration Dispatch of July 11, 2016). Visa applicants had to purchase this additional coverage regardless of whether they had existing foreign medical insurance covering their stay, frustrating travelers with this additional expense when many already had sufficient coverage. In the online Enjaz registration portion of the Saudi visa application, applicants were asked to select from four medical insurance plans ranging in price from USD $100 to $400.
U.S. nationals are understandably pleased with this new development, but it is still unclear whether similar exemptions will be made for nationals of other countries applying in Saudi consulates around the world. Pro-Link GLOBAL has reached out to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. for clarification and will continue to monitor these developments and report changes to our clients. We do, however, caution that despite the lifting of the requirement to purchase additional coverage, applicants should consult with their immigration advisors to ensure that their current medical insurance policy is from a provider approved by Saudi Arabia and of sufficient coverage to avoid unnecessary delays in their immigration process.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
BRAZIL | Apostille Coming to Brazil – Implementation May Be Varied
Further to our February 18, 2016 Global Brief announcing that Brazil will join the Hague Apostille Convention and begin accepting apostilled documents - many Brazilian Consulate Generals abroad have already posted notices that they will accept apostilled documents starting August 14th. However, the Brazilian Ministry of Labor (MOL) and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) have yet to publish formal announcements confirming the same. Should these two ministries delay releasing similar announcements, it may leave a potential grey area regarding whether the Apostille stamp will be accepted for the in-country work and residence permit application steps after August 14th.
The MOL and the MOJ still have two weeks to clarify the question and issue decrees on the subject. Pro-Link GLOBAL continues to communicate with the Brazilian authorities and will provide ongoing updates. We anticipate that any consulates not yet posting notices regarding acceptance of apostilled documents will do so within the next two weeks.
Once this change is fully implemented, foreign employees and their dependents should benefit from a shorter document gathering and finalization stage in their immigration process to Brazil. While the changes are being implemented, applicants should keep in close communication with their immigration advisors to ensure they are meeting the current document finalization requirements.
SWITZERLAND | New Referendum to Determine the Future of Immigration Quotas
A public petition in Switzerland has garnered sufficient signatures to force another nationwide referendum on the issue of imposing quotas on European Union (EU) nationals immigrating to the republic. A similar referendum passed in 2014 with just 50.3 percent in favor of quotas, requiring the Swiss government to impose quotas by the end of 2017 (see our Global Brief of March 19, 2014). The Swiss government has yet to implement the mandated quotas on EU nationals and campaigned publically against the current petition, fearing it could trigger retaliatory measures from its EU trading partners and hurt the Swiss economy.
The petition to once again bring the issue to a nationwide vote comes on the heels of Switzerland’s formal June withdrawal of its 24-year-old dormant application to join the EU. Currently Switzerland’s diplomatic and trade relations with the EU are governed by a myriad of 120 bilateral agreements between the Swiss and individual EU member nations.
Some observers see the upcoming referendum as potentially part of a trend in western democracies against the EU Freedom of Movement tenet and are drawing parallels to the “Brexit” referendum in the United Kingdom - where the vote to leave the EU was driven primarily by voter sentiment against perceived “mass migration” into the UK by EU nationals. But unlike the UK’s referendum, under Swiss law, the results of this referendum will be binding on authorities.
Other observers, however, speculate that the Swiss electorate may rethink their 2014 decision in a new referendum after seeing the negative economic impact Brexit has had on the UK. A recent poll by a Swiss political research organization has even suggested that if the 2014 referendum were held today, immigration quotas would be defeated with 47 percent of the electorate against, 36 percent in favor, but 17 percent undecided.
It is too early to tell whether the coming Swiss referendum is indicative of a movement in Europe against open immigration or whether Brexit was unique to the UK. Regardless, it is clear that the debate over the next year will plot the course of Swiss immigration policy for the coming years. Pro-Link GLOBAL will continue to watch the developments in Switzerland and across the European Union so as to best position itself to advise its clients in these fast-changing times.
UNITED KINGDOM | Employers Risk Criminal Charges For Not Verifying Work Authorization of Foreign Employees
Employers of foreign workers in the United Kingdom may now face criminal charges if they fail to closely inspect work authorization documents of their foreign employees. Now employers may be criminally liable not just where they knowingly hired foreign workers ineligible to work in the UK, but also where the employer “has reasonable cause to believe” that an employee is ineligible because of his or her immigration status. These new rules came into effect July 12th as a result of the Immigration Act of 2016 enacted in May.
While it has long been the duty of every UK employer to inspect and keep records of their employee’s immigration documents, the new rules eliminate “I didn’t know” as a defense for employing an illegal worker, and the consequences of violation have increased. The penalties for the employer include civil fines and criminal sentences up to five years. Immigration officers have also been given broad new authority to enter the premises of a business suspected of violation, search for evidence, and close the business for 48 hours.
Given this new law and its increased penalties, employers of foreign workers are now more than ever encouraged to make certain they are in compliance with the applicable labor and immigration regulations. UK government expects employers at a minimum to - examine the employee’s original documents, verify that the documents are valid (while the employee is present), and make and retain copies of the documents along with the date they were examined. In examining documents, the Home Office advises employers that it is their duty to verify that:
- The documents are genuine, original and unchanged;
- The documents belong to the employee providing them;
- The dates of the employee’s right to work haven’t expired;
- All photos appear to be of the employee;
- The date of birth is the same in each document;
- The employee has permission to perform the type and hours of work expected; and
- In the case where names differ between the documents, the employee has documents supporting the name change, e.g. marriage certificate or divorce decree.
If the employee does not have the necessary original documents, or the employer suspects the employee may not be eligible to work, the employer should also use the Home Office’s free online Employer Checking Service to confirm the employee’s immigration status.
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.
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