Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Angola, Australia, Mozambique, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey.
AUSTRALIA | Changes to Health Insurance Requirements for 457 Visas and Proposed Changes to Eligible Occupations Lists
Pro-Link GLOBAL is following two developments impacting companies employing foreign nationals in Australia. The first concerns a change to health insurance requirements for foreign employees applying for Subclass 457 Visas. The second concerns proposed future changes to the eligible occupations lists for Australia’s employment-based visa categories.
Changes to Health Insurance Requirements for 457 Visa Applicants
Starting November 18, foreign nationals applying for subclass 457 visas are no longer required to provide documentation confirming their health insurance coverage – such as a letter from an insurer – as part of the visa application process. The online application form has been amended to simply require applicants to indicate that they have made adequate arrangements for health insurance for their intended period of stay in Australia. This change applies to all subclass 457 visa applicants, including family members and subsequent entrants, and is effective for all applications lodged and still pending adjudication on November 18.
Also, effective from November 18, a new visa condition has been added at Section 8602 of Schedule 8 of Australia’s Migration Regulations – applicable to most visa categories, including Subclass 457. Under the new regulation, visa holders cannot have an outstanding public health debt for any health-related services received in Australia not covered by health insurance or Medicare. An “outstanding public health debt” is defined as any debt relating to public health or aged care services that has been reported to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) as outstanding by a Commonwealth, State, or Territory health authority.
If a visa holder or an applicant has an outstanding public health debt, they will be requested to contact the relevant health provider to make arrangements to clear the debt. A failure to clear the debt may lead to denial of a visa application or cancellation of an already issued visa.
Proposed Changes to Eligible Occupations Lists
Through December 1, the Australian Department of Employment is inviting public consultation on potential changes to the Department of Immigration’s new occupation lists: the Short-Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) and the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL). Thus far, the proposed changes are only to the STSOL. However, the Department is inviting stakeholders to provide comment in relation to the specific occupations identified for possible change, as well as those flagged for no change.
Interested companies should review the Department of Employment’s Traffic Light Bulletin outlining the proposed changes. Companies who would like to see an occupation returned to either the STSTOL or the MLTSSL should provide a summary and evidence of how their business is or will be negatively impacted, such as proof of their efforts to recruit suitably qualified and experienced candidates from within the local labor market. Likewise, companies who have experienced high caliber foreign candidates declining offers because of their inability to offer the stability of a four-year visa or provide a pathway to Australian permanent residence are invited to provide evidence of this as well.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
MOZAMIBIQUE | DIRE Residency Document No Longer Required for New Foreign Hires
Effective immediately, foreign nationals entering Mozambique with a work visa will no longer be required to obtain an Identification and Residency Document for Foreigners (DIRE). Instead, their work visas will be extended up to one year based on the length their employment contracts.
This change only affects new hires going forward. Current DIRE holders will continue to use their DIRE until their current work visa expires. Also note that this change only applies to the work visa holder, and dependent family members of work visa holders are still required to obtain a DIRE.
QATAR | 30-Day Visas-On-Arrival May Only Be Extended Through New Online Portal
The Qatari Ministry of Interior (MOI) has announced that visitors who have entered Qatar on a 30-day tourist visa-on-arrival and who wish to extend their stay for an additional 30 days must do so through a new online portal, rather than through the Airport Passports Department.
This measure applies to visitors from the 46 countries whose nationals are eligible for the 180-day multiple-entry visas-on-arrival to Qatar. These visas are valid for stays of up to 30 days, renewable in-country for an additional 30 days. Eligible citizens include those of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States nationalities. A complete list of eligible nationals is available here. Note that this change does not apply to nationals of the 34 countries who are eligible for visa-free entry for stays of up to 90 days, which are not eligible to extend their stays in-country.
ROMANIA | 2017 Quotas for Local Hire and Secondment Work Permits Exhausted
In Romania, the 2017 quotas of work permits both for local hires and secondments has been exhausted, and the 2018 quotas may not be available before the end of this year. Therefore, currently pending work permit applications in these categories will not be approved. However, work permits for other categories – such as intra-company transferees, highly-skilled workers, and trainees – are still available for the current year.
Details regarding how authorities are treating pending applications in these affected categories are now being released, but remain unclear. If the 2018 quotas are released within 30 days of the application submission, these applications will be processed under the new quotas. If the new quotas are not released within 30 days of submission, the application deadline will reportedly be extended by 15 days to allow those applications to be processed from the new quotas. However, it is also unclear whether this extension will be automatic or if the applicant must request it.
If the new quotas are not released within 45 days of submission, those pending application will apparently not be approved. It is again unclear whether authorities will retain these applications on record and process them once the new quotas have been released or will require a new submission. Note that any supporting documents may need to be updated if their validity expires while this processing of pending applications is on hold.
Immigration authorities are purportedly continuing to accept new applications for local hire and secondment work permits during this temporary pause in processing even before the new quota is released. Thus, companies and their foreign employees with pending applications or preparing to submit applications in these categories before the end of the year are encouraged to reach out to their Immigration Specialists for the latest guidance. In all cases, companies requiring work permits for local hire or secondment of foreign nationals in Romania should allow for significant delays in application processing over the next two months.
SAUDI ARABIA | New Online Document Attestation Service at Riyadh Chamber of Commerce
The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce has launched a new online attestation service for some documents involved in the immigration process. The online service is available through the “My Business Portal” and allows users to complete the attestation of certain documents – including the visa request letter to the Labor Office – without the need of visiting the Chamber offices in person. Note that some documents that require physical attestation – such as Saudization certificates, business agreements, employment contracts, family visas, and other government forms – will continue to require in-person visits.
SOUTH AFRICA & ANGOLA | New Reciprocal Visa Waiver
Effective December 1, the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will implement a reciprocal visa waiver for Angolan citizens for stays of up to 30, to a maximum of 90 days per year. Angolan passport holders will no longer require Port of Entry Visas in advance of travel to South Africa for the purposes of general business, tourism, or family visits and will be issued a 30-day Visitor’s Visa at the Port of Entry upon arrival in South Africa. Reciprocally, Angolan authorities are expected to no longer require visas for South African citizens to enter Angola for the same purposes and periods of stay.
Note, however, that this visa waiver does not include visits for the purposes of work, study, or self-employment. Angolan nationals who are conducting short-term work in South Africa are still required to obtain a Port of Entry Visa with authorization to conduct work under Section 11(2) of the Immigration Act prior to travel. These may be applied for at the VFS Visa Application Centers of the South African Embassy in Angola or at the appropriate South African overseas diplomatic missions for Angolan citizens residing abroad.
TURKEY | Latest State Department Guidance on U.S. Citizens Traveling to Turkey
On November 21, the United States Department of State issued an update on the latest status for U.S. citizens entering Turkey. The key points of this latest State Department guidance are as follows:
- Airports in Turkey – U.S. citizens (with no other nationality) will be issued sticker visas upon entry into Turkey if they can show legal residency (residence permits) in another country other than the U.S. Note that this is a clear departure from the policy over the past month where all U.S. citizens were regularly being issued sticker visas at Turkish airports as long as their flight originated outside the U.S.;
- Turkish consulates outside the U.S. are now consistently issuing visas to U.S. nationals physically present at that consular post without issue. However, whether a particular consulate requires the U.S. applicant to have a verifiable local residence continues to be apparently considered on a case-by-case basis;
- Turkish consular posts inside the U.S. are still offering visa appointments to U.S. citizens in some cases, based on certain criteria such as medical needs, urgent family issues, international conferences, or sporting events, etc.; and
- Currently valid Turkish visas (including sticker visas) continue to be accepted by border authorities for entry into Turkey.
The above guidance was issued in the current diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Turkey, which is ongoing since October 8 when the United States announced the immediate suspension of all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey. Turkey then retaliated by suspending all visa services for U.S. citizens at its consular offices in the U.S. and at Turkey’s borders, and blocked U.S. nationals from using its online e-Visa service. On November 6, the U.S. mission to Turkey announced that it was resuming limited visa services in Turkey, based on assurances from the Turkish government on the security of U.S. diplomatic staff. Turkey then reciprocated by also announcing a limited resumption of visa application processing at its consular offices in the U.S.
As the situation remains extremely fluid, all U.S. nationals traveling to, and companies sending U.S. employees to, Turkey should continue to consult their Immigration Specialists for the latest updates and guidance well ahead of expected travel.
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 Australian partner office Visa Executive, our KGNM Mozambique partner office Henriques, Rocha & Associados, our PLG Qatar partner office FutureGate Business Services, our PLG Romania partner office Rilvan, our PLG Saudi Arabia partner office Proven, our PLG South African partner office J Fetting SPC, our PLG Turkey partner office Bener, Newland Chase, and Peregrine Immigration Management to provide you this update.
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