Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Austria, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Tanzania, and Tunisia.
SAUDI ARABIA | Validity of Block Visas Reduced to One Year
Effective immediately, companies in Saudi Arabia will have to utilize their block visas more quickly in order to hire foreign employees. The Saudi Ministry of Labor has announced that it is reducing the validity period of its block visas from two years to one year. Thus, companies now have just one year to recruit and hire the needed foreign workers before their block visa automatically expires. Only block visas for foreign domestic workers and those employed by Saudi government agencies are exempt from the new shorter validity period.
Block visas are the primary basis by which companies bring foreign workers to the Kingdom. Under the scheme, employers receive a pre-approved “block” of visas to hire foreign workers. With these recent changes, employers will now have just one-year for each block visa in which to recruit and hire workers and then apply for work visas at the Saudi overseas consular posts in the workers’ home country.
Companies relying on foreign labor may want to reexamine their recruitment and hiring processes to ensure that they are ready to proceed with the immigration procedures for their prospective foreign workers immediately upon receipt of the company's block visas. In addition, companies should also involve their Immigration Specialists early in the workforce planning process. This will help ensure that they are aware of the company’s hiring plans and ready to obtain the necessary work visas through the Saudi consulates in the new employees’ countries of residence.
The move to shorten the validity period of block visas is reportedly part of the ongoing efforts to encourage the hiring of Saudi citizens and reduce local unemployment. The move comes ahead of a scheduled increase in work permit fees slated for 2018. Whether the change in validity period will affect any new block visa fee remains undetermined.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
AUSTRIA | New EU Intra-Corporate Transfer Permit Implemented
Austria has transposed into their national law the European Union (EU) Directive 2014/66 “on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals in the framework of an intra-corporate transfer” and has introduced a new combined work and residence permit category for intra-corporate transfer (ICT). While the new ICT route – which replaces the “Rotationsarbeitskraft” scheme for intra-corporate transfers – has been available since 1 October 2017, the legislation was only formally passed on 19 October 2017.
ICT Permit – The new ICT residence permit is available to third-country nationals transferred to work in Austria within the same group of companies as managers, specialists and trainees. The foreign employee must have worked for their sending company at least nine months (six months for trainees). The Rotationsarbeitskraft had no similar requirement. While the Rotationsarbeitskraft could be renewed annually for a maximum total of five years, the new ICT combined work/residence permits are issued with a validity of twelve months, renewable up to only a total of three years for managers and specialists (non-renewable for trainees).
Intra-EU Mobility – A holder of an ICT permit issued in Austria will be able to work in another EU member state for a company of the same group, for stays of up to 90 days in a 180-day period, without separate work authorization, although the host country may require notification. For stays of more than 90 days, a “mobile ICT permit” for that country may be required.
Similarly, a holder of an EU ICT permit issued in another EU member state can work at a company of the same corporate group in Austria for up to 90 days without obtaining a separate permit. For assignments of more than 90 days in Austria, a holder of an EU ICT permit issued in another EU member state can apply for a residence permit for long-term mobility.
CANADA | Alberta Immigration Nominee Program to be Expanded and Streamlined
As of 2 January 2018, the Province of Alberta’s Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) will streamline its provincial economic immigration program into two streams.
Alberta Opportunity Stream – This new stream will be the primary route under the AINP and will be formed by combining the current Employer-Driven Stream, the Strategic Recruitment Stream, and their 11 sub-categories into a single stream with a single application form and set of qualification criteria. Details on the new stream will be released by the provincial government around the time of its opening on January 2. Reportedly, those details will include the eligibility requirements and new applicable quotas.
The current Self-Employed Farmer Stream will remain unchanged and continue to operate under the current applications process and qualification criteria.
Alberta Express Entry Stream – Also slated to be operational in January, Alberta will add an Express Entry Stream through which the province will select candidates from the federal Express Entry pool. The AINP is designed to provide a route for foreign nationals in eligible occupations already residing and working in Canada on a temporary basis to seek permanent residence in Alberta. Eligible occupations include most occupations in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill levels 0, A, B, C, and D. Various education, work experience, income, and language requirements apply.
SINGAPORE | Mobile Phone Numbers Required for Work Permit Issuance or Renewal
Effective November 17, employers must provide their foreign workers’ mobile phone numbers when completing the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM’s) Online Foreign Worker Address Service (OFWAS) portal prior to issuing or renewing their Work Permits (WPs). The requirement to confirm the employee’s residential address in the OFWAS portal will remain. This change is intended to facilitate the MOM in contacting WP holders in the event of emergencies.
Going forward, employers must update the system within five days of any change of their employee’s address or mobile number. While the above change applies only to Work Permit holders, similar requirements and processes exist for Employment Passes and S Passes as well, and employers are reminded of their obligation to similarly update those employees’ contact information in the MOM’s Employment Pass Online Portal within 14 days of any change.
TANZANIA | November 4 Audit Deadline to Verify Residence Status Approaching
Foreign nationals and their employers in Tanzania are reminded that they have until November 4 to verify the foreign national’s residence status. The requirement applies to all foreign nationals in the country – including foreign workers, business owners, students, and family members. Ongoing since October 5, the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Immigration Service Department (ISD) is conducting an audit of the residence status of all foreign nationals in the country.
Foreign employees and their employers have a joint responsibility to ensure that the employee completes this process. Failure to do so before the deadline may result in fines and imprisonment.
Both foreign nationals and Tanzanian sponsoring companies should note the following:
- The employer must provide the foreign employee with a letter confirming their employment;
- The employer or employee must download the confirmation page of the employee’s work permit from the online Permit Information Verification System (PIVS);
- On or before November 4, the employee must appear in person at the nearest Immigration Service Department office with the confirmation letter from the employer, the confirmation page from the PIVS, and their original work and residence permits; and
- The employee or employer should pick-up the ISD confirmation documents one-day after submission and retain them for their records.
The current residence audit is part of ongoing efforts by the Ministry of Home Affairs to prevent employers from employing foreign nationals without proper documentation. A similar audit was conducted in March of this year as well. In addition, all companies employing foreign nationals should be aware that this emphasis on immigration enforcement will be ongoing. Companies should be prepared for increased workplace inspections and ensure that all documents are in order for their foreign employees.
TUNISIA | Expats in GCC Countries Now Eligible for Visa-on-Arrival
Effective immediately, foreign nationals holding residence visas from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries no longer require consular visas to enter Tunisia and are now eligible for visas-on-arrival valid for stays of up to 15 days. Visas-on-arrival are reportedly now available to GCC expats at all Tunisian airports and border crossings.
To qualify, foreign nationals must present the following documents to border authorities upon arrival:
- Valid passport;
- Residence visa/permit issued by one of the GCC member nations valid for six months from the date of entry into Tunisia; and
- Hotel reservations or other proof of accommodation in Tunisia.
The measure now allows an estimated 25 million foreign residents of GCC countries to enter Tunisia without first obtaining a consular visa prior to travel. GCC nations include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Tunisia has thus far maintained its neutrality in the recent boycott of Qatar. Thus, the present measure includes foreign nationals residing in Qatar. However, given the ongoing boycott, expats in Qatar are encouraged to reach out to their Immigration Specialists prior to any travel to other Middle Eastern and North African nations to confirm that entry requirements have not changed.
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 partner Saudi Arabia offices Proven and Innovation Integrated Business Solutions, our PLG partner Tanzania office IMMMA Advocates, our PLG partner Tunisia office Kammoun & Kallel, and Peregrine Immigration Management to provide you this update.
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