Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
THAILAND | First Phase of New Online System Launched for Work Permits and Visas
Effective October 2017, Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) – alongside the Immigration Bureau (IMM) and the Department of Employment (DOE) – has launched a new online system for streamlined initial and renewal work permit and visa applications. The so-called Single Window System will eventually replace the current hardcopy work permit booklet with a new digital work permit, allow applicants to book immigration appointments online, and require fewer supporting documents to be provided in hardcopy.
The new system will be implemented in several stages beginning on October 2, 2017. BOI-promoted companies must register online for mandatory training on the new system on a first-come, first-served basis.
- October 1-15, 2017: Five pilot companies selected by the BOI will be trained to use the new Single Window System.
- October 17-20, 2017: Other companies will be trained to use the Single Window System.
- October 24, 2017: Companies who have completed the training will be able to start using the Single Window System.
- November and December 2017: Company training continues.
- January 1, 2018: From this date, all BOI companies who wish to use the OSSC in Bangkok and the Immigration Office and Employment Office in Chiang Mai and Phuket Provinces will be required to use the Single Window System. Companies should expect extensive delays with their applications if they do not complete the training by this date and continue to use the old system.
- October 2018: The Single Window System will expand nationwide, including for applicants recognized by the new Strategic Talent Center (STC), and working for non-BOI companies.
Service interruptions and technical difficulties may arise and cause delays during the early implementation stages. While the online process will be longer for the initial work permit and long-term visa applications, foreign employees can begin work on the date their candidate nomination application is approved. The new online system will eventually reduce the renewal, amendment, and cancellation processing times.
To avoid additional future delays as the system is rolled out, BOI-accredited companies employing foreign nationals in Thailand should register for training on the new online system as soon as possible. Finally, employers intending to hire foreign nationals in Thailand should consult an immigration specialist for the latest information on the Single Window System.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
SINGAPORE | Higher Salary Threshold for Dependent Privileges from January 2018
Effective January 1, 2018, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will raise the salary threshold for work pass holders to qualify for dependent privileges.
In the new year, Employment Pass and S Pass holders need to receive a minimum fixed monthly salary of:
- SGD 6,000 (up from SGD 5,000) to obtain a Dependent’s Pass (DP) for their spouse and/or unmarried dependent children of 20 years or younger, or a Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP) for their common-law spouse, unmarried stepchildren of 20 years or under, or unmarried children of 21 years or above in certain circumstances;
- SGD 12,000 (up from SGD 10,000) to obtain a Long Term Visit Pass for their parents.
Note that the changes will not apply to the EntrePass or the Personalised Employment Pass, which use different criteria to assess dependent privileges.
The Singaporean authorities have confirmed that certain transitional measures will be in place. Initial DP and LTVP applications received before January 1, 2018 will be assessed on the existing criteria. Renewal DP and LTVP applications received after January 1, 2018 will also be assessed on the current criteria if the initial work pass was issued before January 1 and the main pass holder remains with the same employer.
Employers are encouraged to consult an immigration specialist to confirm the impact of the forthcoming changes on their global mobility plans. Depending on case and client specifics, sponsoring companies who intend to employ foreign nationals with accompanying family members who will earn a fixed monthly salary of SGD 5,000 and SGD 6,000 may consider submitting these applications before January 1, 2018 to utilize the transitional measures.
TAIWAN | Permanent Residents of Hong Kong and Macau Can Now Obtain Multiple-Entry Permit Online
Effective October 2, 2017, permanent residents of Hong Kong and Macau, who live in one of 27 designated locations can apply for one-year or three-year multiple-entry permits for Taiwan online, rather than in person at the Taipei Representative Office. Previously, only a single-entry permit to Taiwan was available through the online platform. Obtaining a visa upon arrival in Taiwan remains an option.
To qualify, applicants must have either:
- Hong Kong permanent residence and no British National (Overseas) passport or other nationality passport; or
- Macau permanent residence and no other nationality passport (unless a Portuguese passport obtained before the end of Portuguese governance).
The applicant must be resident in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Japan (Tokyo or Osaka), South Korea, Vietnam (Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City), Macau, Myanmar, India, Hong Kong, France, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Paraguay, the United States (Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles, Miami or San Francisco) or Canada (Ontario, Vancouver).
TURKEY & THE UNITED STATES | Reciprocal Suspension of Visa Services Enacted
On October 8, 2017, the United States announced the immediate suspension of all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey. Hours later, Turkey retaliated by suspending all visa services for U.S. citizens at its diplomatic and consular missions in the United States, at Turkey’s borders, and blocked U.S nationals from using its e-Visa service.
Each government’s statement claimed that “recent events” had forced them to reassess the commitment of the other to the security of their facilities and personnel, and required them to minimize the number of visitors to their diplomatic and consular missions.
For those travelers who may be affected by these changes, the following steps are recommended:
- U.S. nationals intending to obtain visas for Turkey at Turkish consulates in the United States or online via the e-Visa service should reconsider their plans.
- U.S. nationals may be able to obtain visas to enter Turkey at Turkish consulates outside the United States.
- Turkish nationals intending to obtain visas for the United States at U.S. consulates in Turkey should reconsider their plans.
Pro-Link GLOBAL will continue to monitor this situation closely and provide updates as they are made official by either the U.S. or Turkish authorities.
UNITED KINGDOM | Registered Traveller Service Program Expanded to New Nationalities
The government has announced an expansion to its Registered Traveller Service, which facilitates faster entry at the United Kingdom (UK) border. Effective 5 October 2017, business travelers and frequent visitors from the following 15 additional countries are eligible to apply for membership of the service: Andorra, Bahamas, Botswana, Holy See (Vatican City), Macao, Maldives, Monaco, Namibia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Seychelles, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tonga and Trinidad & Tobago.
The Registered Traveller Service allows approved members, who have undergone advanced security checks, faster entry at the UK border through access to the ePassport gates (for ePassport holders) or the UK/EU passport lane. To be eligible to apply, passengers must hold an eligible passport and have a visa or have visited the UK at least four times in the past two years. Note that the Registered Traveller Service had previously been open to adults only; however, last month, the service was expanded to include 0 to 17 year-old dependents of members, enabling families to travel together more easily.
This is not the first time the program has been expanded to include new eligible nationalities:
- The Registered Traveller Service went live in April 2015 for applicants aged 18 and over, from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.
- The service was extended to include applicants from Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region only), Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan in January 2016.
- November 2016 the UK Prime Minister announced the future expansion of the service to certain categories of traveler from India.
- From November 2016, the service was again expanded to passengers from Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The continued expansion of this program is welcome news and will alleviate entry formalities into the UK for these travelers. Nationals of the qualifying countries listed above should contact an immigration specialist to find out if they can benefit from this Registered Traveller Service.
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 Thailand partner offices Dej-Udom & Associates, Blumenthal Richter & Sumet, Asian Tigers, and Orientations Thailand; our Singapore Newland Chase office; our Taiwan partner office People First Relocation; the U.S. Embassy in Turkey; our United Kingdom Newland Chase office; and Peregrine Immigration Management to provide you this update.
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