Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Australia, Cyprus, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates.
MALAYSIA | MDEC Changing Employment Pass Application Process
Effective November 15, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) will introduce reduced and more consistent processing times for employment passes, a new online application portal, and new service fees (which will be paid online in advance of application submission). The new process and enhanced version of the “eXpat” online portal will cater to both Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and Information Communication Technology (ICT) status companies.
New Processing Times
Under the new applications process, the MDEC will remain the main focal point for all application matters and will liaise directly with the Immigration Department of Malaysia (IDM) on the endorsement of passes. Processing timelines for new and renewal applications submitted after November 15 will be as follows:
- MSC Approval (Stage 1) – Seven business days, a change from the current three business days;
- MSC Endorsement (Stage 2) – Two business days, a change from the current 14 to 21 business days;
- ICT Approval (Stage 1) – Seven business days, a change from the current five business days; and
- ICT Endorsement (Stage 2) – Two business days, a change from the current 10 to 14 business days.
Note that these timelines are subject to submission of complete information/documents to support application processing. For returned cases, the above timelines will apply once complete information is provided to MDEC.
New Service Fees and Online Payment
Starting November 15, the MDEC will no longer accept payment via bank-draft, banker’s check, or cashier order, and payments must be made through online payment facilities such as online bank transfers and credit or debit cards. The new fees per applicant, inclusive of the 6 percent Goods & Services Tax, will be as follows:
- Employment Pass (EP) – MYR 2120 for the MSC, and MYR 2968 for the ICT. This includes Transfers of Endorsement and Cancellation of Passes;
- Dependent Pass (DP) and Social Visit Pass (SVP) – MYR 530 for the MSC, and MTR 530 for the ICT; and
- Amendment of Approval Letter – MYR 106 for the MSC, and MYR 106 for the ICT.
Note that the MDEC will be performing the system enhancement and data migration from the old to new eXpats systems from November 10 (after 12 midnight) until 15 November 2017. The eXpat system – both current and new – will not be available for company use during this time.
For cases already submitted and ongoing on November 15, the MDEC has established the following transition arrangements to complete processing of ongoing cases using the current system. Failure to comply with these cut-off dates will lead to automatic annulment of ongoing cases, thus forcing companies to resubmit fresh applications through the new system thereafter.
- Stage 1 (Approval) – Companies may proceed with Stage 1 applications using the current eXpats system through November 9. Applications in this stage should receive a decision November 15. Incomplete applications received on November 10 will be automatically cancelled, and the company will be required to reapply using the new eXpats system on or after November 15. For “kept in view” (KIV) applications, companies must revert to their designated MDEC client manager through November 9. Failure to comply will result in automatic cancellation of pending cases.
- Stage 2 (Endorsement) – For Stage 1 approvals issued before 15 November 2017, companies will be given a grace period until 29 December 2017 to use the current eXpat system to complete Stage 2 endorsement procedures. Delays in completing Stage 2 by 29 December 2017 will lead to automatic cancellation of the Stage 1 approval, and the company will be required to reapply using the new eXpat system. For KIV applications in Stage 2, companies must revert to their designated MDEC client manager before December 29. Failure to meet the deadline will result in automatic cancellation of pending Stage 2 applications.
Companies submitting new applications, or with pending applications, with the MDEC are strongly encouraged to reach out to their Immigration Specialists to ensure that they are following the appropriate procedures to minimize any delay during this transition.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
AUSTRALIA | Citizenship Application Processing Resumes
Following the Australian Senate’s block to the overhaul of the citizenship eligibility criteria, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has resumed processing applications that were lodged on or after 20 April 2017. However, processing times are expected to be longer than typical while the DIBP works through the backlog of applications.
As we reported earlier this year, the Australian Government announced on April 20 that it would be introducing tougher criteria for Australian citizenship, applicable to all applications lodged after that date. Under the proposed changes, permanent residents of Australia would be required to wait a minimum of four years and would be required to prove a significantly higher level of English ability before being eligible to apply for Australian citizenship. While the DIBP waited for the changes to become law, processing of applications lodged on or after April 20 was put on hold.
However, the legislation to enact the changes failed to receive the necessary support in the Parliament. The Turnbull administration will likely present the legislation again, loosening the proposed standards, and the new legislation should have improved chances of passing in the new session of Parliament. However, the DIBP has now confirmed that only applications lodged on or after July 1, 2018 will be assessed against any new criteria. Citizenship applications lodged from April 20, 2017 to June 30, 2018 will be assessed against the existing eligibility criteria.
Thus, the DIPB has once again resumed processing citizenship applications, but is working through the large backlog created by the 6-month suspension. Including the increased volume of applications by residents seeking to file under the old standards, there are currently more than 118,000 citizenship applications waiting to be processed. Current estimated processing times for citizenship applications provided by DIBP are between 10 and 14 months.
With that in mind, there is now a window of opportunity to apply for citizenship before the government introduces tougher requirements in the near future. While it is not possible to predict exactly what the new citizenship standards will be, there is a high probability that the four years of permanent residence requirement will implemented eventually. Prospective applicants for Australian citizenship are advised to submit their applications now and be sure to present a complete and decision-ready application to take advantage of the current, more-lenient standards.
CYPRUS | New Intra-Corporate Transfer Permit Implemented
Effective immediately, Cyprus has implemented a new intra-corporate transferee (ICT) permit, in line with the European Union (EU) ICT Directive (2014/66/EU). The new Cyprus ICT permit facilitates intra-EU mobility, and loosens the strict employer eligibility criteria which characterized the previous intra-corporate transfer route in Cyprus. The Ministry of the Interior signed the Order in October 2017, implementing the new ICT permit in accordance with the Alien and Migration (Amendment) (Ref. 2) Law of 2017.
The new ICT permit is available to third-country nationals transferring to work in Cyprus as managers, specialists or trainees within the same group of companies. Managers and specialists must have worked for their sending company for at least twelve months, with trainees having worked for at least six months. The combined work/residence permits are issued with a validity of up to three years for managers and specialists, and up to one year for trainees.
A holder of an ICT permit issued in Cyprus will now be able to work in another EU member state for a company of the same corporate group for up to 90 days in a 180-day period without a separate work permit, although the host country may require a notification. For assignments of more than 90 days, a “mobile ICT permit” for that country may be required.
Conversely, a holder of an EU ICT permit issued in another implementing EU member state can now work at a company of the same corporate group in Cyprus for up to 90 days without obtaining a separate permit, although their employer must notify the Cypriot authorities of the assignment. For assignments of more than 90 days in Cyprus, a holder of an EU ICT permit issued in another EU member state must apply for a Cypriot long-term mobility permit.
SINGAPORE | New Electronic Application System for Permanent Residence
Beginning 18 December 2017, the Singaporean Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will introduce a new electronic Permanent Residence (e-PR) application system, which will be mandatory for all Permanent Residence (PR) applications submitted from that date forward. With the new e-PR system, applicants will no longer need to make an appointment to submit their application in person; rather, they can enter their details into an online application form and submit supporting documents electronically.
For applications submitted from December 18, ICA will charge a PR application processing fee of SGD 100, payable online. Applicants will also require a valid SingPass account, a computer with Adobe Acrobat Reader installed, and a digital camera or scanner. The current estimated processing time of four to six months for permanent residence applications will not change.
All available PR appointment slots before December 18 have already been filled, and the ICA will not be releasing additional slots. Applicants who have already secured appointment slots are not affected and can continue to submit their hardcopy applications during their appointments with ICA. However, applicants for PR who do not already have an appointment with the ICA should prepare to submit their supporting documents online via the new e-PR system.
TAIWAN | New Foreign Recruitment Law Enacted
On October 31, 2017, the Taiwan Legislative Yuan passed the new Act Governing Recruitment and Employment of Foreign Professionals. While the new law has yet to receive a formal implementation date, it will bring various benefits for foreign nationals working in Taiwan and the companies that employee them. Some of the improvements include:
- Foreign nationals working in Taiwan will be able to extend their work permits and Alien Residence Cards (ARCs) for stays of up to five years in total (an increase to the current maximum of three years);
- The current 183-days per year minimum residency for Alien Permanent Residence Cards (APRCs) to remain valid will be replaced with a requirement that the APRC holders do not leave Taiwan for more than five years without re-entering;
- ARC holders will be able to enroll sooner in the National Health Insurance System. Currently, enrolment is only allowed after six months of residence;
- Foreign nationals will be able to apply for a four-in-one “gold card” that combines a work visa that allows them to transition between jobs without legal restrictions, a residence visa, an Alien Resident Certificate, and a re-entry permit into a single card. Foreign professionals will be permitted to apply for the card individually without the approval of their employer;
- Foreign nationals will be able to participate in a pension scheme, a portion of which will be paid for by their employer;
- A new tax deduction rate of 50 percent of annual income applicable to foreign workers with annual income of TWD 3 million (approximately USD $99,437);
- Foreign nationals will be eligible for a 6-month multiple-entry “job-seeking visa”, subject to an annual numerical cap; and
- Benefits of the act will also apply to residents of Hong Kong and Macau working in Taiwan.
Pro-Link GLOBAL will continue to monitor the implementation of these new benefits for foreign nationals and report as effective dates and details become clearer.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Indian Nationals with 14-Day Visa-on-Arrival Banned from Changing Status In-Country
Effective immediately, Indian nationals who enter the United Arab Emirates (UAE) using the 14-day visa-on-arrival option will no longer be allowed to change their immigration status to another visa type – such as a tourist, business, or employment visa – without first exiting the UAE. Indian nationals in this situation who wish to change status will need to exit and re-enter UAE with a tourist, employment, or business visa. A similar rule of prohibited in-country changes in status from the visa-on-arrival is also applied to Nigerian nationals on 14-day tourist visas and to other holders of 14-day "service visas" for attending business meetings, conferences, training, and related activities.
Earlier this year, the UAE opened its popular visa-on-arrival program to Indian nationals holding U.S. Green Cards, U.S. visas valid for at least six months, or valid residence visas from either the United Kingdom or another European Union member state. Eligible Indian nationals may receive a visa-on-arrival and remain in the UAE for up to 14 days.
With this change, Indian nationals travelling to the UAE for business or work are advised to obtain their traditional business or employment visas prior to travelling and arriving in the UAE.
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 Cyprus partner office Antis Triantafyllides & Sons LLC, our PLG Taiwan partner offices Taiwan Immigration & Relocation and People First Relocation, our PLG United Arab Emirates offices Sesam Business Consultants and Move One, Newland Chase, and Peregrine Immigration Management to provide you this update.
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