Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Azerbaijan, India, Lithuania, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.
VIETNAM | Clarification of Intra-Company Transfer Permit Requirements in Ho Chi Minh City
In a welcomed development in Vietnam, the Vietnamese Labor Department in Ho Chi Minh City has clarified and eased its definition of what constitutes an intra-company transfer (ICT) for the purposes of work authorization and immigration in Vietnam. While maintaining previous regulation changes, the labor authorities in the Ho Chi Minh City office have implemented a new “Manager, Executive Director, Expert, and Technical Worker” classification that will provide multinational companies with more immigration options for their foreign employees. Under this new classification, which is available immediately, applicant foreign nationals will qualify for work permits where they have worked at least one-year for a foreign company “within the business group” of the host Vietnamese company.
Previously, authorities had required that a foreign national be employed for one year directly by a foreign “overseas investment entity” (listed on the Vietnamese business license), or parent company, of the host local company. Where the applicant was instead employed by a foreign sister company, instead of the parent company, the applicant lacked the requisite one-year of employment with the parent company. In these cases, the foreign employee would have to be placed on an employment contract with the local entity in order to qualify for a work permit.
While inconvenient for companies, placing these foreign employees on a local employment contract was the most straight-forward solution to make them eligible for a work permit. In practice, there was little difference between requirements and processes for work permits for ICTs and local hires. However, in recent months, a draft circular began to disseminate among Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA) authorities proposing that foreign nationals on local employment contracts be required enroll in Vietnamese social security. Still in a draft stage, the proposal is not expected to be acted upon until sometime next year.
However, with this new “Manager, Executive Director, Expert, and Technical Worker” classification, there is no need to place the foreign employee on local contract at least in Ho Chi Minh City. The current application and process steps utilized for ICT assignments are still in effect; but in order to be considered an ICT applicant under this new classification, the following must be met:
- Assignment Letter – The foreign employee’s assignment letter must be issued by the “overseas investor entity” (parent company) but also state the entity within the business group that is the applicant’s employer and the number of months employed; and
- Working Testimonial Document – The required working testimonial document may come from the entity employing the applicant but must confirm the parent company of the applicant’s employing entity and the number of years employed.
While there has been no formal official announcement of this new policy, Labor Department authorities in Ho Chi Minh City are already using this new classification and definition of ICTs. However, authorities in labor offices elsewhere in Vietnam are reportedly not yet taking this approach. Given the logic of this new classification, and the more traditional definition of ICTs, Pro-Link GLOBAL is hopeful that Labor Department offices throughout Vietnam will soon adopt it.
Much of the confusion surrounding the requirements for intra-company transfers in Vietnam arose from the adoption of Decree 11 in April 2016, which made broad changes to the country’s work permit rules. Immigration professionals then waited until formal guidance on the ramifications of the new decree was issued in December, in the form of new Circular 40. However, even with the release of Circular 40, confusion persisted on the part of both government authorities and immigration professionals. For more on our previous reports on Decree 11 and Circular 40, see our Global Brief of March 3, 2016 and our Immigration Dispatches of December 19, January 23, and May 1.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
AZERBAIJAN | Urgent Business E-Visa Now Available With Three-Hour Processing
The Republic of Azerbaijan continues to improve and expand its new online ASAN Viza system. Rolled out in January of this year, the new e-visa system provides fast and convenient visa application and processing for citizens of 94 nations, covering most of the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Eligible applicants can receive business and tourist visas with 30-day validities to Azerbaijan with standard processing times of under three-days. For more details, see our Immigration Dispatches of January 9 and July 31.
Effective August 30, immigration authorities “stepped-up” ASAN’s service offering with a new “urgent e-visa” option where, for a minimal additional fee (USD $50), e-visas could be processed in just three hours. A significant convenience for foreign companies operating in Azerbaijan, the new option is purportedly also available weekends and holidays for last-minute business travel. However, companies are reminded that the ASAN e-visa is restricted to business and tourist activities and may not be used for traditional work activities that still require work permits – which typically require at least two to three months to obtain in Azerbaijan. The AZAN Viza system is accessible through the online portal here.
INDIA | Form C Registration Rules Placing Greater Burdens on Companies and Foreign Employees
For some time, India has technically required landlords, apartment managers, and accommodations managers to submit Form C to the Indian Bureau of Immigration (BOI) registering their foreign national tenants and guests within 24-hours of their arrival. While this rule has been officially “on the books,” in practice it has only been enforced arbitrarily depending on region, liberally interpreted to apply only to non-tourist stays, and the required registration timeframes often extended to 14-days from the foreign national’s arrival. Note that submission of Form C is an independent registration requirement for the foreigner’s landlord/manager and differs from the well-known requirement for foreign nationals to register with the local Foreigners (Regional) Registration Office (FRRO/FRO). For more information, see the BOI website here and here.
That being said, enforcement of the Form C requirement has increased significantly in all regions across India and is steadily placing additional burdens on companies and their foreign employees. Regional FRRO/FROs consistently enforcing the Form C rules include: Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Chennai, Goa, Gurgaon, Kochi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, New Delhi, Noida, and Pune.
Recently, the Chennai FRRO began requiring landlords/managers to submit Form C through the online portal within 24-hours of both arrival and departure. While registration of arrival is commonly required, this is the first FRRO to require notification upon the foreign national’s departure from the apartment, guest house, hotel, or other accommodation and is apparently the first to hold to the strict 24-hour deadline. The MOI website now clearly states that the deadline is 24-hours here. While we have yet to see this degree of enforcement in other regions, Pro-Link GLOBAL expects this to be the trend going forward.
At first blush, the Form C rules appear applicable only to landlords and accommodations managers. However, companies should bear in mind that the requirement is a joint responsibility in practice, and if the landlord/manager fails to complete the required registration within the deadline, the compliance burden shifts to the company employing the foreign national. FRRO/FROs commonly require foreign national employees to provide copies of their landlord’s submitted Form C at the time of registration, visa renewals, and any other required services at the FRRO/FROs. In the case of a landlord/manager failing to submit Form C (or filing the form significantly after the required timeframe), some FRRO/FROs (including Chennai) have begun demanding a company representative appear to explain the failure to comply.
Given the recent increased enforcement of this requirement, Pro-Link GLOBAL encourages sponsoring companies to verify with landlords and accommodations managers that the Form C has been submitted within 24-hours of the foreign employee’s arrival – especially in those cases where the landlord/manager may be off-site or outside of India. Further, companies and employees should inquire with the local FRRO/FRO whether a separate notification is required upon departure from the accommodation. Failure to complete this submission – either by the landlord/manager or by the sponsoring company in India – may cause immigration delays and inconveniences for both the foreign employee, their accompanying family members, and the sponsoring company alike.
LITHUANIA | Twentieth Nation Adopts European Union Intra-Company Transfer Permit
On September 1, Lithuania began offering the European Union (EU) Intra-Corporate Transfer (ICT) Permit to non-EU/European Economic Area (EEA) employees of foreign companies transferred for work assignments to related companies in Lithuania but remaining on foreign payroll. With that, the Republic becomes the twentieth EU-27 nation to have adopted the EU’s Intra-Corporate Transfer (ICT) Directive (2014/66/EU). For details on the recent EU ICT Directive implementation in Austria and Croatia, see last week’s Immigration Dispatch of September 18.
Like the other adopting EU member nations, Lithuania’s EU ICT Permit applies to third-country managers and specialists for a validity of up to three-years and university-educated trainees for a validity up to one-year. Managers and specialists must have been employed within the company group for at least six-months prior to their application, and trainees must have been employed for at least three-months. Subsequent ICT permits are then available after a three-month “cooling-off” period. Holders of Lithuanian EU ICT Permits are also permitted to work temporarily in other recognizing EU nations for up to 90-days without additional work authorization or for more than 90-days with in-country registration. Reciprocally, Lithuania will also recognize EU ICT Permits issued by other EU member nations for up to 90-days, and over 90-days with registration.
In a significant improvement over Lithuania’s previous ICT scheme, the new ICT permit allows the holder’s accompanying family members to join them for the length of the entire assignment and provides work authorization for adult family members without need of separate work authorization. Previously, dependent family members could only join the permit holder after two-years of residence in the country. In addition, applications for the new ICT Permit will purportedly be processed in just two-months standard and one-month urgent, compared to the previous four-months standard and two-months urgent.
QATAR | New Electronic Travel Authorization Introduced
Qatar continues to increase its openness to international business and combat the negative impact of the ongoing diplomatic and economic boycott by its Persian Gulf neighbors. For our previous coverage of the Gulf crisis and similar moves by Qatar, see our Global Brief of June 8 and Immigration Dispatches of June 26 and August 14. After introducing a visa-free option for citizens of 80 nations in August, Qatar is now implementing a single-entry electronic travel authorization (ETA) option for foreign nationals from additional countries not covered by the previous visa-free option. Effective September 27, citizens of eligible nations who also hold valid visas issued by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, or Schengen Area and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries may apply online for the ETA authorizing stays in Qatar of up to 30-days, renewable in-country for an additional 30-days.
Ongoing since June 5, the current diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar by sixteen Middle East nations continues to disrupt travel and commerce into the country. The war of words continues with both sides arguing their case to the global community. The Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir reiterated the position of the four primary boycotting nations – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain – at a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week in New York. On the opposing side, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani busily lobbied his international counterparts in private meetings at the same U.N. General Assembly meetings. All indicators are that the dispute will persist for the foreseeable future.
RUSSIA | New Document Requirements for Highly Qualified Specialist Work Permit Renewal in Moscow
In the Russian Federation, the Migration Department in Moscow has increased supporting document requirements for Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) work permit extensions and corrections. Immigration authorities in the Moscow office are now requiring applicants to submit copies of their quarterly salary notifications covering the entire validity of the work permit for which they are seeking renewal.
On a positive note, the recent technical problems in the Moscow Migration Department’s Sakharovo office – which had led to a temporary suspension of application processing in August – appear to have been largely resolved. Applications for work permits and address registrations are once again being accepted in the Sakharovo office. Companies and their foreign employees in the Moscow region are encouraged to reach out to their Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialists regarding these new documents requirements or if they believe they may have experienced errors or rejections due to the recent technical issues in the Sakharovo processing.
SAUDI ARABIA | Japanese Nationals Now Eligible for Three-Year Work Visit and Commercial Visas
Saudi Arabia has significantly lengthened the validity period of Work Visit and Commercial Visas issued to Japanese citizens. Effective immediately, Japanese passport holders are eligible for three-year multiple-entry visas valid for stays of up to 90-days. Only citizens of the United States receive longer visas to Saudi Arabia, with a five-year multiple-entry option. United Kingdom and European Union passport holders are eligible for multiple-entry visas for up to two-years, with all other nationals eligible for visas of only up to six-months.
The move is part of an overall strengthening of business ties between Saudi Arabia and Japan. In March of this year, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made the first visit by a Saudi monarch to Japan in almost 50 years. Already the largest importer of crude petroleum to Japan, Saudi Arabia also looks to Japan as an economic partner in its ambitious Vision 2030 plan to globalize and diversify its economy. For its part, Japan sees the relationship as an opportunity to promote stability in the Middle East and ensure its access to valuable oil resources. Reportedly, numerous plans are already underway for joint industrial and technology projects between the two countries, including special economic zones in Saud Arabia for Japanese business. Toyota Motor Corporation, the world’s largest car manufacturer, has already expressed interested in the proposed Saudi economic zones, and Japan’s biggest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, announced plans in August to open an office in Riyadh by 2018.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Visa-On-Arrival for Indian Nationals Expanded
In May of this year, the United Arab Emirates opened its popular visa-on-arrival program to Indian citizens – with the caveat that they must hold a valid visa or green card issued by the United States. Thus, Indian passport holders with U.S. visas or green cards were then eligible for stays of up to 14-days (extendable in-country for another 14-days) in the UAE without need of obtaining a UAE visa. For details, see our Immigration Dispatch of April 10.
In a meeting September 13, the UAE Federal Cabinet further loosened the caveat to include Indian passport holders with residence visas from the United Kingdom or any European Union member nation. With large numbers of Indian citizens residing in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, the move should significantly increase business and tourist travel to the UAE. With total bilateral trade between the UAE and India approaching USD $50 billion in 2016, both countries are already among each other’s largest trading partners. Given the emergence of India as a top world economy, Pro-Link GLOBAL expects to see further strengthening of economic ties and loosening of business travel requirements for Indian nationals to the UAE in the coming year.
Reminders: Recent and Upcoming Immigration Implementations
The following are reminders of recent or upcoming implementation dates that you should know:
- October 1-7, China: Golden Week will be celebrated as a national holiday throughout mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Government and public offices, overseas consular posts, and private businesses will be closed. Expect delays at all stages of the immigration process, both before and after. Also, expect travel within the country to be congested during this time.
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 | KGNM India Office “Lexagent Services Pvt. Ltd.”, our PLG | KGNM Lithuania Office “Partners in Relocation BV”, our PLG | KGNM Russia Office “Intermark Group, Inc.”, our PLG | KGNM Saudi Arabia Office “Arabian Business Innovation Services Co. Ltd.”, our PLG KGNM Vietnam Office “Orientations”, and “Peregrine Immigration Management” to provide you this update.
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