What’s new in global immigration?

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This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters would like to highlight the following recent updates from Canada, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand and the United States.

Canada: Pilot to streamline work permit applications in the Philippines

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced the launch of CAN Work Philippines at the Canadian visa office in Manila, a pilot programme allowing eligible Canadian employers to schedule group appointments for medical examinations and biometrics for potential employees.

The pilot is open to Canadian employers recruiting from the Philippines and hiring approximately 50 or more workers, or for critical occupations in sectors such as health care, construction and agri-food.

Filipino nationals are among the top recipients of Canadian work permits. For the first six months of 2023, one in every ten Temporary Foreign Worker Program work permits were issued to Filipino nationals.

On 6 June 2023, Canada announced expanded access to its Electronic Travel Authorization Program to include the Philippines, giving more Filipinos access to visa-free entry to Canada by air.

Finland: Pilot of automated decision-making for residence permits for study

Effective 19 October 2023, the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) has started using automated decision-making in the processing of residence permits for study. Negative decisions and decisions that require individual consideration are not issued automatically.

Migri issues an automated decision if the application meets all the requirements for issuing the permit, including proof of identity in person and payment of the processing fee. The full list of requirements is here.

Migri is first testing automated decision-making with residence permit applications submitted by degree students at universities and by all exchange students. Based on the results, automation will later be expanded to include other customer groups.

Automated processing is intended to standardize the processing of applications and to free up specialists’ time to work on cases which need individual consideration or further clarification. Migri aims at an average processing time of no more than one month for residence permits for employed persons and students.

Ireland: Online citizenship applications

Citizenship applications can now be made online, including completing and submitting forms, uploading supporting documents and making payments.

Note that work is ongoing for the development of an online form for minor applications (Form 11).

Applicants who have already begun the application process via the old paper-based system can continue to submit via mail, although it is recommended to submit the online form if possible.

Italy: Proposal to charge foreign nationals for use of health service.

On 16 October 2023, Italy’s Economy Ministry announced that the government has approved a draft budget bill for 2024-26 which includes the requirement for non-EEA residents to contribute EUR 2000 per year to use the national health service.

According to the budget, which still requires EU approval, the amount of the contribution will be reduced for foreign nationals holding a residence permit for study and for au pairs.

Italy: New rules for EU Blue Card approved

The Italian government has approved a decree which transposes EU Directive 2021/1883 into Italian law, introducing new rules for the entry and residence of highly qualified foreign nationals under the EU Blue Card scheme.

Under the new rules:

  • Applications for unregulated professions now require a two-year university degree, or post-secondary professional qualifications of at least two years, or five years of relevant professional experience (or three years of relevant professional experience for information technology managers and specialists. Previously, a three-year university degree was always required.
  • Beneficiaries of international protection and seasonal workers are now entitled to apply for an EU Blue Card.
  • A job offer of at least six months is required, with an annual salary not lower than that established by national collective agreements. Previously, a job offer for at least one year was required, with a minimum salary at least three times the minimum wage.
  • During the first 12 months of legal employment (rather than 24 months as previously), the EU Blue Card holder is restricted in terms of changing employer and carrying out works not fulfilling the criteria for admission.
  • An EU Blue Card holder can now conduct self-employed work alongside their highly-skilled employment. This was not previously permitted.
  • A holder of an EU Blue Card issued by another EU member state can enter Italy and stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period to work. Previously only business activities were allowed.
  • A holder of an EU Blue Card issued by another EU member state can enter Italy without a visa and stay for work for more than 90 days if they have been legally resident in the issuing state for at least 12 months (previously 18 months).

The decree will enter into force after it has been published in the Official Gazette.

Malaysia: MDEC restarts iKad issuance

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) has begun issuing iKads to Employment Pass (EP) holders registered with it, for new, renewal and transfer of endorsement applications.  iKad has not been issued in Malaysia since 2019.

  • For EP sticker endorsements, the iKad will be provided during the sticker endorsement stage.
  • For EP ePass issuance, the iKad can be collected at the Xpats Centre any time after the ePass is issued.
  • iKads are being issued for endorsements completed on or after 16 October 2023.
  • iKads are not currently being issued for dependents.
  • The Expatriate Services Division (ESD) has not yet announced the issuance of iKads to foreign national employees of companies registered with it.

Malaysia: MDEC Foreign Knowledge Worker (FKW) projection for 2024

Effective 1 November 2023, the Expats system is open for submission of Foreign Knowledge Worker (FKW) Projection for 2024.   MDEC advises only companies with FKW headcount requirement for the first quarter of 2024 to submit the projection to ease the approval process. Companies may continue to submit their FKW projection as and when required throughout the year 2023.

Note that the submission for 2023 FKW projection is still open until 15 November 2023, so companies should ensure they choose the right year for their request. Any balance from FKW projection that has been approved for the year 2023 will be forfeited by 31 December 2023.

Companies may proceed with their FKW projection submission by logging in here and following the relevant instructions.  Document submission checklists are available here for MSC Status companies and here for ICT companies.

New Zealand: Additional Parent Category draw

An additional Parent Category draw of 1500 expressions of interests (EOIs) will be taking place on Tuesday 17 October 2023.

This additional selection from the queued EOIs is being made to provide certainty for those who have had their EOI in the queue and fulfil the 2000-cap available under this category for the financial year.

The remaining EOIs in the queue are expected to be selected as part of the November draw.

INZ will not be selecting EOIs from the ballot in this draw. The next ballot selection will take place in November.

To be considered for the next ballot draw, EOIs must be submitted no later than 31 October 2023.

An updated table for when EOIs are expected to be selected can be found here.

New Zealand: Reopening of Vietnam Working Holiday Scheme

Aotearoa (New Zealand) has agreements with 45 countries, including Vietnam, that allow young people aged between 18 and 30 (or up to 35 in some cases) the opportunity to travel around New Zealand and work temporarily while there.

On 30 October 2023, the scheme will reopen to Vietnam nationals, capped at 100 places.

In February, it was announced that Vietnam would receive a cap increase to 200 this year. However, this increase will now come into effect later than expected to enable time for the necessary processes between both our countries to be completed.

New Zealand officials are working to finalize details for raising the cap for New Zealanders looking to travel to Vietnam as part of a Working Holiday Scheme.

United States: Visa-free entry opens for Israelis

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced the start of visa-free travel for short-term visits to the United States for eligible Israeli citizens and nationals under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).

The VWP allows eligible travelers to apply online for authorization to travel to the United States through ESTA. These authorizations allow successful applicants to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without first obtaining a US visa. Israeli citizens and nationals with valid B-1/B-2 visas may continue to use them for business and tourist travel to the United States.

Eligible Israeli citizens and nationals must have a biometrically enabled passport book. Travelers who possess non-biometric, temporary, or emergency travel documents, or travel documents from a non-VWP designated country, are not eligible for travel under the VWP and may instead apply for a US visa. ESTA applications may take up to 72 hours for processing. The ESTA application will be available in English only at this time and will be available in other languages no later than 1 November 2023.

Individuals traveling under the VWP for an intended stay beyond 90 days may be determined to be inadmissible to the United States. Individuals determined to be inadmissible will be refused admission to the United States under the VWP individuals admitted under the VWP who WP and ineligible for future Visa Waiver Program travel.

Traveling on a visa may still be the best option for some travelers such as those who would like to stay in the United States longer than 90 days or those who think they may wish to extend their stay or change their status once in the United States.

ESTA applications may be found at esta.cbp.dhs.gov or via the “ESTA Mobile” app.

Expert advice on global immigration

If you need support with any aspect of global immigration, Smith Stone Walters is here to help.

To speak to a member of our global immigration team, please contact us today.

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