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We are delighted to be able to bring you the latest news on immigration and visas around the World in this, our fifteenth, year in business. So far in 2003 there have been some major changes making it much easier to gain entry to the UK and Canada under their skilled visa programmes. Next year from 1 May 2004 will see Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands granting the right to work in their respective countries for nationals of the new EU Countries.
What more will we see in 2004? The UK and Canada have decided to make it easier to gain entry under their skilled worker schemes. To be able to compete for the best skilled people around the World, other Western Countries will have to look very carefully at their own skilled worker programmes.
We will keep you up to date on all the latest news on our website and Newsletter.
Editor, workpermit.com News
IN THIS EDITION:
UK Work permits
- Changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme
- New processing fee for HSMP visas
- New UKRP stickers for passports on entry
- Mandatory entry clearance announced for non-visa nationals
Canadian Skilled Migration
- Entry and Exit Procedures to Change at US Borders
- H-1B Visa Changes
- Delay to machine-readable passport requirement
- Accession country national work rights beginning May 2004
- Language requirements for foreign nationals in Belgium
- ICTs made easy between the US and the Netherlands
- Finland to make work permit process easier
- Six-month business visas to EU for service providers proposed
- Easier to extend Belgian “type B’ work permits
- Dutch MVV applications available online
UK WORK PERMIT SECTION
On 31 October 2003, the UK’s Home Office introduced some major changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP), which make it easier for more people to qualify for migration to the UK under this scheme.
The major changes include:
- The minimum pass mark has gone down from 75 to 65 points
- A new application category for candidates under 28 years of age has been introduced – you now gain five additional points if you are under 28 years of age
- You can now gain an additional 10 points if you are migrating with a skilled spouse long- term partner
- If you are under 28 years of age you will not require as much work experience as before in order to gain points under the work experience factor
- If you are under 28 years of age you will not have to show as high of a level of income under the past earnings factor as it was under the old system.
The HSMP allows non-EU nationals to apply for a one-year visa on the basis of their skills, qualifications, work experience, and English language ability, similar to the Skilled migration programmes in place in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A major advantage of the HSMP is that you do not require a job offer in the UK and therefore the visa is not tied to your employer. You are able to work in the UK for whomever you choose. Furthermore, the HSMP visa holder can apply for a three-year extension to their initial visa, after which time you can apply for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residency) in the UK.
The previous changes of 28 January 2003 enabled far more people to qualify under HSMP. The latest changes of 31 October 2003 will mean a huge increase in the number of people who can now qualify. As before, Doctors entitled to practice as general practitioners in the UK should seriously consider this programme since their application will be considered a priority application. To help all those interested in the scheme we have produced a detailed guide to the programme, which can be found on our website here.
We are also pleased to announce the latest version of our points calculator, which incorporates all the latest changes to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme that came into effect on 31 October 2003. If you have any queries regarding the new scheme please do not hesitate to contact one of our HSMP consultants on email@example.com or +44 207 842 0800.
On 31 October 2003, the Home Office began charging a fee of £150 to cover the processing of HSMP applications and appeals.
However, HSMP extension applications are exempt from this new fee.
We have the only FREE Highly Skilled Migrant Programme Points calculator on the Internet covering all the relevant criteria for this programme. Why not try it to see if you qualify? We also have a number of detailed guides covering HSMP
The UK Residence Permit (UKRP) is a new secure sticker placed in the passport to replace the ink stamp currently used to grant permission to remain in the UK. The UKRP will be more recognisable to carriers and control authorities and represents an effort to tackle document and identity fraud. Anybody granted Further Leave to Remain in the UK will be issued with a UKRP from Autumn 2003.
This will not alter any of the conditions of stay in the UK and will not give permission for individuals with a UKRP to stay in any other European Economic Area (EEA) country. Similarly, people granted permission to remain in any other EEA country will not have permission to come to the UK. The UKRP is simply a change in how the current Leave to Enter or Remain is shown in passports.
Those individuals already in the UK with existing Leave to Remain will be able to continue to travel in and out of the UK and will not be affected by the changes. Only when they come to extend their stay (i.e.: extend their work permit) will they be issued with a UKRP.
Alongside the UKRP initiative noted above, mandatory entry clearance is also being introduced for everybody from outside of the EEA who wish to come to the UK for more than six months. This will be a phased process with the first phase having come into effect on 13 November 2003. The first phase of this process affects nationals of the following ten countries; Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and the United States.
Nationals of these Phase 1 countries will be required to apply for mandatory entry clearance from a British Diplomatic Mission Overseas before travelling to the UK. Entry Clearance will be granted for the full period of their stay (ie: the length as specified on their work permit).
Given the differing processing times of entry clearance applications by British Diplomatic Missions Overseas, the Home Office advise that candidates should apply for their entry clearance up to 6 weeks before their anticipated date of travel. It is always advisable to check processing times with local British Diplomatic Missions.
Visa nationals will not be affected by these changes. They will still need to apply for their entry clearance as normal from their nearest British Diplomatic Mission Overseas.
There will be a grace period until 13 January 2003 for Phase 1 nationals. During this time, they may enter the UK without entry clearance. In these instances, they will be granted six months Leave to Enter on arrival in the UK. They would then need to apply to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) before this leave expires in order to extend their Leave to Remain.
Nationals of Phase 1 countries travelling to the UK after 13 January 2004 who do not have the mandatory entry clearance will be refused entry.
Nationals of countries not listed as Phase 1 countries and non-visa nationals who wish to come to the UK for a period of six months or more will initially be granted six months Leave to Enter on arrival in the UK. They would then need to apply to the IND before this leave expires, where their Leave to Remain will be extended.
Non-visa nationals wishing to enter the UK for less than 6 months will not be required to obtain entry clearance.
CANADIAN IMMIGRATION SECTION
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Honourable Denis Coderre announced on 18 September 2003 that with immediate effect the points requirement under the Canadian skilled worker category will be decreased to 67 points. The new minimum pass mark of 67 points will apply to all skilled worker applicants who filed an application on or after 1 January 2002 and who have not yet obtained a final decision on their visa.
The previous minimum pass mark from 28 June 2002 to 17 September 2003 was 75 points.
The Canadian Government had tried to apply the previous immigration regulations introduced in June 2002 retrospectively. The intention was to refuse up to 100,000 pending immigration cases. There have been various claims made against the Canadian Government in the Courts and since 18 September 2003, the retrospective provisions of the previous immigration regulations have effectively been abolished:
- If you applied before 1 January 2002 and a decision is yet to be made, then your application will be assessed under the scoring criteria in force at that time. If you do not score enough points under the former immigration regulations, your case will be assessed under the current immigration regulations at a pass mark of 67 points.
- If you applied before 1 January 2003 and your application was refused between 31 March 2003 and 30 June 2003 you may apply to the Visa Office that dealt with the application to have your file re-opened and considered again under the former immigration regulations in force before 1 January 2002. If you still do not gain enough points you will be considered under the current immigration regulations in force since 18 September 2003 at a pass mark of 67 points.
- If you have applied after 1 January 2002 and a decision is yet to be made on your application, you will be considered under current immigration regulations in force since 18 September 2003 at a pass mark of 67 points.
These changes mean that there is now a huge increase in the number of people who qualify under the Canada skilled worker programme. This is the most significant change in the Canadian immigration points system since 15 December 2001 when the old skilled migration system effectively ended. Canada now has one of the most liberal skilled migration programmes in the world. This is a great new opportunity for skilled applicants of all backgrounds and nationalities to migrate to Canada.
If you are living in the UK we will give you a FREE ASSESSMENT of your chances to migrate to Canada. Just call 020 7842 0800 or complete our online assessment form.
AUSTRALIAN IMMIGRATION SECTION
Overseas student numbers in Australia are at their highest level ever in September of this year, noting a twelve percent increase in the number of overseas students entering Australia in the last financial year.
In total, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural (and Indigenous) Affairs (DIMIA) granted 109,610 offshore student visas for the 2002-03 session, as compared to 97,650 offshore visas in the previous year.
The majority of the offshore visa grants came from the People's Republic of China (14,215), the United States (10,477), Malaysia (8,032), the Republic of Korea (7,323), Hong Kong (6,576), and Japan (6,319).
The good news is that the Minister for Immigration plans to implement further streamlining of requirements for overseas students, while also tightening some requirements in order to further enhance the integrity of the overseas student visa program.
Among the expected changes, there should be a move towards greater flexibility in terms of financial requirements for student visa applications from higher risk countries
Many changes will also be made to the current English language proficiency requirements. These changes will include provisions to accommodate students who have previously studied outside Australia in certain English-speaking countries.
Further information can be found on DIMIA’s website at http://www.immi.gov.au/students/index.htm
The professional development visa (PDV) is a new temporary residence visa intended for groups of professionals, managers and government officials from overseas who are seeking to enhance their professional/ managerial skills by taking part in tailored development programs designed by an Australian sponsoring organisation.
The PDV enables the visa holder to enter and remain in Australia for up to a maximum period of 12 months.
There are two key stages to applying for a professional development visa:
- sponsorship approval for the education provider; and
- visa application.
An approved sponsorship must be in place before valid visa applications can be lodged. Sponsorship applications and visa applications cannot be lodged simultaneously.
If you are sponsored by an eligible Australian organization and think that this type of visa would apply to you, please contact Workpermit.com for more details and for assistance with lodging this visa application.
US VISA SECTION
On 29 October 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the new scheme to be put in place at U.S. airports and harbours from 31 December 2003, to process entry of visitors holding visas as they arrive in the United States.
The US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) programme is a major part of the DHS goal to improve immigration and border management at U.S. ports of entry. By recording more arrival and departure data for those individuals who must hold a visa to enter the United States, the US-VISIT program aims to improve the security of U.S. citizens and visitors while also helping to make legal travel and trade more efficient. The US-VISIT programme uses scanning equipment to collect "biometric identifiers," such as fingerprints, using ink-free technology, along with taking a digital photograph of the visitor. In addition to standard information gathered at the border from a visitor about their identity and travel plans, the new programme will also verify the visitor's identity and compliance with visa and immigration policies. The new procedures are supposed to only add a few seconds to the arrival and departure process. The data obtained from the visitor is to be securely stored in a database as a part of the visitor's travel record. This information will be made available to authorized immigration/ DHS officials and to selected law enforcement agencies responsible for ensuring the safety and security of U.S. citizens and foreign visitors.
The departure procedure involves visitors having to check out at special kiosks by scanning their visa or passport and repeating the same ink-free fingerprinting process. The recorded exit confirmation will be included in the visitor's travel records to confirm that they have complied with immigration rules. This type of processing at land borders (i.e. at Canadian and Mexican road borders) will be introduced in phases in 2005 and 2006. The law stipulates that such an automated entry/exit system be put into place at airports and harbours by 31 December 2003. The fifty land ports of entry with the highest traffic will have this system in place by 31 December 2004, and all U.S. ports of entry will have this sytem implemented by 31 December 2005. To make sure these systems are being set up properly, the DHS is working together with the relevant air and sea travel authorities and industry to explain the requirements. Furthermore, the US-VISIT Project Team will be working together with private industry to ensure the latest technologies available will be used in this US-VISIT programme. The US-VISIT programme received $380 million from the U.S. government for fiscal year 2003 and was granted $330 million for fiscal year 2004.
The U.S government has significantly decreased the number of H-1B visas available in fiscal year (FY) 2004 (1 October 2003 to 30 September 2004) by two-thirds to only 65,000. During the past few years, 195,000 H-1B visas had been available annually.
Making available such low numbers of visas may mean that H-1B visas might in fact run out before the end of FY 2004. If this is the case, this might cause potential problems for U.S. businesses and their foreign national employees. The decrease in numbers resulted from the expiration of a U.S. law that had temporarily increased the number of H-1B visas the past few years. With the expiration of this temporary increase, other aspects of the H-1B programme also ceased on 1 October 2003. However, there is a possibility that the U.S. Congress may act to extend the law.
Fore more information on who will and will not be affected, how this situation arose, what other changes may occur to the H-1B visa category, and what to do about it:, please call our U.S. Immigration Attorney on +44 (0)20 7842 0800.
The U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has postponed the date by which visa waiver programme travelers must present a machine-readable passport at a U.S. border to be admitted without a visa. In consultation with the DHS on this matter, the Department of State gave the new deadline of 26 October 2004 to allow 21 countries on the visa waiver programme additional time to make the necessary passport changes.
The countries to which this deadline applies are Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Each of these 21 countries who were granted the postponement had made a formal request to the U.S. authorities and also provided evidence that their country is making progress toward ensuring that machine readable passports are available to its citizens. Each country has also certified to the U.S. that it has taken appropriate action to protect against misuse of its non-machine-readable passports.
Five other countries who are part of the visa waiver programme did not in fact request a deferral of the original effective date, since most of their citizens already hold machine-readable passports. These countries include Andorra, Brunei, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Slovenia. From 1 October 2003, citizens of those five countries must already present either a machine-readable passport or a United States visa.
Belgium, also a visa waiver country, was not eligible to receive this extension because such national have been required to present a machine-readable passport since 15 May 2003. This requirement was introduced in the Department of Justice's report on Belgium's continued eligibility to participate in the visa waiver program in February 2003.
Nationals of visa waiver programme countries are permitted to enter the United States for general business or tourist purposes for a maximum of 90 days without requiring a visa.
EU VISA NEWS
As soon as they join the European Union on 1 May 2004, citizens of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia will have no impediments to the labour markets in five countries – Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
The other 10 current EU member states – Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Portugal, Finland and Luxembourg – will be putting into place a transition period of up to seven years. Within two years of the date of accession of these new candidate countries, each member state will determine its approach on policy according to each candidate country’s labour force.
Furthermore, while the transition period is in effect, Austria and German can introduce a transition period for separate service-oriented areas, for example, construction or social work.
The only restrictions on work in other EU member states are those positions, that concern state interests and state security; for example, work with the police force or tax authority.
Special regulations apply to those workers of so-called “regulated” professions – doctors, dentists, pharmacists, midwives, general registered nurses, veterinarians, architects and lawyers. For these professions, the EU has harmonized programmes and length of study, and mutually-recognised professional diplomas.
Information on vacancies, living and working conditions, labour regulations, and on employers can be found on the EU-wide (including Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland) occupational network EURES homepage.
A recent labour court ruling in Belgium has determined that foreign employees coming to work in Belgium must have their support letter drafted in either Dutch or French, depending on the region of Belgium in which they intend to work.
The Brussels Labour Court of Appeals ruled that both Linguistic Decrees in Flanders and Wallonia from 1973 and 1982, respectively, remain in effect and are applicable to a foreign employer who seconds a foreign employee to either region. This regulation also applies to the Brussels region.
According to the Linguistic Decrees, all documents used by an employer must be translated into French or Dutch, depending on the language of the employee to whom the document is directed. Nevertheless, this may not apply to an employee who remains in the full pay and employ of the seconding foreign company.
Despite this, it would be wise for foreign companies that second employees to Belgium to take Belgian linguistic legislation into account when preparing the work permit application documentation.
The Flemish Linguistic Decree rules that all documents that are not written in Dutch are considered null and void. A translation can accompany the original letter, but these translations will only come into effect on the date that they are carried out and not from the date of the original document in the other language, unless the employee agrees. Furthermore, in the case of a contract translation, the employee must re-sign the translated contract in order to make it valid.
The Walloon Linguistic Decree rules that all documents that are not written in French are considered null and void. With regard to the translation of such a document, the above regulations as in Flanders apply.
Therefore, to be on the safe side, a translated copy of any secondment letters in a language other than French or Dutch should accompany the original. The translation should be done as close to the date of the original letter and / or contract as possible, and all documents should be signed by the authorised person. To simplify things, draft any original documentation in the relevant language in the first instance.
The Netherlands has always been a popular migration destination for American professionals, especially during the IT-boom in the late 1990s.
A whole range of work permit, visa and residence permit requirements are available for different types of secondments or transfers, and these should be reviewed before an international assignment is even considered. Nevertheless, special work permit arrangements are in place between the United States and the Netherlands for intra-company transfers.
Basically, intra-company transfers between the US and the Netherlands are considered against the size and locations of the company, annual turnover of the international company, salary of the candidate and the reasons for the temporary transfer.
The international company should have a number of branches located around the world, as a starting point, and the company should be profit-oriented and consist of at least EUR50 million per annum in revenue. As in most other EU countries when it comes to work permits, the candidate’s salary should be at least EUR50,000 per year, and the position must be highly skilled and/or be considered an executive/ managerial level. If these criteria are met, then the position can be filled by an overseas employee already working within the international group.
As long as all of these criteria are met, then the central Arbeitsbureau (employment office) will grant a work permit for a maximum of three years. As usual, once the work permit is granted and the US citizen travels to the Netherlands, a residence permit should be secured. US nationals can travel to the Netherlands visa-free.
The US transferee must then register with the local municipality and apply for the residence permit with the local Aliens Police within three days of their arrival.
In future, Finland is planning to facilitate the work permit process for foreign workers. These planned changes are connected to the forecasted shortage of workers in Finland.
It is expected that the Finnish parliament will pass legislation this autumn that will allow the issuing of work permits to be related to the profession of the work permit holder, rather than tied to the employer. The differences between residence and work permits are also planned to be reduced. This new law will come into effect in May 2004.
The new work permit regulations will facilitate the entrance of foreign workers into Finland’s labour market, and will provide opportunities to employers to use foreign workers in those areas, where there is currently a considerable shortage of labour, for example, in construction. Due to the increase in life expectancy in Finland, foreign health care specialists will also be needed.
Until now, Finland has had one of the most restrictive policies concerning foreign workers. The work permit procedure has been slow, and in some cases the work permit candidates have had to wait six months for the chance to work in Finland.
In April 2003, The European Union offered in global trade talks to allow foreign workers providing services to enter EU nations for up to six months, up from the current three months, and to establish a quota rather than a labour market test. The EU also proposed that trainees could be transferred from a foreign to an EU subsidiary for up to 12 months, up from six months.
Many Europeans believe that opening new legal channels for migrants would curb illegal migration, that is, they argue that reduced immigration options in the 1990s forced foreigners attempting entry to turn to smugglers to enter, and to apply for asylum to stay. Most estimates are that 15 percent of the migrants in Europe, and up to 30 percent of new entrants, are unauthorized.
The proposal would have to be ratified by all EU member states before coming into effect.
Highly-skilled executive-level foreign employees in Belgium are now able to renew the work permit type “B” and may be able to extend it an additional four years.
In February 2003, this Belgian Royal Decree concerning the employment of foreign employees was published and entered into force on 1 April 2003. This new regulation applies to highly-skilled and educated professionals who earn at least EUR 31,073 per annum.
Until now, this work permit B could not be extended beyond four years. This regulation allows such a work permit to possibly be extended once for four years.
Furthermore, there is no longer any time limit on foreign executive employees as long as the individual earns at least EUR51,842 per annum and that he is hired directly by the Belgian company (i.e. not on secondment). In this case, the work permit type B would be valid indefinitely.
Moreover, a new type of work permit “C” has become available for people legally allowed to reside in Belgium for an defined period of time, but qualifying for a residence permit for an indefinite period of time. People eligible for a work permit type C include those who are expecting a final decision in a case of family reunion as well as a diplomat or consul’s spouse, for example. Spouses of an EU (and EEA) national may also apply for a type C permit as long as this individual has been employed in Belgium for at least one year on the basis of an employment contract for an unlimited period of time. This work permit C will be valid as long as the residence permit is valid and for a maximum period of 1 year.
Work permit type A, valid for an unlimited period of time, will continue to apply in case of a change of employer. This type of work permit remains in place but is no longer applicable to those categories of persons who are exempted from a work permit. Furthermore, this new regulation provides that the work permit type A is available to people who can provide evidence of four years of employment during a period of 10 years immediately preceding their application (instead of four years of employment during the period immediately preceding their application).
Finally, permanent residents of Belgium will be exempted from the need to apply for a work permit. They are now authorised to work in Belgium without further paperwork.
Individual work permit holders in the Netherlands can now apply for a temporary stay (MVV process) at the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). The application form is also available on the IND website or can be obtained over the phone by calling the IND.
Moreover, the IND will be taking over some of the burden of the Aliens Department that used to be taken care of by the police. The new residence permit procedure with the IND began on 1 April 2003, and a number of procedures have been simplified. Dutch authorities claim that the transfer of competencies from the Aliens Police to the IND will allow the police to focus more on safety and fighting crime.
If you have a job offer in any EU country, please feel free to contact one of our UK immigration or EU visa consultants on +44 (0)20 7842 0800.
- Canada Skilled Worker category – points requirement reduced to 67 points from 18 September 2003 – check your eligibility now FREE on Canada Skilled Worker Immigration page
- UK Highly Skilled Migrant programme made easier from 31 October 2003 – here’s your chance to migrate to the UK without having a job offer! Check your eligibility now FREE with our HSMP points calculator on Highly Skilled Migrant Programme Points Calculator
- Australian Skilled Migration programme – one of the most liberal Western countries in which to immigrate to! Check your eligibility now FREE with our Australian Immigration Points Calculator on Australia Skilled Immigration Points Calculator
- DV 2005 Official U.S. Green Card Lottery – your chance to win immigration to the US. Check your eligibility now and apply through us for the low price of £75 single / £95 family application (25 Ls + VAT if you are resident in Latvia) on Do I qualify for the Green Card Lottery
- UK work permits made easier for the Hotel and Catering Industry and Food Manufacturing Sector under the Sector-Based Scheme (SBS) from May 2003. For more information see UK Work Permits for Hospitality and Food Processing
- Citizens of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia will be able to work freely in Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands from 1 May 2004.
- Are you citizen of a country that will be joining the EU in 2004 or 2007? If so, you can work for multiple employers in the UK under the Association Agreement with the EU – check EEA Association Agreement and working in the UK for more details.