Immigration dispatch – Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Vietnam
20 December 2016 – Relocate Magazine
Canada – temporary worker “4-in, 4-out” rule eliminated
In a 13 December joint announcement by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Ministry of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, Canada has eliminated the “4-in, 4-out” rule under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), effective immediately. The announcement brought immediate praise from industry groups in sectors where employers struggle to fill jobs with local labour.The TFWP is the major route used by companies in Canada to bring temporary foreign labour to meet labour shortages and allows employers to fill open local jobs with foreign workers after receiving a favourable Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).While not applicable to many highly-utilised Canadian immigration programs – including the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) and international reciprocity arrangements (like NAFTA) – the “4-in, 4-out” rule has been widely criticized by companies and foreign workers alike since its implementation in 2011. Under the rule, temporary foreign workers were capped at four years of work in Canada (including extensions); after which time, they would have to exit the country and would remain ineligible for a new work permit for another four years. This results in hardships for both companies and affected foreign employees alike: on the on hand, companies lose valuable experienced workers and take on the cost of continually recruiting new employees in shortage occupations, and on the other hand, affected foreign workers lose their jobs, are uprooted and forced to leave Canada, not ever qualifying for permanent residence.
With the elimination of this rule, companies will benefit from a more stable workforce, and foreign nationals contributing to Canada’s economic success will benefit by establishing roots through permanent residence and eventual citizenship. Pro-Link GLOBAL joins companies and their foreign workers in applauding the move as a “win” for all – good for business, good for foreign employees and their families, and the right ethical decision. In the current world climate of rising short-sighted protectionism and declining favour of globalization, Canada’s recognition that immigration policy is a vital tool of economic growth and a cultural benefit to the nation is refreshing. See our Immigration Dispatch of 14 November for more on this new “Global Skills Strategy.”The decision to remove the “4-in, 4-out” rule was prompted by recommendations contained in a recent report on the TFWP presented to Parliament in September. However, the quick action on the rule took many observers by surprise. While repealing the “4-in, 4-out” rule was merely one of 21 recommended TFWP refinements, IRCC Minister John McCallum stated, “We believe this important recommendation from the Committee requires rapid action.” Additional recommendations of the report include raising the cap on the percentage of foreign workers a company may hire, tailoring caps and requirements to more closely meet regional and industry demands, improving permit processing, and reducing barriers to permanent residency. These changes are also likely to receive attention in the new year.
Australia – new 10-year multiple-entry “Frequent Traveller” visa stream
Effective 19 November, a new “Frequent Traveller” stream was added to Australia’s Subclass 600 visitor visa. The Frequent Traveller visa is issued valid for ten years and allows the holder multiple entries into Australia for stays up to three months each entry. The new visa is available for business or tourism, so long as the holder does not remain in Australia for more than 12 months in any 24-month period.The Frequent Traveller visa will only be available to nationals of select countries specified on a list maintained by the Ministry of Immigration and Border Protection (MIBP). Currently, the only nation on the list is China; however, MIBP’s intent is to gradually add to the list of eligible nations and expand the use of the visa going forward. The fee for the new visa is AUD 1000 (currently approximately CNY 5115).
Costa Rica – several changes to entry visa rules
Effective 14 December, The Costa Rican General Directorate of Migration announced several changes to its visa rules. The changes include:
Consolidation of the current four visa categories into two categories:
1. Nationals of visa-exempt countries
2. Nationals of countries that require a visa
Nationals of countries that require a visa may still be exempt from visa requirements if:
1. They hold a multiple-entry visa issued by the United States or Canada
2. They are permanent residents of the United States, Canada, or a European Union country
Note, unlike previous permissions, holders of multiple-entry visas issued by European Union countries or by Japan will not be exempt from Costa Rican visa requirements.
• Eight additional countries have been added to the list whose citizens may enter Costa Rica visa-free: Brunei, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Peru, Qatar, Taiwan, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates.
Affected foreign nationals are encouraged to contact their Immigration Specialist prior to their next travel to Costa Rica, as the changes here are somewhat subtle. In many cases, to qualify under for exemptions, travellers will be required to demonstrate their status at the port of entry into Costa Rica with legalized translations of supporting documents.
Hong Kong – “Pre-Arrival Registration” required for visa-free Indian travellers
Effective 23 January, Indian travellers to Hong Kong will be required to complete an online pre-arrival registration before entering using their visa-free option. After this implementation date, Indian nationals will still be exempt from visa requirements for stays of up to 14 days in Hong Kong, but they will not be permitted entry if the pre-registration has not been completed prior to arrival. This heightened security measure is in response to a recent sharp rise in the number of Indian asylum seekers entering Hong Kong.Only Indian diplomatic passport holders, holders of Hong Kong Travel Passes, or those frequent travellers enrolled in the e-Channel system will be exempt from this new requirement. All other Indian travellers should register before travel on the Immigration Department of Hong Kong website here and print the notification slip to present to immigration authorities upon arrival. Registration is free, valid for six months, and may be used for multiple trips. Starting 23 January, airlines will request the notification slip for Indian nationals on flights to Hong Kong prior to boarding.
Saudi Arabia – “Balanced Nitiqat” scheme postponed
In a surprise announcement by the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, Saudi Arabia has postponed the implementation of its new “Balanced Nitiqat” scheme. As Pro-Link GLOBAL reported earlier, this latest iteration of the Nitiqat system was slated to come into force 12 December. See our Immigration Dispatch of 10 October for more details. The new implementation date has yet to be announced by the Saudi authorities.When implemented, the “Balanced Nitiqat” system will add another level of complexity to the current rules regarding the required “Saudization levels” of company workforces. This long-standing program rewards or penalizes companies operating in the Kingdom based on their percentage of Saudi employees. Since 2011, the Nitiqat system has attempted to increase employment for Saudi nationals in an economy dominated by foreign workers, with limited success. The “Balanced Nitiqat” rules will bring additional requirements for companies regarding the salary and longevity of local workers.The decision to postpone the implementation of the “Balanced Nitiqat” system was reportedly made at the request of private business organizations who felt companies needed more time to prepare for the new, more-complex requirements. With the postponed implementation, the roll-out of the new Saudization website designed to assist companies with compliance has also been delayed.
South Africa – visa-on-arrival suspended for New Zealand nationals
In what is being described by many observers as a “tit-for-tat” move, South Africa has responded in kind to New Zealand’s earlier move suspending its visa-on-arrival for South African nationals. See our Immigration Dispatch of 17 October for more details. In a 6 December announcement, South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba stated that, effective 16 January, New Zealand passport holders will need visas to enter South Africa.New Zealand and South Africa had enjoyed a mutual visa-waiver arrangement since 1996, until New Zealand withdrew the visa-waiver status for South Africans on 21 November. This earlier action by New Zealand was predicated on a perceived sharp increase in the number of South Africans arriving with “altered or fraudulent” passports. Several other nations have taken similar action against South African travellers in recent years and, in response, South Africa has implemented improvements to its passport security measures.This recent move by South Africa is reportedly based on the international relations “principle of reciprocity,” and while presently aimed at equalizing its standing with New Zealand, may be applied more broadly. “We have further noted in recent times a number of countries have imposed visa restrictions on South African passport holders,” Minister Gigaba has been quoted as saying. “After a careful consideration of this matter, I have directed departmental officials to look closely at the decisions of these countries and advise accordingly whether or not South Africa should reciprocate.” Whilst we certainly respect the sovereignty of nations and the principles of international relations, we see no practical benefit to the current action by South Africa, and see only self-inflicted harm in reduced international commerce and tourism. Hopefully, similar actions do not follow regarding other nations.
Vietnam – guidance on new Decree 11 finally available
Effective 12 December, Vietnamese authorities have finally issued a new guidance Circular 40 for the implementation of Decree 11. Officially in effect since 1 April, Decree 11 made broad changes to the rules and procedures for the hiring of foreign nationals in Vietnam. See our Global Brief of 3 March for more details. Circular 40 now gives companies much-needed clarification on how to comply with the new law.Circular 40 provides a new set of official forms and detailed guidelines, including the following:
• A new Form 14 (replacing Form 16) has been released for the Foreign Labour Use Report –Companies must provide this report to their provincial labour department before the 5th of the month following each quarter. The new form allows companies to report the number of foreign employees holding work permits, work permit exemption certificates, and those foreign employees exempt from either work permits or exemption certificates
• Clarification of acceptable qualification documents for foreign experts and specialists – A confirmation letter issued by an overseas agency, organization, or enterprise confirming the field of expertise will be accepted
• Clarification of acceptable documents for proof of 12-months employment for Intra-Company Transferees (ICTs) – Assignment letters, former labour contracts, employment decision letters, tax certificates, or insurance certificates showing 12 months of employment with the sending company will be accepted
• Clarification on the calculation of the permissible stay for either work permit exemption or work permit exemption certificate requirements – the start date for this 30-day window will be the foreign national’s date of entry into Vietnam;
• Foreign workers with valid work permits may be assigned to work at another company, client, project, or location in another province for more than 10 days without obtaining a new work permit. Note that notification must be given to the local labour department in that province
• Work permits must be returned to the Department of Labour within 15 days of the end of the foreign worker’s assignment or employment
Companies that are unsure whether their current policies and procedures are in line with this new guidance should contact their Immigration Specialist immediately with questions or to schedule a compliance review.