April 2024 Global Immigration Alert

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Seyfarth Shaw LLP

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With more than 900 lawyers across 18 offices, Seyfarth Shaw LLP provides advisory, litigation, and transactional legal services to clients worldwide. Our high-caliber legal representation and advanced delivery capabilities allow us to take on our clients’ unique challenges and opportunities-no matter the scale or complexity. Whether navigating complex litigation, negotiating transformational deals, or advising on cross-border projects, our attorneys achieve exceptional legal outcomes. Our drive for excellence leads us to seek out better ways to work with our clients and each other. We have been first-to-market on many legal service delivery innovations-and we continue to break new ground with our clients every day. This long history of excellence and innovation has created a culture with a sense of purpose and belonging for all. In turn, our culture drives our commitment to the growth of our clients, the diversity of our people, and the resilience of our workforce.
On March 22, 2024, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced a significant change to the rules regarding post-graduation work permit eligibility for international students.
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Please note: while we address certain country-specific updates, this Alert contains information regarding global requirements, policies, and procedures as they stand as of the date of publication. We highly recommend reviewing any global mobility inquiries on a case-by-case basis, including any consulate-specific or immigration authority resources, in "real-time" before traveling internationally. Please reach out to our Global Mobility Team in advance of any international travel.

Canada – Update on Post-Graduate Work Permits for International Students

On March 22, 2024, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced a significant change to the rules regarding post-graduation work permit eligibility for international students. Starting on May 15, 2024, international students who graduate from college and university programs delivered through a public-private curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for a post-graduation work permit.

The IRCC maintains a list of designated learning institutions on their website, indicating whether an institution's graduates are eligible for a post-graduation work permit. The IRCC will continue to work with provinces and territories to identify programs affected by this change and will update the list accordingly.

New Temporary Public Policy for H-1B Open Work Permit Applications

On March 18, 2024 IRCC implemented a new temporary public policy to facilitate the processing of certain applications received under the H-1B open work permit measure, which was launched on July 16, 2023.

The new policy authorizes IRCC to process: A small number of applications that were received in excess of the cap because they were submitted simultaneously when the cap was reached on July 17, 2023.

  • Applications submitted on behalf of applicants and their family members by their immigration representatives through the Authorized Paid Representatives Portal before the cap was reached.

Work permit applications for accompanying family members, including those who have already applied for a work permit or who will apply for a work permit within the next 12 months. In addition, the new policy:

  • Waives study permit processing fees for minor children (aged 17 and under) of H-1B holders who applied for a work permit under the initial H-1B open work permit measure and who now wish to apply for a study permit from within Canada after arrival. This aims to resolve challenges experienced by some H-1B applicants who were unable to submit a study permit application on behalf of their minor children.

Significant Changes to Entry Requirements for Méxican Nationals Traveling to Canada

As of February 29, 2024, entry requirements for Méxican nationals traveling to Canada have undergone significant changes. Here's a summary of the new changes and how they impact visitors from México:

  • Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) Requirements: Travelers must now meet new criteria to qualify for an eTA.
  • Cancellation of Existing eTAs: Any existing eTA will be automatically canceled unless accompanied by a valid work or study permit.

To be eligible for an eTA, visitors must hold a valid Méxican passport and a previous Canadian or U.S. visa. Specifically, an applicant must have held a Canadian visitor visa in the past 10 years or currently possess a valid U.S. nonimmigrant visa. Their Canadian visitor visa may be expired. This mirrors visa requirements to enter Canada, such as those for Brazilian citizens.

These changes are expected to lead to a significant increase in consular work permit applications, as Méxican foreign nationals will be unable to apply at the Port of Entry for work permits. It is currently unclear whether IRCC will increase the number of visa officers responsible for processing consular applications.

China – Visa Waiver List Expanded

China is expanding the list of unilateral visa free countries on a trial basis.

For the period of December 1, 2023 to November 30, 2024 China is already allowing visa-free entry for nationals of France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia. Now China has added the following six (6) European countries on a trial basis: Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Please see publication here.

The policy exempts ordinary passport holders from these countries from obtaining an entry visa for business, tourist travel, family visits, and transit through China for a stay of up to 15 days. It is important to note that performance of day to day job duties is not allowed. Typical allowed business visitor activities are attendance of meetings and conferences.

Israel – Increase of Minimum Salary Requirement

Effective April 1, 2024, the minimum monthly salary in Israel will be increased to 5,880 NIS gross per month. The minimum wage requirement applies to foreign nationals employed in Israel under Short Employment Authorization (SEA) and Short-Term Employment Authorization Program (STEP) for durations of up to 90 days and B-1 visa holders.

Singapore – Increase of Local Qualifying Salary and Minimum EP Qualifying Salary

The local qualifying salary (LQS) will be raised from S$ 1,400 to S$ 1,600 monthly, effective July 1, 2024. The minimum hourly rate has also been increased to S$ 10.50 per hour (up from S$ 9). The LQS determines the number of local employees who can be used to calculate a company's Work Permit and S Pass quota entitlement. Please see further details here.

In addition, there will be an increase of Employment Pass (EP) minimum salary effective next year and renewals to follow in 2026. The minimum EP qualifying salary will be raised from S$ 5,000 to S$ 5,600 per month. The qualifying salary will incrementally increase with age, reaching up to S$ 10,700 for individuals in their mid-40s.

For the Financial Services sector, known for its higher wage ranges, a higher EP qualifying salary will be upheld. Specifically, the EP minimum qualifying salary for this sector will be heightened from S$ 5,500 to S$ 6,200 per month. This increase will also be scaled progressively with age, up to S$ 11,800 for candidates in their mid-40s.

The revised EP qualifying salary adjustments will be applicable to new EP applications starting from January 1, 2025, and to renewal applications from January 1, 2026.

The Netherlands – Sponsor Duties

The Netherlands will update the law for Recognized Sponsor companies effective April 1, 2024. The duties and responsibilities of administration (retaining records) is now further specified for Highly Skilled Migrants who are hired under the reduced salary criterion. Please also see information about the sponsor duties here.

The United Kingdom – Significant Changes Regarding UK Skilled Worker Visa

A major update to the UK immigration rules was published on March 14, 2024. The new rules will become effective on April 4, 2024. Notably, these new rules will affect a large number of employers and their employees who need UK work visa sponsorship.

Transitional arrangements apply until April 3, 2030 for Skilled Workers whose Certificate of Sponsorship was assigned prior to April 4, 2024 and who have maintained continuity of permission as a Skilled Worker since that time. The most significant changes are as follows:

Increases to salary requirements

Significantly, there are several salary increase requirements that are coming into force for Skilled Worker applicants, and some of these will also be applicable to any existing visa holders as part of the transitional arrangement.

  • General salary threshold increase: As previously announced and reported, the general salary threshold is now increased from £26,200 to £38,700 per annum.
  • Going rates salary threshold increases: Occupation-specific salary thresholds, or 'going rates' to the median salary for each type of role, are also updated. New thresholds have increased substantially, from the 25th percentile to the 50th percentile (median), with limited exceptions for national pay scale occupations and Health and Care occupations not on a national pay scale. This jump in the salary requirements for sponsored employees can cause many employers to re-assess existing salary ranges for all employees to achieve fair and equitable compensation across all of the workforce.
  • Updates to the going salary rates for occupations on a national pay scale and Health and Care occupations not on a national pay scale: These are in line with the latest data from the Office for National Statistics ("ONS") and/or the latest national pay scale data.
  • For those who are covered under the transitional arrangements: A general threshold based on the 25th percentile will apply, but it increases for individuals with Certificate of Sponsorship assigned on or after 4 April from £26,200 to £29,000 pa. This is to account for inflation.
  • Consequential changes to Senior or Specialist Workers in the Global Business Mobility routes: The general salary threshold is being updated from £45,800 to £48,500 per annum, and going rates are being updated using the latest ONS pay data.

Removal of Shortage occupation list

The Shortage Occupation List ("SOL") is replaced by an Immigration Salary List ("ISL") comprised of roles where "the Government thinks it is sensible to offer a discounted salary threshold" according to the Explanatory Memorandum. The list is more limited than the previous Shortage Occupation List, and includes only 21 occupations. Of these 21 occupations, 18 are recommendations for the UK-wide ISL and 3 recommendations for the Scotland-only ISL.

The list is shorter because it takes into account the higher Skilled Worker salary threshold requirements coming into force on April 4, 2024 and the removal of the 20% discount applied to job roles on the SOL.

The main change for employers sponsoring a worker in a role on the new ISL is a lower general salary threshold of £30,960 instead of £38,700. However, the ISL reduction will not apply to the going minimum rates which still need to be satisfied and are being increased.

Updates to ONS Skills Occupational Codes system

The Home Office is also adopting the new Office for National Statistics (ONS) Skills Occupational Codes ("SOC") 2020 coding system, replacing the existing ONS SOC 2010 coding system. This will mean changes to some codes and employers having to refresh decisions on which code is most suitable in some cases.

In addition to the updated job types coding system, the salary going rates will increase from 25thpercentile to 50thpercentile. This means that, in actual practice, employers will need to assess each existing sponsored and new role under the new salary threshold.

Below, we present a table with examples of the codes most commonly used by our clients:

Existing SOC 2010 code

New SOC 2020 code

Current going salary minimum rate

New going salary minimum rate

New going salary minimum rate for existing SW visa holders

2136: Programmers and software development professionals

2134: Programmers and software development professionals

£34,000

£49,400

£36,300

2135: IT business analysts, architects, and systems designers

2133: IT business analysts, architects, and systems designer

£37,600

£51,700

£39,300

2139: Information technology and telecommunications professionals not elsewhere classified.

2136: IT quality and testing professionals

£32,100

£39,900

£31,100

3131: IT operations technicians

3131: IT operations technicians

£24,700

£31,100

£25,200

3534: Finance and investment analysts and advisers

2422: Finance and investment analysts and adviser

£28,600

£40,600

£32,100

2423: Management consultants and business analysts

2431: Management consultants and business analysts

£32,000

£48,000

£36,200

2424: Business and financial project management professionals

2440: Business and financial project management professionals

£39,100

£52,900

£41,100

1121: Production managers and directors in manufacturing

1121: Production managers and directors in manufacturing

£35,000

£51,500

£37,100

2123: Electrical engineers

2123: Electrical engineers

£39,300

£53,500

£43,900

2124: Electronics engineers

2124: Electronics engineer

£33,90

£49,900

£41,900

2127: Production and process engineers

2125: Production and process engineers

£32,000

£43,700

£35,700

3535: Taxation experts

2423: Taxation experts

£37,700

£46,300

£33,900

2423: Management consultants and business analysts

2431: Management consultants and business analyst

£32,000

£48,000

£36,200

3113: Engineering technicians

3113: Engineering technicians

£29,900

£39,800

£32,900

3541: Buyers and procurement officers

3551: Buyers and procurement officers

£26,300

£33,000

£27,500

3542: Business sales executives

3552: Business sales executives

£26,700

£34,500

£27,800


Retention of existing reduced rates

  • New Entrant reduced rate

The Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules has confirmed that the current salary reduction arrangement for new entrants will continue after April 4, 2024. The general salary threshold for new entrants will be 20% lower than the general salary threshold, with a new level of £30,960 and £23,200 for Healthcare roles.

A new entrant will also still benefit from a 30% reduction on the going rate. Employers will need to be aware that there will be circumstances where the discounted going rate will be higher than the lowered general salary threshold.

The new rules have also confirmed that the a worker who relies on the new entrant threshold will still only be able to apply for the maximum stay of 4 years, which will include time spent in the UK as a Skilled Worker, Graduate, or Tier 2 visa holder. If a new entrant wants to therefore extend his or her visa, the entrant must be paid at the higher salary threshold at this point.

  • PhD reduced rate

Workers who hold a PhD in a field relevant to the occupational role, or who are in a STEM discipline, will continue to receive a reduction on the salary threshold. This will be as follows:-Applicants with a relevant PhD will need to be paid a salary above the general salary threshold of £34,830 and a 10% reduction on the going rate for their role (£26,100 for Healthcare roles).

- Applicants with a PhD in a STEM discipline will need to be paid a salary of £30,960 and a 20% reduction on the going rate for their role (£23,200 for Healthcare roles).

Expansion of supplementary employment provisions

Skilled Workers are permitted to undertake supplementary employment for up to maximum of 20 hours per week, provided they remain working for their sponsor in their sponsored role. Currently, the provisions allow workers to only take up employment in the same occupation as the sponsored role, or in any occupation from the Shortage Occupations list,

By contrast, the new rules will allow sponsored workers to take up supplementary employment in any role that is eligible for the Skilled Worker route. This means more Skilled Worker migrants can take up supplementary employment in the UK.

Importantly, this liberalization does not apply to other sponsored workers on visas other than Skilled Worker to whom the supplementary employment condition applies. Their restrictions remain the same as before.

Spouse and Partner route changes

The minimum annual income requirement to qualify under the Appendix FM as a spouse or unmarried partner is being increased from £18,600 to £29,000. A timeline for further increases is not yet specified, but the government statement notes that it will increase to approximately £34,500 at an unspecified time later in 2024 and finally to approximately £38,700 "by early 2025."

In positive changes, the requirement to have additional income for children is removed and is no longer required. The threshold above which savings may count towards meeting the minimum income requirement remains at £16,000. Thus, the minimum savings amount is now at £88,500 (up from £62,500).

The changes to the Partner route take effect for applications made on or after April 11, 2024. Transitional arrangements are made for individuals who have made their first successful application as a fiancé(e), proposed civil partner, or partner before April 11, 2024. They must meet the existing financial requirements that apply before the rules are updated.

Increased number of UK compliance audits

The latest Sponsorship Transparency Data has been published by the Home Office for the final quarter of 2023.

It shows that in the fourth quarter of 2023, there was a considerable increase in the number of license suspensions and revocations. Specifically, 241 sponsors had their Skilled Worker licenses suspended (up from just 91 in the previous quarter), and 105 sponsors had their license revoked (up from 62 in the previous quarter). Whilst these numbers remain relatively small compared to the number of sponsors overall (at 84,730 licenses for Tier 2 routes), these large increases are indicative of the increased enforcement and compliance action we have seen across all sectors and clients.

This data highlights the increasing complexity of the sponsorship regime and the need for businesses to seek advice, be prepared, and tread carefully. Businesses should be reminded regularly that, as soon as they are registered as a license holder, they carry an increased responsibility with regard to reporting and record-keeping.

The main duties of which all license holders should be aware include:

  • Reporting any important changes to the company's details (such as change of address, change of name, or change in immediate corporate ownership).
  • Ensuring all contact details, in particular for the Authorizing Officer, are up to date on the license, and that the names of any people who left the business be replaced with a new existing employee.
  • Reporting any changes to the sponsored employee's employment conditions (such as change of role or job title, decreases in salary, maternity/paternity or other permitted leave from work of greater than 4 weeks' duration, the end of employment, or a move to a new work location).

If you are unsure, or wish to learn more about the UK immigration sponsor license compliance, please reach out to our Global immigration team.

Review of Graduate route by May 14, 2024

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been commissioned to make yet another 'rapid review' of the Graduate route, and its report is due to be published prior to May 14, 2024. Employers should plan for potential restrictions to this route. It is also possible that this upcoming report may signal a complete suspension of the Graduate route.

At the moment, a Graduate visa route allows Student visa holders to remain in the UK for a period of two years after completing their undergraduate, postgraduate, or doctoral degree in the UK. The route is unsponsored and has wide work rights, only excluding work as a professional sportsperson.

The UK government has raised questions about whether the route is meeting its intended objectives, as well as more broadly seeking ways to reduce net migration. As a result, it is possible that the upcoming Rules changes may place additional restrictions on the use of the route (potentially limiting it to graduates from specific institutions or from specific disciplines, for example). The route could also be abolished entirely, and there is a precedent for this already with the closure of previous Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) route.

Cessation of Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) and Visa Vignettes After December 31, 2024

Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) cards and visa vignettes will no longer be in operation after December 31, 2024. This means that all UK visa holders must have an online eVisa UKVI account linked to their travel document to ensure they can prove their status after this date.

All current holders of BRP cards without UKVI account must register to be able to view and prove their immigration status online as a eVisa starting from summer 2024. A UKVI account can be created by using this link: https://www.gov.uk/get-access-evisa

Employers are requested to share the above link with their employees (and their dependent family members, where applicable), who currently hold valid BRP cards, and advise them to create their individual UKVI accounts to ensure they are able to access their eVisa after the BRP card expiry date.

Current UKVI account holders must ensure their accounts are kept up to date with current travel documents and passports to avoid potential delays when traveling internationally. Airlines and other carriers will be relying on digital checks in order to ensure travelers' eligibility to enter the UK. Existing UKVI account holders can review and update their travel documents by accessing their accounts here: https://www.gov.uk/update-uk-visas-immigration-account-details.

Current BRP holders must carry their current BRP cards and passports when traveling in and out of the UK until the card expires on December 31, 2024.

The introduction of visa accounts follows UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) initiative to develop a fully digital immigration system. Physical documents will no longer be issued or used to evidence UK immigration status with records accessible online only as eVisa.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

April 2024 Global Immigration Alert

Worldwide Immigration

Contributor

With more than 900 lawyers across 18 offices, Seyfarth Shaw LLP provides advisory, litigation, and transactional legal services to clients worldwide. Our high-caliber legal representation and advanced delivery capabilities allow us to take on our clients’ unique challenges and opportunities-no matter the scale or complexity. Whether navigating complex litigation, negotiating transformational deals, or advising on cross-border projects, our attorneys achieve exceptional legal outcomes. Our drive for excellence leads us to seek out better ways to work with our clients and each other. We have been first-to-market on many legal service delivery innovations-and we continue to break new ground with our clients every day. This long history of excellence and innovation has created a culture with a sense of purpose and belonging for all. In turn, our culture drives our commitment to the growth of our clients, the diversity of our people, and the resilience of our workforce.
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