Latest updates 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 Brazil, France, Lithuania, Malta, the Philippines and the United States.

Brazil: Visa exemption for citizens of Australia, Canada and the USA visiting Brazil postponed until April 2024

The resumption of visa requirements to enter Brazil for ordinary passport holders from Australia, Canada and the United States has been postponed from 10 January 2024 to 10 April 2024. The new date was made official by Decree No. 11.875, published in an extra edition of the Federal Official Gazette on 4 January 2024.

The extension is intended to allow extra time to complete the implementation of the visa system and to avoid starting it during the peak travel season, at the turning of the year.

In March 2023, Brazil decided to reinstate the visitor visa requirement for citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States, effective 1 October 2023.  In August 2023 this measure was postponed until 10 January 2024.

In May 2023, President Lula visited Japan and signed an agreement exempting Brazilians entering Japan and Japanese arriving in Brazil from visa requirements. The exemption measure came into force in September last year.

France: Increased minimum wage

Effective 1 January 2024, the government has increased the monthly minimum wage (le SMIC).

The minimum wage has increased by 1.13% to EUR 11.65 gross per hour. The minimum monthly salary has increased from EUR 1747.20 to EUR 1766.92.

This has in turn increased the salary requirement for several work immigration categories, including:

  • Passport Talent – Employees on Assignment to EUR 38,165.47 per year;
  • Passport Talent – Young Graduates to EUR 42,406.08 per year;
  • Passport Talent – legal Representatives to EUR 63,609.12 per year.

The minimum wage for EU Blue Card holders is 1.5 times the average gross salary of reference fixed by the government, and is therefore unaffected by the rise in the SMIC.

Lithuania: Residence applications for minors

Effective January 2024, minors aged two years or above are now required to appear in person at the customer service unit of the Migration Department (or of an external service provider) when submitting an application for the issuance or change of a temporary residence permit in Lithuania.   Previously, minors under the age of six years were not required to participate in person.

If a foreign national aged under two years old does not appear in person wen submitting an application for issuing or changing a permit, or there is no technical possibility to scan their facial image with biometric data registration equipment, it is required to submit two identical photographs that correspond to the current age. In this case, the identity of the minor and the identity of the photographs must be confirmed by the person submitting the application.

Lithuania: New minimum salary and proof of funds requirement

Effective 1 January 2024, the government has introduced a new minimum monthly salary and minimum hourly wage.

The new minimum monthly salary is EUR 924, the minimum hourly wage is EUR 5.65.

The Migration Department reminds interested parties that these changes also affect the obligations of foreign nationals working in the country.  Foreign nationals applying for the issuance or change of a temporary residence permit, permission to change the employer or job function, issuance of a permanent residence permit, or the issuance of a national visa, will have to prove a larger amount of available means of subsistence – EUR 924 per month.

If the foreign national submitted an application in the previous calendar year, the requirement to substantiate the amount of funds applied in 2023 remains valid.

In the event that a foreign national has filled out the application in the MIGRIS system, but intends to visit the customer service department of the Migration Department or to the department of an external service provider in 2024, they are required to prove sufficient funds in accordance with the higher minimum monthly salary approved for 2024.

The means of subsistence must be sufficient for one year. If a visa or residence permit valid for less than one year is requested, the means of subsistence must be sufficient for the entire period of validity of the requested document.

If a foreign national works legally in Lithuania and receives a salary that is not less than one minimum monthly salary, a separate document confirming the means of subsistence does not need to be submitted.

Malta: Specialist Employee Initiative – a new pathway for highly-skilled foreign workers

Effective January 2024, Identità Malta, the government agency responsible for identity and migration management, has introduced a new route for non-EU workers who may not qualify for its existing Key Employee Initiative.

The new Specialist Employee Initiative is for foreign nationals with a signed employment contract with a Maltese-registered company for a professional or technical role; an annual salary of at least EUR 25,000; and Malta Qualifications Framework (“MQF”) Level 6, or equivalent, qualifications directly related to the job, or proof of at least three years of experience in a directly related position.  Processing time is 15 days.

The existing Key Employee Initiative requires an annual salary of at least EUR 35,000 (up from EUR 30,000 previously); a managerial or highly technical role; and qualifications certified and recognised by the Malta Qualifications Recognition Information Centre. Processing time is five days.

Philippines: Reminder to submit annual report

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has issued a notice reminding all registered foreign national in the Philippines to report in person to the BI between 2 January and 1 March 2024.

The following are the requirements for the 2024 Annual Report:

  • Completely filled-out  online  registration  which  can  be  accessed  here;
  • Original valid ACR I-Card of card holder or original paper-based ACR with valid visa. Claim stub with official receipt is acceptable for foreign nationals with pending ACR I-Card applications;
  • Original valid passport;
  • Official Receipt covering the latest payment of Annual Report Fee.

In addition, the 2024 Annual Report for the BI Main Office in Intramuros, Manila, will be held at Level 3, Lower Food court Area of Robinsons Manila and at the Government Service Express (GSE) of SM Mall of Asia, from Mondays to Fridays except holidays, from 9am to 6pm.

Additionally, the Virtual Annual Report shall be available to all registered foreign nationals (except for paper-based ACR holders) present in the Philippines during the annual report period who are holders of valid visas       through online registration here.

Clients must choose their preferred date and time of appointment within the Annual Report period for the online interview and pay the assessed fees within 24 hours from the issuance of the Order of Payment Slip thru Maya, Gcash, Credit (Visa/Mastercard) or Landbank.

The complete list of BI Offices participating in the 2024 Annual Report may be found here.

Failure  to  report  will,  at  the  Immigration  Commissioner’s  discretion,  subject  the concerned foreign national to an administrative fine or to prosecution and upon conviction, a fine or imprisonment, or both.

United States: New policy guidance on “Ability to Pay” Requirement

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued policy guidance on how it analyses an employer’s ability to pay the proffered wage for immigrant petitions in certain first, second, and third preference employment-based immigrant visa classifications, including instances when the sponsored worker is changing employers.

Generally, employers seeking to classify prospective or current employees under the first-, second-, and third-preference employment-based immigrant visa classifications that require a job offer must demonstrate their continuing ability to pay the proffered wage to the beneficiary as of the priority date of the immigrant petition until the beneficiary obtains lawful permanent residence.

The updated guidance explains that when the beneficiary of a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, moves (or “ports”) to a new employer under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21) while the Form I-140 is pending, USCIS determines whether the petitioner meets the ability to pay requirements only by reviewing the facts in existence from the priority date until the filing of the Form I-140. USCIS is also making other minor technical revisions to improve clarity and readability, and otherwise streamline existing guidance.

This guidance is effective immediately upon publication and applies to petitions filed on or after that date. It builds on previous guidance from 15 March 2023, on how USCIS analyses employers’ ability to pay the proffered wage, and is one of many recent actions to support adjustment of status applicants.

United States: Expansion of interview waivers to additional nonimmigrant visa applicants

Effective 1 January 2024, the US Department of State (DOS) has expanded interview waivers to the following:

  • First-time H-2 visa applicants (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers); and
  • other nonimmigrant visa applicants applying for any nonimmigrant visa classification who:
    • were previously issued a nonimmigrant visa in any classification, unless the only prior issued visa was a B visa; and
    • are applying within 48 months of their most recent nonimmigrant visa’s expiration date.

Applicants renewing a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration date continue to be eligible for interview waiver until further notice.

To be eligible for an interview waiver, applicants must also meet certain criteria, including that they:

  • apply in their country of nationality or residence;
  • have never been refused a visa (unless such refusal was overcome or waived);
  • have no apparent or potential ineligibility.

Consular officers may still require in-person interviews on a case-by-case basis or because of local conditions.

Expert advice on global immigration

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

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