Pro-Link GLOBAL immigration dispatch – Australia, Kuwait, Switzerland and Turkey

Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Australia, Kuwait, Switzerland and Turkey.

Kuwait Pro-Link GLOBAL immigration dispatch

Featured Update 

Switzerland – quotas for L and B permits increased for 2017 but still remain tight

On 12 October 12 the Swiss Federal Council announced that it will moderately increase the number of work permits available to highly-qualified foreign nationals from non-European Union (EU) and non-European Free Trade Area (EFTA) nations for 2017.As Pro-Link GLOBAL has reported previously, the current quota for both short-term L permits and long-term B permits has fallen far short of the demands of Swiss employers and has resulted in continual shortages over the last two years. See our Immigration Dispatch of 6 September and our Global Brief of 10 December 2015 for more details.The 2017 work permit quotas for foreign nationals working in Switzerland has been set at: 
  • 4500 short-term L permits for non-EU/EFTA nationals
  • 3000 long-term B permits for non-EU/EFTA nationals
  • 2000 short-term L permits for EU/EFTA nationals
  • 250 long-term B permits for EU/EFTA nationals
The new quota levels for non-EU/EFTA nationals represent an increase of 500 permits in each category from the current 2016 quota. Note that the number of work permits available to EU/EFTA nationals will remain unchanged for 2017.This is the first increase to the annual quota levels since the Swiss Council dramatically reduced the number of permits for both EU/EFTA and non-EU/EFTA nationals in 2015. The increase for 2017 is a direct result of requests by the individual cantons to the Federal Council. Despite this increase, the 2017 quota for non-EU/EFTA nationals remains 1,000 permits under the 2014 levels. Even with the increase, it is likely that the cantons, especially Geneva and Zurich, will continue to experience shortages in 2017 because of the on going high demand by Swiss employers for highly-skilled foreign workers.Employers relying on highly-skilled foreign labour in Switzerland will need to continue working closely with their immigration advisors to plan workforce needs and submit applications early in each quarter as permits become available. Companies may also want to consider alternatives to meet their current foreign labour needs. Pro-Link GLOBAL’s Immigration Specialists are prepared to advise companies on their immigration options and assist with their strategic workforce mobility planning.

Immigration changes from around the world

Australia – changes to 457 visa rules affect foreign employees and accredited sponsors

The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has announced some minor changes to its Subclass 457 visa scheme, which will affect both foreign nationals working in Australia and companies applying for accredited sponsor status. The 457 visa is the most commonly used route for employers bringing skilled foreign nationals to Australia for temporary employment. First, holders of 457 visas granted after 19 November 19 2017 who leave their current sponsoring company will only have 60 days to either obtain another sponsor or exit Australia. This is a decrease from the 90 days applicable to visas issued prior to this implementation date.According to the DIBP, reducing the time that foreign nationals have to compete for other local jobs after leaving their original sponsoring company will work to ensure that the 457 visa program is used for its intended purposes as a supplement, rather than a substitute, for local labour markets. 

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The DIBP will also reportedly be taking a “more flexible approach” to the requirement that accredited sponsors have sponsored at least ten primary 457 visa holders in the 24 months prior to applying for accreditation. The requirement had previously been interpreted to require the company have had ten visas granted, with “nomination transfers” not counted. The new approach will instead use a “Sponsorship Volume Threshold.” The company applying for accreditation will be required to have had ten nominations for 457 visas in the previous 24 months and will now count the nomination transfers.While a seemingly minor change in interpretation, this should allow more companies to qualify as accredited sponsors under the program and receive priority streamlined processing for their foreign employees’ visa applications.For more information on Australia’s Subclass 457 visa scheme and the present and expected future changes, download Pro-Link GLOBAL’s Australian 457 Work Visa Webinar.

Kuwait – minimum salary increase for dependent visas aimed at reducing expat population

On 19 October the Kuwaiti Ministry of the Interior (MOI) announced that it has increased the minimum monthly salary requirements for foreign nationals living in Kuwait to sponsor their spouses and dependents for visit and family visas. Effective immediately, the following minimum salary increases will be observed for affected foreign nationals:To sponsor dependent family members for Kuwaiti residence: KWD 450 (approximately USD 1,485) per month, an increase from the previous requirement of KWD 250 (USD 825) per month.To sponsor accompanying dependents for Kuwaiti visit visas: KWD 200 (approximately USD 660), an increase from the previous requirement of KWD 150 (USD 495) per month.These substantial increases are an attempt by the MOI to deal with the perceived problem of the burgeoning numbers of expatriates residing in Kuwait.A recent study by the MOI estimated the population of foreign nationals currently living in Kuwait at almost 2.7 million people, which represents 70 per cent of the total population of the country. Like most gulf nations, Kuwait relies heavily on foreign labour in its private businesses with over 90 per cent of the private sector jobs performed by this population.However, the resulting explosion of the non-working expatriate population over the last 12 years has reportedly put a significant strain on the supply of housing and public services.The present move should be successful in reducing the number of unemployed foreign nationals in the country, as the average monthly salary of foreign nationals in the private sector stands at just KWD 251 (USD 830). Only a small percentage of foreign nationals earn salaries over the new minimum standard of KWD 450 to make them eligible to sponsor their families. The critical question now in the minds of foreign families already living in Kuwait is – what happens to those already in the country on dependent visas under the previous salary standards? According to the Al Rai Daily newspaper, major general Talal Maarafi, the director general of MOI’s Department of Residence Affairs, has reassured expatriates that the new minimum salary requirement will not be enforced retroactively and will apply only to dependent visa applications submitted after its implementation date.Other unnamed sources within the MOI have also stated to Al Rai Daily that Kuwaiti officials are sensitive to the policy’s impact both on the local economy and labour market, as well as on international relations, and will be implementing the policy on a gradual basis. The Egyptian government has already voiced its objection to the policy and plans to take up the issue at the Arab Labour Organization’s meeting later this week in Qatar.Minister of social Affairs and labour, and minister of state for planning and development, Hind Al-Subaih has similarly been reported in gulf media as saying that the plans to manage the foreign population problem will be implemented over “prolonged periods of time.” As announced, the new policy exempts 14 occupation groups – including certain positions in the legal, medical, education and academic, financial, religious, media, athletic, airline, and mortuary fields. Exceptions to the minimum salary requirement will also reportedly be made on a case-by-case basis on humanitarian grounds, but authorities will still consider whether the foreign national’s salary is sufficient to support the family in Kuwait. The current developments are obviously a huge concern to foreign families in Kuwait. Pro-Link GLOBAL will continue to closely monitor the situation and report with new information as it becomes available.

Turkey – employers of foreign workers now to notify ministry of labour of start dates

As we’ve reported previously, Turkey’s new Law on International Workforce (No. 6735), enacted in August, continues to make changes throughout Turkey’s immigration system and labour laws applicable to foreign nationals working in the country. See our Immigration Dispatches of 29 August and 3 October for more details. The latest aspect of the new law to be implemented affects employers of foreign workers in Turkey.Employers in Turkey are now required to notify the Ministry of Labour (MOL) within 15 days of the start of employment of a foreign national employee and to likewise notify MOL at the end of that employment. Like similar provisions in place throughout the neighbouring European nations, the requirement is designed to more efficiently manage and track the entry and exit of foreign nationals working in the country and to ensure that they are being afforded the protections of Turkey’s labour laws.

Reminders: recent and upcoming immigration implementations

The following are reminders of recent or upcoming implementation dates that you should know:
  • 1 November, China: China is overhauling its employment immigration scheme and implementing a new single-permit system for work authorisation of foreign nationals starting November 1 in Beijing, Hebei, Tianjin, Anhui, Shandong, Guangdong, Sichuan, and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. (See our upcoming Global Brief this week for the details)
  • 10 November, Canada: Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) becomes mandatory for visa-exempt foreign nationals (except US nationals) traveling to Canada. (see our Immigration Dispatch of 3 October for details)

For related news and features, visit our Immigration section.

Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Caveat Lector | Warning to ReaderThis is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change at a moment's notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by Pro-Link GLOBAL's Counsel and Knowledge Management teams. We worked with our PLG | KGNM Switzerland Office “Covinus” and our PLG | KGNM Turkey Office “Yalcin Toygar Tufekci Law Office” to provide you this update.Information contained in this Global Immigration Dispatch is prepared using information obtained from various media outlets, government publications and our KGNM immigration professionals. Written permission from the copyright owner and any other rights holders must be obtained for any reuse of any content posted or published by Pro-Link GLOBAL that extends beyond fair use or other statutory exemptions. Furthermore, responsibility for the determination of the copyright status and securing permission rests with those persons wishing to reuse the materials. Interested parties are welcome to contact the Knowledge Management Department (km@pro-linkglobal.com) with any additional requests for information or to request reproduction of this material.