Pro-Link GLOBAL immigration dispatch: Czech Republic, Italy, Qatar, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam
Discover key changes to immigration regulations in the Czech Republic, Italy, Qatar, South Africa, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Czech Republic – restrictions on short-term visas to delay assignmentsShort-term visas will no longer be available to foreign nationals headed to the Czech Republic for work assignments that are expected to last longer than 90 days. As a result, foreign nationals beginning a long-term assignment in the Republic will now face delays upwards of 60-90 days in beginning their assignment.The Employee Card, issued by the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), is the long-term work and residence authorisation for foreign nationals working in the Czech Republic for more than 90 days. The Employee Card can be obtained for periods of up to two years and renewed indefinitely. As with most long-term authorisations, the Employee Card has a more-lengthy processing time than the short-term work visa – typically 60 to 90 days, depending on the complexity of the case.Due to the processing times, it was common practice for some foreign nationals to submit both an application for a short-term visa and an application for the Employee Card at the outset. While waiting for the Employee Card, the applicant would receive the short-term visa – typically within two weeks – and be able to travel and begin their assignment in the Republic ahead of receiving the Employee Card. However, these simultaneous applications will no longer being permitted, according to the new policy of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).As both Czech and EU law held that a short-term visa should not be granted in cases where the applicant’s supporting employment documents showed an assignment that would last more than 90 days, applicants often used two sets of employment documents: one showing an assignment of under 90 days for the short-term visa, and one showing a longer-term assignment starting thereafter for the Employee Card. Because the two visa cases were independent of each other and the MOFA and MOI databases are not linked, this approach was traditionally successful. Under this new policy, however, the MOFA will be stepping-up scrutiny of applications for short-term visas to prevent this occurring. This increased examination and enforcement was prompted both by the overload on government resources from processing parallel cases and those instances where a foreign national received the short-term visa but was denied the Employee Card and the MOFA was forced to deport the foreign national.With this new level of scrutiny under which the MOFA will be viewing applications for short-term Schengen visas, and the potential for application denial, it is no longer recommended that applicants use the dual applications method.If the assignment in the Czech Republic is expected to last longer than 90 days, employers of foreign nationals are advised to simply apply for the required Employee Card well in advance and, if necessary, adjust assignment start dates accordingly.
Immigration changes from around the world
Italy – new rules for employers of posted workers implementedItaly is the latest European Union nation to implement into its law the mandates of the EU Posted Worker Directive (EU Directive 2014/67). We’ve recently reported on similar implementations of the Directive in Poland and Ireland. See our Immigration Dispatches of 29 July and 13 September for additional details.Italian Decree No. 136/2016 brings new obligations for employers of foreign national employees posted in Italy to provide the Ministry of Labour (MOL) notice of the posting prior to the employee starting work and within five days of any change in the employee’s work status. Employers must also, for a minimum of two years after the posting ends, maintain records – available for MOL inspection – which include the worker’s employment contract, pay slips, time sheets, and proof of the actual payment of wages made. The Decree further holds liable for two years both the sending company and the host company for the requisite social security contributions. To ensure compliance, the employer is further required to designate a person within the company permanently residing in Italy as responsible for all records and notices to the MOL.
Qatar – new stricter requirements of education certificates submitted for visasThe Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs is now applying stricter requirements to educational certificates and diplomas submitted in support of visa applications. Now, along with the certificate or diploma, applicants must submit a course transcript and a “Letter of Education Certificate of Authenticity” from the educational institution that issued the certificate or diploma. The Authentication Letter must contain:
- Qualification authenticity
- Mode and type of study (i.e. resident study, and whether fulltime or part-time)
- Place of study and examinations
- Awarded title (i.e. certificate, Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate)
- Duration of study (i.e. the start and ending dates)
South Africa – change in visa validity date benefits holdersPer Immigration Directive No. 19 of 2016, the South African Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has effectively lengthened the usable time of all visas for foreign nationals traveling to South Africa. Beginning August 1, all printed visas issued through the DHA’s Visa Adjudication System (VAS) will now bear a “Valid From” date rather than an “Issue Date,” as was the previous practice. While this a small change in form, it will produce significant benefits for travellers to South Africa.Under the old form bearing the “Issue Date,” the validity period of the visa began running immediately upon issue. This meant that if there was any delay in travel upon obtaining the visa, some portion of the validity period had already been used prior to arrival in South Africa. With the new “Valid From” date, visa recipients may now plan their arrival in South Africa to fall on or soon after the validity date, so that they receive the full benefit of the validity period. This change also eliminates some of the previous confusion regarding foreign nationals who applied for new visas while currently holding another valid South African visa. In such cases, the new visa – considered valid upon issue – was arguably valid at the same time the previous visa also remained valid, which effectively shortened the combined validity period. This also created an administrative burden for the VAS administrators in many cases where they were asked to go back and correct the validity date of the new visa so that the holder received the full period for which they had applied. Now the “Valid From” date can be set at the expiration of the previous visa, eliminating the ambiguity.
Thailand – applicants for long-term B visas must now be placed on local payrollEffective 5 September, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand now requires foreign nationals working in Thailand on long-term B visas to be placed on the local Thai company’s payroll. Previously, the Ministry would accept either personal income tax form PND 1 or form PND 93 as proof of income in support of either new applications or renewals of long-term B visas. Now the Ministry is only accepting form PND 1 in support of the visa application.Foreign nationals residing in Thailand for more than 180 days in the year are required to pay Thai income tax both on any income derived from their activity in Thailand and on any income derived from foreign sources and brought into Thailand that year. For income from foreign sources, the foreign national is required to file income tax form PND 93. For income paid through a local payroll, the foreign national must file form PND 1.However, the Ministry is no longer accepting PND 93 forms (income derived from foreign sources) as proof of income in support of either new applications or renewals of long-term B visas. Instead, only the PND 1 forms (income paid on a local payroll) will be accepted. Because foreign nationals requiring B visas must now have locally-derived income in order to generate a PND 1, all foreign nationals working in Thailand must be paid through the sponsoring company’s local payroll.This change applies to all long-term visa applications, including those submitted through the One Stop Service Centre.Thai companies with foreign nationals working for them must now ensure that those workers are on their local payroll, that they withhold personal income tax on a monthly basis, and that they make monthly social security contributions once the employee obtains a work permit booklet. While seemingly a subtle change in document requirements, this is effectively a significant change from past practice both in terms of payroll and immigration practice. Multi-national companies with foreign workers in Thailand should contact their tax and immigration advisors immediately to ensure that their payroll practices and visa application submissions are in compliance with this new rule, or risk being denied B visas for their foreign workers.
Vietnam – one-year visas now offered to all US visitorsThe Embassies and Consulates of Vietnam are now, as a matter of practice, granting one-year multiple-entry business and tourist visas to all nationals of the United States. This new one-year multiple-entry visa replaces the one-month and three-month visas previously given to US citizens. We had already seen Vietnam beginning to grant one-year visas to US applicants on an ad hoc basis. See our Immigration Dispatch of 7 September. But the one-year visa has now become the standard for US visitors, with the shorter-term visa options being eliminated.With the increase in visa length comes a corresponding increase in the visa fee to USD 135, up from the USD 45 for the previous one-month visa. While regular US business travellers to Vietnam benefit from no longer having to obtain multiple visas each year, they should bear in mind that their stay in country is still limited to 90-days on each entry. As Pro-Link GLOBAL reported earlier, these improvements for US travellers appear to be part of an overall effort in Vietnam to streamline and liberalize its visa system, which may lead to similar positive changes for citizens of other nations as well.
Reminders: recent and upcoming immigration implementationsThe following are reminders of recent or upcoming implementation dates that you should know:
- 19 September, Brazil – The labour strike by workers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs enters its sixth week. Significant backlogs and delays continue in the processing of work and residence authorizations and visas in numerous overseas Brazilian Embassies and Consulates. Some consulates have suspended visa services altogether, while Embassies and some consulates are continuing limited visa processing at diminished capacity. Expect significant delays. (See our Immigration Dispatch of 7 September for additional details)
- 1 October, Switzerland – Fourth Quarter visa quota opens. L and B Permits may be available but vary by canton. (See our Immigration Dispatch of 7 September for additional details)
- 1-7 October, China – Golden Week will be celebrated as a national holiday throughout mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Private companies, public offices, government offices, and overseas consular posts will be closed, but will re-open again on the following Saturday and Sunday (8-9). Expect delays at all stages of the immigration process, both during and after. Also, expect travel within the country to be congested during this time.
- 2 October, Saudi Arabia – New significantly higher visit visa fees and re-entry fees take effect. (See our Global Brief of 5 September for fee schedule and additional details).
- 4 October, Israel – Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) will be celebrated. Private companies, public offices, government offices, and overseas consular posts will be closed.