Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Dispatch: Greece, Hungary, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom
Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Greece, Hungary, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom.
United Kingdom: Immigration Skills Charge. Other major Tier 2 changes coming April 6 2017With the implementation date now quickly approaching, Pro-Link GLOBAL reminds companies employing foreign nationals in the United Kingdom that significant changes to the Tier 2 visa stream are set to take effect April 6. Stemming from a report published by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in early 2016, these changes represent the third and final round of the committee’s recommended changes to the UK’s largest skilled, employment-based immigration scheme. The two previous rounds of these changes were implemented in April and November of last year.The Tier 2 changes scheduled for April 6 present some improvements, but also significantly increased costs and new requirements for companies, including the following:
- New Immigration Skills Charge – Undoubtedly the most significant change for companies employing foreign nationals is the imposition of the new Immigration Skills Charge. This new levy effectively increases the costs for medium and large companies to employ foreign nationals in the UK by GBP £1,000 per foreign employee for each year of their sponsorship. The new charge is in addition to the current certificate of sponsor fees, visa application fees, health surcharges and other costs. First announced in March 2016, the new Immigration Skills Charge was just recently formalized into draft regulations by Parliament. While still awaiting final Parliamentary approval, the regulations are expected to come into force April 6. The draft regulations provide the details of the new levy, including exemptions for some foreign workers and reduced levies for smaller companies and charities. Pro-Link GLOBAL will be presenting an in-depth webinar this week to assist companies in preparing for the Immigration Skills Charge; please see details below.
- Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Short Term Category to Close – The ICT Short Term assignment immigration category will close to new applications. This closing, coupled with the previous closing of the ICT Skills Transfer category last November, will leave only the single long-term ICT route going forward.
- Resident Labor Market Test Exemption for Students – Students in the Tier 4 category switching to the Tier 2 employment category will no longer be subject to Resident Labor Market Test (RLMT) requirements.
- Criminal Clearance Requirement for Certain Occupations – Applicants in 26 specific Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes will be required to provide a criminal record clearance certificate (CRC) from each country where they have resided for more than 12 months in the past 10 years. Affected occupations include professionals and managers in the health, education, and social services sectors.
- EU workers in UK rush for permanent residence and citizenship
- UK net migration falls to lowest level in two years
- Reductions in post-Brexit immigration to be 'vanishingly thin'
Immigration changes from around the world
Greece: Refugee crisis a factor in changes to residence permit processThe Greek Ministry of Interior is once again accepting applications for work and residence permits after a 10-day hiatus at the end of February. No reason was officially given for the surprise halt in application processing; but coming close on the heels of a February 2 European Union (EU) Commission urgent “recommendation” to address short-comings in the Greek refugee asylum system, resources and personnel were likely temporarily diverted in an attempt to shore-up the system. As refugee crises continue in Syria and portions of the Middle East and Africa, Greece’s immigration system is reportedly struggling under a backlog of as many as 60,000 applications.Upon reopening the residence permit process, the MOI announced several new procedures designed to improve the corporate immigration system and better manage and track non-EU foreign nationals living and working in the Hellenic Republic, including:
- A new stamp duty of EUR €16 per applicant;
- A new requirement for an in-person biometric and fingerprint appointment at the MOI; and
- A photo “independent card” to be issued to successful applicants, rather than the previous paper-form permit.
Hungary: Immigration in the news but only minor changes in work permit processThe refugee crisis is similarly challenging the capacity of the immigration system in Hungary. A controversial new law regarding refugees in Hungary grabbed some major media headlines last week, when the Parliament overwhelmingly approved a plan for asylum-seeker detention camps on the border of Serbia. While the ongoing refugee crisis has led the Hungarian government to take some hard stances recently on general inbound immigration, the corporate immigration stream remains largely unaffected and continues to be welcoming of skilled foreign nationals working in the country. Last September, Hungary became the third nation to adopt the European Union’s Intra-Company Transfer Directive and in January implemented an expedited work permit process for neighboring Serbian and Ukrainian nationals in an effort to attract more high-demand foreign workers. This week Pro-Link GLOBAL reports only a relatively minor change in procedures of which work permit holders should be aware. Effective immediately, foreign nationals applying for renewals or extensions of their work permits are required to provide three months of bank statements in support of their applications. The statements do not have to be originals obtained from the bank; rather, the Immigration Office is accepting simple print-outs of online statements. If companies or their foreign employees in Hungary have any questions regarding this change or the renewal process in general, please feel free to reach out to your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist.
Nigeria: Pro-business plan expands visa-on-arrival and permissible business activitiesAs part of Nigeria’s recently announced 60-day action plan to improve its international business climate, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has announced the expansion of its visa-on-arrival scheme to accommodate business travelers whose home countries have no Nigerian consular post. Traditionally, business visas are applied for through the Nigerian overseas missions; but in cases where the applicant resides in a country with no Nigerian consular post, the process of applying through a Nigerian consulate in a neighboring country can prove to be expensive and inconvenient.Effective immediately, the NIS has made visas-on-arrival available to “frequently travelled business persons of international repute” and “executives of multi-national companies” from countries with no Nigerian consular post. Those foreign nationals may apply for visas-on-arrival, valid for a single 14-day stay, at the port of entry. While the visas are issued upon arrival, applicants must arrive already holding a “visa on arrival approval letter” obtained for them by an in-country sponsor. According to the NIS website, requests for the required approval letters will be processed within two working days.Also, to further accommodate business travelers to Nigeria, the NIS has expanded the definition of business activity permitted under the traditional 90-day business visas issued by the Nigerian overseas missions, as well as the new visas-on-arrival. The list of permissible business activities – in addition to the traditional attendance at meetings, conferences, and seminars – now includes negotiating contracts, sales activities, job interviews, training and research, purchasing and distributing Nigerian goods, attending trade fairs, and emergency or relief work.Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria is currently in its fourth consecutive quarter of recession, posting a 2.2 percent GDP contraction in the final quarter of 2016. While the slow-down is primarily due to the softening oil market, which is expected to rebound somewhat in 2017, economists have warned that significant government policy reform is sorely needed to restore consumer and business confidence and steer the economy back to growth. Hopefully, the current 60-day action plan and these corporate mobility improvements are just the start of more needed pro-business reforms.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 Greece Office “Corporate Relocations Ltd.”, our PLG | KGNM Hungary Office “Move One Inc.”, and our PLG | KGNM Nigeria Office “JON-AN International LTD”” to provide you this update.
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