Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Dispatch: China, Estonia, India, Hong Kong, and Turkey

Discover key changes to immigration regulations in China, Estonia, India, Hong Kong, and Turkey.

Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Dispatch: China, Estonia, India, Hong Kong, and Turkey

Turkey: New Turquoise Card and continuing state-of-emergency

Perhaps the most promising of the many changes called for in Turkey’s new Law on International Workforce, enacted in August 2016, was the introduction of a new Turquoise Card. For more details on the new act making broad changes to Turkey’s immigration laws, see our recent Immigration Dispatches of August 29, October 3, and October 24. On March 14, the new Turquoise Card Regulation was finally implemented into law by publication in Turkey’s Official Gazette, providing the rules and procedures for this new long-term work and residence permit for highly skilled foreign nationals.The Turquoise Card essentially provides the holder with an initial three-year work and residence authorisation in Turkey, with the option for permanent residency after the initial three-year “transition period.” The aim of the new card is to encourage talented foreign nationals to remain in Turkey by giving them the broadest possible rights and privileges short of citizenship. Applications will be evaluated by the Turkish Ministry of Labour on a comprehensive points-based system taking into account educational background, professional experience, salary, skills and talents, achievements, potential for investment, and the skills and investment needs of particular regions in Turkey. Turquoise Cards are available to foreign nationals in the following categories:
  • Highly qualified workers;
  • Investors;
  • Scientists and researchers;
  • Athletes and artists; and
  • Specialists in Turkey or Turkish culture.
Once approved, the successful applicant’s dependent family members will likewise be issued corresponding residence permits. Even with these recent positive improvements to its immigration scheme benefiting foreign nationals, the international business environment in Turkey continues to labour under significant internal conflicts following the attempted coup July 15 of last year and the corresponding crack-down by President Tayyip Erdogan’s government. Post-coup government actions have brought wide-spread international criticism, especially from the European Union, who appears to have indefinitely put on hold any action on Turkey’s decades-old bid to join the Union. Reports out last weekend indicate Erdogan may be moving toward withdrawing the application altogether.Adding to the turmoil, Turkey also remains under the state-of-emergency imposed last July and extended in January in response to the New Year’s Day terror attacks in Istanbul. The State of Emergency Act - that suspends many civil rights and allows certain independent executive action – comes up before parliament again on April 16 and is likely to be once again extended. Given current tensions and the propensity for frequent security-motivated law changes, all foreign nationals working and living in the country should remain in close contact with their immigration advisors when approaching deadlines for changes or extensions in work and residence permits, as governmental processes will be prone to frequent changes for the foreseeable future. Please see our Immigration Dispatch of August 22 for information on tightened residence permit renewal procedures resulting from the State of Emergency Act.

Immigration Changes from Around the World

China: Latest in ongoing transition to new work permits system in Shanghai

Pro-Link GLOBAL’s Shanghai office is continuing to closely monitor the ongoing changes on the road to implementation of the new nation-wide work permits systems in China’s most-populous city and largest expatriate community. The Shanghai Labour Bureau announced today that it will continue to process work permit renewals, amendments, cancellations, and annual inspections using the current policy and procedures until July. However, all new initial applications will be processed using the new system starting April 1. For more details, see our recent Global Brief of March 16 for coverage of all of the major changes to the work authorization process in Shanghai, and download our comprehensive free e-book China’s New Work Permit System here. Nation-wide roll-out of the new standardised work permits system still appears on track for April 1. Please continue to follow our future alerts for frequent updates; for the fastest updates, subscribe to our eNewsletter here and Twitter feed here.
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Estonia: New start-up visa available

Estonia continues to make its ambitious play to become the world’s next technology industry start-up hub. The tiny former-Soviet Baltic nation, upon gaining its independence in 1991, quickly embraced technology and the internet as its path to economic growth. In the area of immigration, Estonia has likewise eagerly embraced innovation, establishing the world’s only “e-residency,” a unique form of virtual residency, in 2014.Earlier this year, with an eye toward further tech industry development, the government’s Start-Up Estonia division began offering “Start-Up Visas” for non-European Union nationals to work in new and existing Estonian start-up companies, or launch or relocate new foreign start-ups in Estonia. The new visa programme advertises fast-tracked visas of up to two-years for existing companies, or up to five-years for new start-ups, coupled with business incubator and accelerator support for qualifying entrepreneurs. In its debut month, the new program received 50 applications, resulting in 14 start-up visas. 

India: New Intern Visa an improvement, but with limited utility

In the ongoing efforts to simplify and better systematise India’s immigration system, the Indian High Commission has introduced a new Internship Visa category. Previously, most requests for visas for internship purposes were typically processed by Indian overseas posts as applications for general Entry (X) Visas. While the new Intern Visa category now clarifies the visa process for foreign interns in India, the apparent narrow scope of the new category makes its utility for most corporate internships relatively limited, and most company-sponsored internships are likely to continue to fall under either the general Entry Visa or Business Visa categories.The new Intern Visa is open to applicants in internships with companies, educational institutions, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for periods of up to one year. However, the aspect of the new visa category which greatly limits its use for many corporate internships is the apparent requirement that the internship immediately follow the applicant’s university graduation, or completion of a post-graduate program. Applicants who are already employed even for a short period, or who will not begin the internship within one year after graduation, are not eligible under the advertised requirements of this new category, and must continue to apply under the current general Entry or Business categories.As is often the case with the roll-out of new visa categories, the limitations of the initial rules and requirements are sometimes not fully apparent until implemented. Hopefully, the scope of this new category can be expanded in the future to provide more benefit for companies in India for interns beyond strictly new graduates. Pro-Link GLOBAL’s Immigration Specialists in our New Delhi offices continue to track recent immigration changes in India with great interest, as the country makes increasing strides to foster international trade and commerce. As case in point, the recent conversion of the former “e-tourist” visa into the “evisa” to make it more available for business use was a particularly welcomed improvement. For more details, see our Immigration Dispatch of December 12.

Hong Kong: Indian nationals may no longer apply for visit visas at the Hong Kong Embassy

Without explanation, Hong Kong’s Embassy in India recently stopped accepting applications for visit visas; instead, requiring Indian nationals to now submit applications by post directly to the Immigration Department in Hong Kong. Instructions on the HK Immigration Department website concur: the general statement inviting applicants from overseas countries to submit their applications to the nearest Chinese diplomatic or consular post is now followed by the caveat: “visit visa applications from Indian nationals should be submitted to the Immigration Department direct.”This subtle change in application procedure presents a significant inconvenience for Indian nationals traveling to Hong Kong for business and tourism stays of over 14 days. Requiring all visit visa applications to be submitted to the Immigration Department in Hong Kong effectively delays visa issuance by three to four weeks. Visit visas were previously issued by the HK Embassy in India within four business days; whereas the process through the Immigration Department typically takes four weeks.Thus far, Indian nationals seem to be the only applicant group for whom Hong Kong has closed consular processing of visit visa applications. The move may be related to what is perceived by Hong Kong to be a recent up-tick in the abuse of Hong Kong’s immigration systems by Indian nationals, including the visa-on arrival scheme. In January, Hong Kong similarly imposed a new pre-arrival registration requirement for Indian nationals using Hong Kong’s visa-free entry option. For more details, see our Immigration Dispatch of December 19.

Reminders: Recent and upcoming immigration implementations

The following are reminders of recent or upcoming implementation dates that you should know:
  • April 1, China: Nation-wide implementation of the new online work permits system is scheduled. Seven provinces have been piloting the new system since November 2016, but mandatory use of the new system in all Chinese provinces is expected to begin on this date. Processing of the new work permits will be handled through the SAFEA’s Foreign Expert Bureau, with most other agencies ceasing alternate work authorization processes. For more details, see our recent Global Brief of March 16 and download our free e-book here.
  • April 6, United Kingdom: The new Immigration Skills Charge and other significant changes to the Tier 2 Visa stream are slated to take effect. For more details, see our Immigration Dispatch of March 13, and watch the recording of recent our in-depth webinar here. 
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 Turkey Office “Yalcin Toygar Tufekci Law Office”” to provide you this update.

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