Global Immigration Update

By Elaine Martin Feb 14, 2014

Saudi Arabia Freezes Foreign Worker Contracts

The Saudi Arabian government has rejected numerous contracts for foreign workers as part of a move to employ more domestic labor.

In total, nearly 12,000 applications were denied—9,267 renewals and 2,607 new applications— across the country in 2013, according to an announcement from Civil Service Minister Abdul Rahman Al-Barrak.

“We will focus on replacing foreign contract workers with Saudis,” Al-Barrak said. “We also will coordinate with educational institutions to ensure enough supply of Saudi manpower is specialized in areas required by the kingdom’s labor market. We will also inform them of jobs held by expatriates.”

Before any new foreign workers will be hired in Saudi Arabia, labor market testing will be required. Vacant positions will be advertised through government departments and media outlets to ensure that Saudi workers are given adequate notice of any opening and opportunity to fill the positions. Once the opening has been advertised locally and not enough domestic workers are available, the government will allow foreign workers to apply.

Shifting the Balance

The health care sector is heavily dominated by expat laborers due to a dearth of skilled Saudis. Additionally, the engineering and science sectors are hubs for contracted foreign workers.

The Saudi government is working to identify the skills and sectors held mostly by expat laborers to increase domestic education in these fields. Officials hope to bolster domestic employment and eventually phase out the majority of foreign labor in the country once there are enough experienced Saudis to fill the open positions.

Al-Barrak went on to say that a royal decree issued by King Abdullah instructed public corporations and government departments to develop five-year plans to shift the balance in favor of domestic labor. So far, 79 government departments have submitted their plans.

Moreover, a group of foreign employee restrictions, known as Nitaqat, has already been working to lower the presence of expat labor. Under the regulations, firms are given strict quotas and face sizeable penalties for noncompliance.

Employers seeking to utilize foreign labor at their Saudi firms should expect delays and work visa application rejections due to the extensive labor market testing requirements. Additionally, they should prepare to increase their percentage of Saudi employees over the next five years.

Israel Increases Fees and Minimum Salary Requirements

The Israeli government has raised both minimum salary requirements and various fees for foreign workers.

Expat workers holding one-year B-1 work visas are affected by the policy update. Foreign employees are now required to earn 17,910 Israeli New Shekel (ILS)—roughly $5,124 U.S.—each month. The previous requirement was 17,000 ILS.

Companies hiring these workers are also affected by the hikes. The annual fee that companies must pay per foreign employee as well as fees for work permit applications and entry visa fees were also increased. In total, the new fees amount to 11,170 ILS—about $3,195 U.S.

Sweeping Inspections Lead to Deportations

The Israeli government has also been cracking down on foreign workers without proper documentation by conducting worksite inspections for some time. In 2013, 163 unauthorized foreign employees were deported. The majority of these workers were not allowed to re-enter the country for a decade while the employers were barred from hiring any new foreign workers.

With the new fees and continued inspections, employers are advised to look over the immigration status of their foreign workers to avoid penalties.

Turkey Ends Visas on Arrival

Beginning April 10, 2014, Turkey’s visa-on-arrival program will be replaced by an electronic visa system, and e-visas will be the only option for travelers for business or tourism. This means that any visitor traveling to the country after April 10 will be required to apply for an e-visa online before entering Turkey. The new process should be a benefit to foreign nationals, because it will be much faster and there will be no need to wait in long lines at Turkish embassies.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been utilizing e-visas as an option for nearly a year. According to Worldbulletin News, since the program’s inception in April 2013, the ministry has received more than 833,000 e-visa applications and brought in about $10.7 million from people hoping to enter the country. Data from the ministry also revealed that the country issues approximately 2,600 visas per day.

Because of the nation’s heavy immigration traffic, it’s not surprising that the government would introduce a system that will speed up the visa process. Eligible visitors for business/tourism must now use the e-visa system. Visitors for other reasons (work, study, etc.) will still need to apply for a visa at a consulate.

When applying for a visa, it’s important to look out for some websites that may try to charge you for information about the e-visas or for the application. These websites are not endorsed by or associated with the Turkish government and should be avoided.

Russia Introduces New Immigration Policies

The Russian Federation has introduced a set of immigration policy updates that have a considerable impact on foreign workers.

These new rules relate to mandates and restrictions, and some have provisions that could lead to prohibited entry into the country and suspended immigration status. All work permit visas and extensions are affected by the policy changes.

In all, there are five new rules:

Employment Restrictions

Foreign workers seeking employment in the retail industry have a limited set of roles that they can fulfill: Manager; chief stock manager; trade group manager; warehouse manager; department manager; head of a laboratory; head of a department; deputy human resources director; deputy director for commercial matters; financial director; director of a company; and principal officer.

Administrative Violations and Immigration Status

Foreign workers who commit two or more administrative violations, such as failing to register a new address, automotive moving violations or speeding tickets, may be issued fines. Additionally, they may be denied entry or renewal of their work visas. Furthermore, foreign workers who pay their fines may still have their immigration status revoked.

Tax Registration Requirements

Under the new rules, all foreign workers are required to register with Russian tax authorities. Not long after the Federal Migration Service (FMS) approves a foreign worker’s visa application, it will automatically share tax information with the tax authorities, and confirmation of registration will be sent to the FMS.

Prior to the policy update, only highly qualified employees were mandated to register.

Health Screening

Visa-free foreign workers are now mandated to include medical screening certificates with their work permit applications. Under the previous policy, these workers had 30 days following the collection of their permits to present the required documentation.

Quota Exemptions

The final policy update will take effect in 2014 and allow eligible workers of foreign commercial organizations registered in a World Trade Organization member state to hold a work permit without being counted under Russia’s quota policy. Only five workers from each organization in key personnel roles at a representative office, branch office or subsidiary in Russia will be eligible for a term of three years. Banking organizations will be limited to two workers.

Qualifying workers will have been employed with their organization for at least one year, meet a salary threshold, be employed in a role from a list of positions approved by Russian authorities and have valid health insurance. Processing time for these permits will be 30 days.

Ministry Set to Begin Fingerprinting Visa Applicants

The Russian government announced that it will implement mandatory fingerprinting for all foreign visa applicants. The extra security measure will begin as a pilot program on July 1, 2014, during which the Foreign Ministry will test the necessary equipment and procedures.

According to news sources, this change is intended to curb illegal immigration into Russia and also prevent suspected terrorists from coming into the country. However, the regulation will not apply to visitors from all countries. In particular, the project will extract fingerprints from visa applicants at Russian consulates in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Myanmar and Namibia. Applicants at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow will also be fingerprinted.

According to The Moscow Times, the Ministry is required to notify the nations whose citizens will be affected by the change by June 15.

The heightened security will hopefully increase safety in Russia, but employees relocating to the country should be prepared for the extra requirements if traveling after June 2014. The Ministry has not yet announced how long the pilot program will last.

Elaine Martin is director, Immigration Services for Paragon GeoImmigration, a provider of global business immigration services in more than 150 countries.

Republished with permission. © 2014 Paragon GeoImmigration.

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