Global Immigration Update: Ukraine Unrest, Brazil’s World Cup, more

By Elaine Martin Mar 21, 2014

Ukraine Unrest Disrupts Immigration Processes

The uneasy political climate in Ukraine has led to extensive delays for immigration operations in the country. As a result of the political situation, foreign workers may encounter overstays, visa expirations and other problems. Employees who face any of these issues as a result of government office closures likely will be exempt from any penalties. However, the government has not yet provided any information regarding these situations.

If employers are considering sending new workers to Ukraine, they should prepare for indefinite delays. No work visa applications are currently being accepted. Furthermore, travel to the country is ill-advised and some governments have warned their citizens to avoid traveling to Kiev.

2014 FIFA World Cup Will Likely Impact Visa Processing in Brazil

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is expected to cause significant delays at Brazilian consular posts throughout the world. Over the next few months, there will be an increase in visa applications as fans plan to visit the country for the sporting event in June and July. The increased volume is expected to lead to longer processing times, which are already lengthy—8 to 10 weeks, plus another 8 to 10 weeks for local registration with the federal police. Additionally, foreign workers who have already obtained their visas may experience long wait times at ports of entry and for immigration procedures that take place in Brazil.

Employers planning to assign new foreign employees in the country should begin their visa applications as soon as possible or consider waiting until after the World Cup to transfer their workers. It is anticipated that priority processing will be given to travelers going to the tournament and workers with jobs related to the World Cup, especially when applications reach the final step of federal police processing.

Thirteen EU Countries Cleared for UAE Visas on Arrival

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has added 13 more countries from the European Union (EU) to its list of nations cleared for visas on arrival.

Citizens of the following countries can now obtain a visa on arrival for short-term visits—30 days or less—when traveling to the UAE: Bulgaria; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Estonia; Hungary; Latvia; Lithuania; Malta; Poland; Romania; Slovakia; Slovenia.

With the recent additions, all EU member states are now on the UAE’s visa on arrival list, which includes 46 nations. Recently, the EU gave UAE citizens an exemption from the Schengen visa for stays up to 180 days.

Although visas on arrival for the UAE only allow for visits of 30 days, foreign nationals can extend them for an additional 30 days without having to exit the country.

This policy update affords flexibility to some employers with regard to mobilizing their workforce, however foreign nationals who want to work in the UAE will still need to obtain an employment permit, residence visa and Emirates ID card.

Draft Regulations in South Africa Stricter on Foreign Workers

Proposed immigration regulations may lead to stricter rules for foreign employees in South Africa. Under the regulations, foreign workers would have tougher penalties for noncompliance, face a more-involved documentation process and be required to appear in person for visa applications. Additionally, employers would need to be certified as having performed adequate labor market testing before hiring foreign workers.

The regulations, which could be implemented as early as April 1, 2014, may change before they take effect, as they are open for public comment.

In addition to the certification process for general work visas, there are other sections of the draft regulations that could impose stricter standards.

Before entering South Africa, foreign nationals would have to verify their local address and biometric data. Furthermore, birth certificates would be required for all children, and parents who are traveling alone with children would have to provide written permission from the other parent to bring the child into the country.

Another provision would require foreign workers to travel great distances to apply for their visa, as all applications would have to be completed in person at a South African visa center or mission. If their country does not have one of these posts, they may have to fly to another country to file their paperwork.

In addition to the challenges of the in-person filing requirement, foreign employees could be required to provide police clearance from each country in which they have lived for 12 months or longer since they were 18 years old.

Renewals and extensions would also have to be completed in person, 30 days before the visa’s expiration. There are no exceptions to this rule, and incomplete applications would be rejected. Failure to comply would result in deportation, and foreign workers would then have to submit their application abroad. In the case of foreign nationals with medical treatment or visitor visas, there are four exceptional circumstances when they would be permitted to change their visa status, including medical treatment exceeding three months and a visitor testifying as a material witness in a criminal proceeding.

If a foreign employee overstays the visa, he or she may be denied re-entry even if it is a first offense. The term expulsion would range from two to 10 years based on the length of the overstay.

Documentary requirements for short-term projects would be expanded under the regulations, and the visitation term would be capped at 90 days. Application materials would include job qualifications, proof of salary, job location, purpose and nature of the work, duration of stay, name and contact information for the employer and the employment period.

Ten occupations would be exempt from work visa requirements under the draft regulations. Workers in these occupations would instead obtain a visitor visa valid for three years.

The Quota and Exceptional Skills Work Permit categories would be replaced by the new critical skills visa. Workers who hold a skill on the list—to later be published by the Department of Home Affairs—would have to have their skills evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority.

The maximum duration for intra-company work transfers would be extended to four years from two years.

All students traveling to South Africa would be required to obtain a study visa regardless of the length of their stay. Under the current regulations, they are exempt for stays of three months or fewer. There would also be a more rigorous process for proving registration with an accredited institution, and students would only be allowed to work part time for a maximum of 20 hours per week.

Work Authorization in the Philippines Required for 9(g) Visa Applicants

Foreign workers with pending applications for the 9(g) Pre-arranged Employment Visa are now required to obtain a provisional work permit (PWP) while their Alien Employment Permit (AEP) application is pending before they can work in the Philippines.

The Philippine Bureau of Immigration first announced the changes in December 2013. However, the law was put on hold until the third week of February 2014. Immigration officials put the new rule in place in response to widespread abuse of the AEP, as many foreign workers did not obtain a 9(g) visa after having their AEP application submitted by their employer.

Under the previous policy, expat employees could begin working immediately after submitting their AEP application to the Department of Labor and Employment. The AEP is the initial step toward obtaining the 9(g) visa.

The Bureau of Immigration’s office in Manila is currently the only location accepting and processing PWP applications, which can be completed by sponsoring employers after an employee’s AEP application has been submitted to the Department of Labor and Employment. Processing times are estimated to be about two weeks. Additionally, the employers have to include new documentation with the application:

  • Proof that their worker has a Philippine tax identification number.
  • A copy of the receipt from the Department of Labor and Employment showing that the AEP application was received.
  • Incorporation documents.
  • An employment contract.
  • The employee’s passport.
  • A statement from the employer verifying that it will withhold Philippine taxes from the employee’s income.

The policy update only applies to foreign workers seeking to obtain a 9(g) visa. Moreover, visa applicants with a pending AEP application and individuals with pending 9(g) visas who are already working are affected. Applicants for other visa types are not required to obtain a PWP.

The new mandates for obtaining a 9(g) visa come with additional tasks and documentation, which means sponsoring employers will likely need to allocate more time to completing the application. Employers should plan ahead to accommodate the changes and avoid a loss of productivity, as their employees may have to wait at least three additional weeks before they can begin working.

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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