Global Immigration Update

By Elaine Martin Sep 24, 2013

Visa Fee Increase in Australia

The Australian Department of Immigration & Citizenship has announced increases to visa application charges.

In line with the release of the Economic Statement for the 2013-2014 financial year, the Australian Government has decided to increase all visa application charges, with the exception of the Student and Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) visa applications. The increase is effective for all applications lodged on or after Sept. 1, 2013.

Immigration Changes in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom Border Agency announced changes to the country’s immigration rules Sept. 6, 2013. The changes, which come into effect on Oct. 1, 2013, will mean greater flexibility for businesses and workers and include:

  • Removing the English-language requirement for intra-company transferees.
  • Making it easier for graduate entrepreneurs to switch into Tier 2.
  • Waiving share ownership restrictions for some senior staff.
  • Allowing some students to work as interns under the Tier 5 government authorized exchange scheme.

Business visitors will benefit from the following changes:

  • Allowing business visitors to do some study where it is not the main purpose of their visit.
  • Expanding the activities a business visitor can do in the U.K. to include internal audits and attend corporate training provided by a company that is not the employer.

Further changes include:

  • Expanding checks to ensure applicants for work and student visas are genuine, and that they intend to meet the conditions of leave they apply for.
  • Introducing powers to refuse Tier 4 extension applications where the applicant cannot speak English.
  • Introducing a scheme which allows some locally engaged staff in Afghanistan to relocate to the U.K.
  • Setting new youth mobility scheme quotas for 2014.
  • Enabling those who demonstrate exceptional promise in the arts to apply under Tier 1.

Minimum Salaries Decreased for Expatriates in Spain

Foreign workers in Spain will find that their salary requirements are lower now, since the government has made some changes to its policies. Effective immediately, the minimum salary thresholds in the country are lower for both European Union (EU) Blue Card holders and foreign employees who transfer using the fast-track process.

The new rates have been established by Spain’s National Statistics Institute, and salaries are now about 0.9 percent lower than last year, for those taking the fast-track route. The country adjusts its salary requirements every August.

An employee qualifies under the fast-track process if he or she meets one of these conditions:

  • Has been hired by a Large Business Unit company.
  • Is a university professor hired by a school in Spain.
  • Is highly skilled in science or technology and has been hired by a state or local government.
  • Is a renowned artist or technician coming to Spain for a culturally relevant project.
  • Is a senior manager or highly skilled employee coming to work on a project found to have “significant public interest.” Examples are projects that lead to job creation or scientific innovation.

The new minimum salary changes for all affected employees are as follows:

  • Intra-company transfers: The minimum for a highly qualified relocated employee has been reduced to 28,001 euros from 28,254 euros. The minimum salary for senior managers is now 56,002 euros.
  • Local hires with fast-track work permits: The salary minimums in this case match those for intra-company transfers.
  • EU Blue Card: Transferees with specific skills that are in short supply, or with any other skills, will still be paid 1.2 times and 1.5 times the minimum gross salary for their specific field. However, with salaries declining in fields across the board under the new regulations, income for these workers will also be reduced.

    Lawmakers in Spain have been worried about the country’s unemployment rate for a while. Although its recession eased in the second quarter, according to Bloomberg, Spain has been struggling with this problem for years. According to The Oxford University Press, there are currently 5.9 million unemployed residents, who make up about a third of the entire euro zone’s joblessness count.

Moreover, Spain’s unemployment rate is the highest in the developed world at 26.2 percent, the source reported. This is more than double the average in the whole euro zone.

“Difficult changes remain ahead, the biggest of all is unemployment,” Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said in a statement. He added that the government will order an independent review of the labor rules that were implemented in 2012, Bloomberg reported. De Guindos hopes Spain can soon “deepen reforms” to solve its labor issues.

New Employment Visa Regulations in Thailand

Thailand instituted new rules governing transferees’ employment visas and passports Aug. 26, 2013. These regulations apply to employees of all companies.

Long-term employment visas can now only be issued or extended until the expiration date of the visa holder’s passport. If the foreign national has a dependent, the dependent’s visa is also restricted by the foreign national’s passport expiration date.

In addition, according to the Immigration Division of the Royal Thai Police, long-term employment visas will no longer be automatically transferred from old passports to new ones. The visa holder will instead have to submit an application form and all necessary documents to request that his or her visa extension be moved to the new passport.

If the visa holder has dependents, they can also file for an extension, but it will have the same expiration date as the primary holder’s new passport and visa. An extension fee of 1,900 baht will also be enforced for all applicants.

In order to best navigate this new regulation, foreign nationals should plan ahead and submit application documents early enough to ensure their visas are transferred to their new passports.

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

Republished with permission. © 2013 Paragon GeoImmigration.

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