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EIG Week in Review (Aug 8, 2014)

August 12, 2014

Highlights

  • UPDATE:  “Significant Progress” in State Department Consular Database Performance
  • Singaporean Employment Pass Changes Take Effect
  • Norway Raises Salary Requirements for Non-EU Workers
  • Vietnamese Immigration Changes Coming in 2015 

UPDATE:  “Significant Progress” in State Department Consular Database Performance

The U.S. Department of State reported that it has made significant progress in issuing the majority of the backlog of nonimmigrant visa applications worldwide that accumulated during the database outage. The Bureau of Consular Affairs is continuing to prioritize immigrant visas, adoption cases, and emergency nonimmigrant visa cases, and most cases within these categories are issued without delays.

Nevertheless, the database is still experiencing some performance issues; therefore, the State Department warns all applicants to take this into consideration when making travel plans as delays of up to one week in addition to normal processing times are still possible. Applicants should also contact their respective U.S. Embassy or Consulate directly for additional information regarding specific processing times at that location.  The State Department also advises applicants not to make final travel plans until they receive a visa in hand.

EIG continues to monitor this situation and will provide additional updates as they become available.

Singaporean Employment Pass Changes Take Effect

As reported in May 2014, the Singaporean Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) has instituted a new framework for Employment Pass Applications.  As of August 1, 2014, employers submitting new Employment Pass (“EP”) applications in Singapore will be required to advertise the job vacancies on the Singaporean Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) Jobs Bank.  Employers must advertise on the new Jobs Bank for 14 calendar days before they may submit an EP application.

In order to comply with the advertising requirements, employers must register for a Jobs Bank account.  The registration process takes approximately 2 weeks.  To begin the process, employers should go to the following site:  mytax.iras.gov.sg/easy.

Employers will be required to provide the Advertisement ID Number from the Jobs Bank when submitting EP applications, and the position listed on the EP application must be identical to the position advertised on the Jobs Bank.  Employers may use recruitment agencies during the hiring process, but doing so will not eradicate the advertising requirements.

Employers with less than 25 employees and positions with base salaries in excess of 12,000 SGD per month (approximately 144,000 SGD per year) will be exempt from the new advertising requirements.  However, the MOM reserves the right to implement additional obligations on exempted entities if there is reason to believe the company has nationality-based unfair hiring practices.

Prior to the introduction of the advertising requirements, processing times for EP applications typically ranged around 2 weeks; however, these new requirements will add approximately 2 additional weeks onto the application process.  Employers planning to sponsor EP applicants should be sure to allow for additional time to complete the application process.  Moreover, employers that have not yet registered with the Jobs Bank should account for an additional 2 weeks to complete this process.

Norway Raises Salary Requirements for Non-EU Workers

Norway recently increased the minimum salary requirement for non-EU workers on residence and work permits.  Employers are now required to pay an annual gross salary of NOK 380,300 (about $61,000 USD) to qualified non-EU workers with bachelor’s degrees.  Additionally, non-EU workers with a master’s degree must now be paid NOK 409,700 (about $66,000).

This new salary requirement will affect new and renewal residence and work permits as well as existing permits; however, jobs within collective bargaining agreements will not be affected by new rates.  Employers should take the new salary thresholds into account when making hiring decisions to ensure compliance with the new requirements.

Vietnamese Immigration Changes Coming in 2015

Vietnam has introduced a new immigration law, scheduled to take effect in January 2015. The regulation is aimed to expand the number of immigration categories, introduce new entry and exit restrictions, and eliminate in-country change of status procedures.
The law is said to create 20 distinct categories, including three new categories:

  1. LD Visa – Work Visa, valid for up to two years
  2. HN Visa – Business Visa, valid for travel for up to three months
  3. TT Visa – Dependent Visa, valid for up to one year

The new restrictions on entry and exit include prohibited entry for any individual that has been deported from Vietnam in the past 10 years, who has presented false information or forged documents in connection with obtaining Vietnamese immigration status, or unaccompanied children under the age of 14. Individuals who have not fulfilled required tax obligations in Vietnam, are facing administrative sanctions, and/or are a party to judicial proceedings will be prohibited from exiting Vietnam.

Also under the new law, visa holders residing in Vietnam will be prohibited from changing their visa category from within the country. Visa holders who intend to change their status must exit the country and apply for the new visa category at a Vietnamese Consulate located abroad.

Applicants and businesses planning to transfer employees to Vietnam are advised to plan ahead due to possible delayed processing times when implementation begins in 2015.