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EIG Week in Review (Jan 31, 2014)

February 7, 2014

Highlights

  • President Obama’s State of the Union Address Emphasizes Immigration Reform
  • Changes to Several Russian Immigration Laws Substantially Impact Foreign Nationals in Russia
  • Five Countries Agree to Waive Visas for Certain Visitors

President Obama’s State of the Union Address Emphasizes Immigration Reform

In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 28, 2014, President Obama called for “a year of action.” One feature of the President’s year of action is immigration reform.  He noted that the passage of Senate Immigration Reform Bill, S. 744, reflected that immigration reform could be accomplished through bipartisan effort. Although the President only spoke briefly on immigration reform, he emphasized the economic benefits of immigration.

On Thursday, January 30, 2014, House Republicans released their “statement of principles” for immigration reform that would champion a path to legal status – but not citizenship – for the undocumented immigrants.  The statement of principles delineates conditions for piecemeal immigration reform, including border security, workplace enforcement and encouraging the immigration of skilled workers in STEM fields.  House Republican leadership also emphasized the importance of retaining foreign nationals pursuing high-skilled degrees at American colleges.

Since the passage of S. 744, five immigration bills have cleared the House committees, and other immigration-specific bills are forthcoming.


Changes to Several Russian Immigration Laws Substantially Impact Foreign Nationals in Russia

The Migration Law of the Russian Federation, effective January 10, 2014, includes provisions that expand the grounds for refusing entry and suspending immigration status, new tax registration procedures for work permit holders, and changes to required health screenings for visa-exempt foreign nationals.

Expanded Grounds of Immigration Violations

Foreign nationals can now be refused entry to Russia or be prohibited from renewing a current visa from within Russia if they commit two or more administrative violations within a three-year period. Administrative violations include speeding tickets, automotive moving violations, failing to timely register one’s residential address, and similar infractions that are typically punished by an administrative fine. The timely payment of any imposed fines will not negate the potential immigration consequences of the infractions.  Foreign nationals must be mindful that minor legal infractions, such as speeding tickets, can have significant immigration consequences.

Work Quota Exemption

The Russian government also has announced a new quota exempt work authorization program for representative offices of companies based in WTO member states, to be introduced later this year.

Tax Registration Procedure for All Work Permit Holders

As of January 1, 2014, all foreign nationals working in Russia must be registered with tax authorities. Employers of Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) work permits are no longer required to register these foreign workers with Russian tax authorities. The FMS will now automatically forward a foreign worker’s information to tax authorities shortly after accepting his or her permit application. Confirmation of tax registration will be sent directly back to the FMS.

Previously, employers were required to complete tax registration formalities on behalf of HQS permit holders and to confirm the registration to the FMS within 30 days of collecting the approved HQS permit.

Health Screenings Required for Visa-Exempt Foreign Nationals

Visa-exempt foreign nationals seeking to work in Russia are now required to submit medical screening certificates with their work permit applications. Previously, visa-exempt nationals were permitted to submit screening certificates within 30 days of collecting their approved work permits.


Five Countries Agree to Waive Visas for Certain Visitors

Antigua and Barbuda: Foreign nationals who hold permanent residents cards from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., or a Schengen member country, are visa-exempt from a maximum stay of 30 days, with a waiver fee of $100 USD on arrival.

Brazil:  As of January 10, 2014 Singapore nationals are visa-exempt for stays in Brazil up to 30 days and a total of 180 days during a one-year period.

Croatia:  Schengen C visa-holders, long-stay national D visas and residence permit holders of Schengen member countries enjoy visa exemption until December 31, 2014.  Kosovo (Rep.) nationals issued a Schengen LTV (Limited Territorial Validity) visa will also benefit from the extension.

Myanmar:   Cambodian and Philippine nationals are visa-exempt for a maximum stay of 14 days.

Singapore:  As of January 1, 2014 Croatian nationals can be granted a 90-day social visit pass on arrival, in lieu of a 30-day social visit pass.  Croatian visitors are still exempt from obtaining an entry visa to Singapore.