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EIG Week in Review (May 30, 2014)

June 23, 2014

Highlights

  • Singapore Introduces New Advertising Obligations for Employment Pass Sponsors
  • U.S. Department of State Halts the Issuance of Visa Numbers for China EB-3 Cases 
  • USCIS Announces New Form I-693 Medical Exam Policy
  • Updated U.S. Visa Procedures Implemented in Japan

Singapore Introduces New Advertising Obligations for Employment Pass Sponsors

Effective 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.  This new requirement is aimed to ensure that Singaporeans interested in the position are able to have access to the job information before the employer makes the hiring decision.

The Jobs Bank is expected to be launched in the coming weeks.  Unlike the Singaporean Workforce Development Agency’s existing JobsNet, the new Jobs Bank will enable employers to advertise jobs and search within a database of potential candidates, free-of-charge.  In addition, job seekers will be able to create a resume and apply for positions on the Jobs Bank at no cost.

Employers will be required to provide the Advertisement ID Number from the Jobs Bank when submitting EP applications.  Moreover, 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 the advertising requirements will still apply.

Employers with less than 25 employers and positions meeting certain salary thresholds 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.

At this time, advertising requirements have not been made compulsory for employers submitting applications for S Passes or Work Permits, with the justification that there are other tools, such as levies and dependency ratio ceilings, which prompt firms to search for suitable Singaporean workers before applying for these visas.  Nonetheless, the MOM announced its intent to monitor the hiring of S Pass and Work Permit holders closely and consider extending the advertisement requirements in future, if necessary.

The current EP application process is very straightforward, and processing times typically range around 2 to 3 weeks.  However, these new requirements will add several weeks onto the application process.  As such, companies planning to sponsor EP applicants in the future should plan accordingly and allow for sufficient time to complete the application process.

EIG is closely monitoring these changes and will continue to provide updates as they become available.

U.S. Department of State Halts the Issuance of Visa Numbers for China EB-3 Cases

As reported earlier this month, the June 2014 Visa Bulletin brought significant retrogression for persons in the EB-3 China category.  The U.S. Department of State Visa Office recently announced that, as of May 9, 2014, it stopped authorizing visa numbers for EB-3 China cases where the priority date is current for May (October 1, 2012) but will retrogress in June (October 1, 2006).

The State Department’s decision to halt visa numbers in early May is based on the following language from the Visa Bulletin:

If it becomes necessary during the monthly allocation process to retrogress a cut-off date, supplemental requests for numbers will be honored only if the priority date falls within the new cut-off date announced in this bulletin.

Cases in which a visa number has been requested by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) but not authorized by the State Department will be categorized as a “pending” demand file and will be will be automatically authorized when the EB-3 China cut-off date advances beyond the applicant’s priority date.

Despite the retrogression for EB-3 China, there is forward movement for EB-2 China in the June Visa Bulletin, which jumped 37 days from April 15, 2009 to May 22, 2009.

USCIS Announces New Form I-693 Medical Exam Policy

USCIS announced today that, effective June 1, 2014, the Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record must be submitted within one year of completion and signature by the civil surgeon, which will be valid for one year after submission to USCIS.  Since 2002, the validity of the civil surgeon’s endorsement on the medical exam could be extended beyond one year in certain circumstances.  However, in light of recent concerns raised by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), USCIS is discontinuing the annual extension policy.

Along with these changes, beginning June 1, 2014, the medical examination form will no longer be required as initial evidence and may be submitted at any time after filing the immigration benefit application but prior to adjudication.  If the medical examination form is not filed concurrently, USCIS encourages applicants to wait until the medical examination form is requested by USCIS, either through the issuance of a Request for Evidence (RFE) or through a notice to bring a completed medical examination form to the interview.

Updated U.S. Visa Procedures Implemented in Japan

E-1/E-2 Visa Interviews Temporarily Unavailable in Osaka-Kobe

On May 29, 2014, the U.S. Department of State announced that the U.S. Consulate in Osaka-Kobe will temporarily stop accepting E-1/E-2 visa interviews. Between June 1, 2014 and August 31, 2014, all E Visa applicants must schedule interviews at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or with the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka.  All “drop-box”/mail-in renewal cases, as well as minor dependent cases (under the age of 14) not requiring an interview, will continue under normal processing during this time.

Effective September 1, 2014, all E visa applications and interview procedures will resume as normal.

Tokyo No Longer Storing Prohibited Items for Visa Applicants

Beginning June 2, 2014, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo will no longer store, or provide storage for, prohibited items during visa interviews. Applicants who attempt to enter the visa section of the Embassy while in possession of prohibited items will not be allowed to enter and will be asked to make a new appointment.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of prohibited items: battery-operated or electronic devices such as laptops, iPads, thumb drives, digital diaries, smart watches, pagers, cameras, audio/video cassettes, compact discs, MP3s, floppy disks, or portable music players, luggage, bags larger than 10”x10” (such as travel bags, backpacks, briefcases, suitcases, leather, cloth bags, zip folders, large shoulder bags/purses), food items, cigarettes, cigars, match boxes, lighters, sharp objects such as scissors, pen knives or nail files, or weapons or explosive materials of any kind.

Other items may be prohibited at the discretion of the security staff.  Due to security concerns, walk-in applications will no longer be accepted at the Embassy.  Only visa applicants with scheduled interviews will be admitted.

These new procedures have been implemented in an effort to enhance security measures and reduce wait times at the Embassy.