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EIG Week in Review (Sept 19, 2014)

September 19, 2014

Highlights

  • Scotland Rejects Independence Referendum
  • Schengen Members Strongly Enforcing Passport Requirements
  • Japan Exploring Facial Recognition Technology to Reduce Airport Immigration Queues 
  • UAE Conducting Unannounced Workplace Visits

Scotland Rejects Independence Referendum

In what is being characterized as one of the highest voter turnouts in the democratic world, Scotland’s citizens voted yesterday against declaring its independence and opted to stay a part of the United Kingdom.  While many Scotland nationalists are disappointed with the outcome, the decision will provide peace of mind to many foreign nationals living and working in Scotland who were uncertain of the potential immigration consequences had Scotland become independent from the UK.

In addition to the potential complexities that Scotland independence could have presented to foreign nationals, Scottish citizens also could have faced increased travel restrictions and other immigration-related obstacles, as an independent Scotland would not have been immediately admitted to the EU, nor would it have immediately been integrated into the reciprocal Schengen agreement.

Political leaders from around the world have expressed their support for the UK as a whole and have welcomed the decision of the Scottish population.  The decision also promptly sparked UK officials to reorganize constitutional power in the UK and revamp its governing structure.

For now, employers with entities in the region can breathe a sigh of relief that immigration procedures will not be immediately affected.  EIG will continue to monitor developments and provide updates as they become available.

Schengen Members Strongly Enforcing Passport Requirements

The U.S. Department of State has seen an increase in the enforcement of the 90-day passport validity requirement by Schengen-area countries.  Currently, certain non-EU nationals are allowed to visit any of the Schengen-area countries for 90 days within a 180-day period.  However, this requires that the traveler’s passport be valid at least 90 days beyond the traveler’s intended departure date, and immigration officials are ramping up enforcement of this requirement.

Accordingly, travelers should ensure that their passports are valid for at least six months beyond their intended stay in any Schengen-area country.  Frequent travelers with passports expiring soon are encouraged to renew their passports as soon as possible, as backlogs are common around the holiday season.

Japan Exploring Facial Recognition Technology to Reduce Airport Immigration Queues

Similar to previous reports from Australia and Dubai, Japan has announced a plan to implement facial recognition technology at automated airline immigration gates in an effort to reduce wait times for the increasing number of foreign travelers.  Japan has already employed the use of Automated Gates that allow travelers to automatically pass through examination procedures by scanning fingerprints and passports.

The Automated Gates have proven to save time for travelers who completed the user registration process prior to departure and are currently in use at Narita, Haneda, Chubu, and Kansai International Airports. Travelers can pre-register on the day of their flight or the preceding day at one of these four airports as well as the Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, or Takamatsu Regional Immigration Bureaus.

The Japanese Ministry of Justice hopes to roll out the facial recognition technology to combat the sluggish growth of registration for the Automated Gates. The facial recognition technology will offer an alternative for those who do not want to provide fingerprints. The facial recognition technology is able to read facial image data from IC chips embedded in the passport and compare it against a photograph taken at the immigration gate without the need for pre-registration.

This technology is still undergoing test trials to determine the amount of time and manpower it would save, the margin of error due to environmental factors and facial aging, as well as privacy concerns surrounding the storage of data.

UAE Conducting Unannounced Workplace Visits

The United Arab Emirates Immigration and Labor Ministries have begun conducting unannounced on-site visits to companies operating in Dubai.  These visits will be used to verify any number of employment documents, including work permits, labor cards, Emirates IDs, and Free Zone IDs.  The number of workplace visits has increased following the Ministry’s May 2014 announcement that it would begin stricter monitoring practices of foreign employees.

It is recommended that all employers with foreign national workers have all proper documentation organized and readily available.  Additionally, foreign nationals working in the UAE should be sure to carry their IDs, work permits, and/or labor cards in case a site-visit should occur.