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EIG Dispatch – December 19, 2014

December 19, 2014

Highlights

  • U.S. to Restore Diplomatic and Economic Ties with Cuba 
  • Netherlands Increases Minimum Salary Levels for Certain Foreign Workers 
  • Singapore Announces Changes to Employment Pass Process

U.S. to Restore Diplomatic and Economic Ties with Cuba

President Obama on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 announced that he would normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba, more than 50 years after Fidel Castro’s communist revolution and Cold War geopolitics. The White House revealed in a press release the main features of President Obama’s new strategy on Cuba. The changes primarily focus on easing isolationist U.S. economic policies on Cuba, although President Obama also pledged that a critical focus of these actions will include continued strong support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba.

Key components of the changes include the following:

Changes to the exchange and sale of goods 
  • Expanding sales and exports of certain goods and services from the U.S. to Cuba;
  • Easing restrictions on banking, making it possible to use credit and debit cards in Cuba;
  • Permitting U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba to import up to $400 worth of goods, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco and alcohol products;
  • Increasing internet availability and access in Cuba by opening Cuba to commercial telecommunication providers and services; and
  • Facilitating remittances to Cuba by U.S. persons and raising levels from $500 to $2,000 per quarter for general donative remittances to certain Cuban nationals.

Changes to travel 

  • Lifting restrictions for licensed travel to Cuba in the existing 12 categories, although ordinary travel will still be banned under the law. The existing categories include family visits, public performances, education and religious activities, among others.

Changes to diplomatic relations 

  • Initiating a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism; and
  • Updating the application of Cuba sanctions in U.S. territories.

Netherlands Increases Minimum Salary Levels for Certain Foreign Workers

Beginning January 1, 2015, minimum salary levels will increase for certain foreign workers in the Netherlands. Salaries must meet minimum monthly pro-rata levels, include 8% holiday pay, and be paid to the foreign national’s bank account by direct deposit.  Salaries must also meet the market salary rate for the position. The forthcoming changes in minimum salary requirements account for the 8% holiday pay and will apply to new residence permits and renewals of existing residence permits.  Failure to comply with this rule may result in fines of up to €12,000 per violation.

The changes to the minimum salary levels are as follows: 

  • The minimum wage requirement for Knowledge Migrants (applicants 30 years of age or older) will increase from €52,462.08 to €54,289.44.  This must be paid in monthly installments of at least €4,524.12 per month.
  • The minimum wage requirement for Knowledge Migrants (applicants under the age of 30) will increase from €38,465.28 to €39,800.16. This must be paid in monthly installments of at least €3,316.68.
  • The minimum wage requirement for recent graduates from Dutch universities (within the last 12 months) will increase from €27,565.92 to €28,524.96.  This must be paid in monthly installments of at least €2,377.08.
  • The minimum wage requirement for Blue Card Holders will increase from €61,469.28 to €63,607.68.  This must be paid in monthly installments of at least €5,300.64.

Singapore Announces Changes to Employment Pass Process

Effective March 16, 2015, the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will require that an Employment Pass (EP) be issued before an EP applicant can start working in Singapore. Currently, the MOM issues an In-Principal Approval letter which confirms an EP application has been approved. The applicant then uses the In-Principal Approval letter as a single-entry visa and temporary employment authorization until the actual EP is issued.

According to the new regulation EP applicants will no longer be able to work with only an In-Principal Approval letter. Immediately upon an EP applicant’s arrival to Singapore, the employer must apply with MOM for the EP to be issued. Once the EP is issued, the applicant will also receive a Notification Letter and can begin working. The last step of the process is for the EP holder to register with the MOM within one month before the Notification Letter expires.

In light of this change, EIG urges employers to complete the issuance process as soon as possible upon the EP applicant’s arrival to Singapore.