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EIG Dispatch | December 4, 2015

December 4, 2015

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The White House Announces Enhanced Security Modifications to the Visa Waiver Program
  • Russia Implements New Travel and Visa Restrictions on Turkish Citizens
  • UPDATE: Canada Implements a New Employer Portal for the International Mobility Program
  • U.S. Consulate in Chennai is Closed Due to Heavy Flood: Visa Appointments Cancelled

The White House Announces Enhanced Security Modifications to the Visa Waiver Program

On Monday, December 1, 2015, the White House announced changes to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to implement enhanced security screening measures for individuals who have traveled to conflict zones. The changes are intended to ban foreigners from using the VWP who have traveled in the past five years to conflict areas considered “terrorist safe havens,” as determined by the Director of National Intelligence in coordination with the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  The VWP has been updated periodically since its implementation in order to address new security threats and enhance visitor screening.

The VWP allows individuals from the participating 38 countries to travel to the U.S. by obtaining authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), eliminating the interview requirement at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Only citizens of a VWP participating country qualify; while residents or refugee travel document holders do not qualify. VWP participants are eligible only for short term travel – no more than 90 days – for tourism or limited business purposes. Under the VWP, an estimated 20 million visitors per year enter the U.S. without a visa. American tourists receive similar waivers from visa requirements for short-term travel to the participating countries.

In addition to the White House’s announcement, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to reveal a bill implementing even stricter measures. The bill is expected to increase information sharing with INTERPOL to improve applicant screening abilities, accelerate the e-passport (passports with embedded security chips and biometric information) requirement, add biometric requirements upon entrance, and expand the use of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Preclearance Program, where CBP officers screen travelers on U.S.-bound flights at foreign airports. More information regarding the VWP enhancements is available here.

EIG will continue to monitor changes to the Visa Waiver Program to keep you informed.


Russia Implements New Travel and Visa Restrictions on Turkish Citizens

Starting January 1, 2016, Russian employers will no longer be able to obtain work permits for Turkish nationals and Turkish nationals will no longer be able to enter Russia without a visa. Presidential Order No. 583, published November 28, 2015, and the Russian Government Resolution No. 1296, published on December 1, 2015, enacts sanctions and restrictions against the Republic of Turkey. The sanctions include travel restrictions, which entail a suspension of the visa simplification requirements and, as such, Turkish nationals will not be allowed to enter Russia without a visa. Other sanctions include a ban on or increased restrictions on importation of certain Turkish goods to Russia, employment of Turkish nationals in Russia in certain occupations, intergovernmental trade commissions, and the negotiation of bilateral agreements.

For Russian employers it is important to be aware of the new restrictions on employment of Turkish nationals in Russia and to plan accordingly. The restriction goes into effect on January 1, 2016.


UPDATE: Canada Implements a New Employer Portal for the International Mobility Program

As previously announced in the EIG Dispatch, the new Canadian Employer Portal was implemented on November 21, 2015 for employers seeking to sponsor a foreign worker through the International Mobility Program. This program allows employers to hire foreign workers exempt from a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Exemptions from the LMIA process are based on broader economic or other competitive advantages for Canada and reciprocal benefits.  In order to submit an offer of employment, an employer must first register with the Employer Portal and pay a compliance fee of 230 Canadian dollars.

Once an offer of employment is successfully submitted via the Employer Portal, an offer of employment ID number will be assigned. The employer must share the ID number with the foreign worker, so the worker may complete the work permit application. Once the application is approved by the Canadian Immigration Services, the worker is issued a work permit at the point of entry.

A foreign worker holding a permit to work for any Canadian employer does not need to submit an offer of employment through the Employer Portal. Some employers are also exempt from paying the employer compliance fee if they qualify under a specific exemption code.


U.S. Consulate in Chennai is Closed Due to Heavy Flood: Visa Appointments Cancelled

The U.S. Consulate in Chennai is closed on December 3rd and 4th due to a natural disaster that recently impacted the city of Chennai and the surrounding areas in Tamil Nadu, India.  All visa appointments have been cancelled and will be rescheduled. Southern India was recently affected by extreme heavy rain, causing massive flooding in some areas. Power supply has been suspended in many neighborhoods and thousands of people have been moved to temporary shelters. The Chennai International Airport is closed and flights have been cancelled until further notice. U.S. Citizens living and travelling in Tamil Nadu should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and update their contact information.