- March 2014 Visa Bulletin Released
- USCIS to Begin Conducting Site Visits for L-1 Petitions
- Major Changes Expected to South Africa’s Immigration Policy
- Romania Honors Schengen Visas for Short-Stay Visitors
- India to Require New Visa for Foreign Conference Participants
- Canada Implements New Work Visa Application Fees and Processing
March 2014 Visa Bulletin Released
The U.S. Department of State has released the Visa Bulletin for March 2014. With the exception of India EB-2, all other Chargeability Areas have moved ahead in the Employment Based categories. India EB-2 remains at November 15, 2004.
The March bulletin movement can be summarized as follows:
- All countries remain current.
- The world-wide quota, Mexico, and the Philippines remain current.
- Persons in the EB-2 category born in China are current if they have a priority date of February 15, 2009 or earlier (jump of 1 month and 1 week).
- Persons in the EB-2 category in India are current if they have a priority date of November 15, 2004 or earlier (no change from February 2014 bulletin).
- Persons in the EB-3 category and falling into the world-wide quota are current if they have a priority date of September 1, 2012 or earlier (jump of 3 months).
- Persons in the EB-3 category and born in China or Mexico are also current if they have a priority date of September 1, 2012 or earlier (jump of 3 months).
- Persons in the EB-3 category and born in India are current if they have a priority date of September 15, 2003 or earlier (jump of 2 weeks).
- Persons in the EB-3 category and born in the Philippines are current if they have a priority date of May 1, 2007 or earlier (jump of 2 weeks).
EB-4 and EB-5
- All countries remain current.
The complete Visa Bulletin for March 2014 can be found at: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2014/visa-bulletin-for-march-2014.html.
USCIS to Begin Conducting Site Visits for L-1 Petitions
As a follow up to USCIS’s Office of Inspector General Recommendation Report for the Implementation of L-1 Visa Regulations (full report available here), USCIS has announced it will begin conducting work-site visits to inspect L-1 employers under the agency’s Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) Division’s Site Inspection Program. These work-site visits will be similar in form to the work-site visits already being conducted at H-1B employer work-sites, which started in 2009 as part of USCIS’s Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program, created to expose H-1B fraud.
The purpose of these work-site visits will be to ensure that L-1 employment is in compliance with the terms and information contained in the petitions. In particular, these work-site visits will be used by the agency to review extensions of L-1 petitions to determine the employee’s continuing eligibility for L-1 visa classification as a senior-level executive or manager (L-1A) or specialized knowledge employee (L-1B).
Major Changes Expected to South Africa’s Immigration Policy
The South African government has drafted an initial new Immigration Amendment Act which is expected to produce sweeping changes for South Africa’s immigration policy. The new Act will drastically change the current work-permit process (including the change from the term “permit” to “visa”) and will potentially change requirements for procuring work permits. Specifically, changes to the following categories are expected: General Work Permits, Intra-Company Transfer Work Permits, Exceptional Skills Permits, Quota Work Permit, Corporate Permits, and Exchange Permits.
These changes may significantly impact corporate employers both in South Africa and abroad and will also affect foreign workers residing in South Africa. Thus far, some of the specific changes include:
- Intra-Company Transfer Work Permit will most likely be increased from two to four years and will most likely require more restrictive criteria.
- Those who are already in the country will no longer be allowed to apply for an in-country change of status to a work visa unless there are “exceptional circumstances.”
- The existing “Quota Work Permit” and “Exceptional Skills Work Permit” categories will be replaced by a new “Critical Skills Visa” category for foreign nationals who possess skills that are critical to South Africa.
- “Corporate Permits” will now be known as “Corporate Visas.” A foreign national will now be restricted to working only for the sponsoring entity specified on the Corporate Visa.
- A foreign national who overstays his or her visa may now be declared an “undesirable person” and will be barred from re-entering or obtaining temporary or permanent residence. Once declared an “undesirable person” a foreign national wishing to re-enter will have to apply to the Director General of the Department to obtain a waiver.
- It is also expected that there will be stiffer penalties for non-compliance by employers and foreign nationals, with periods of imprisonment being increased to a period of between 5 and 15 years.
The reforms are expected to be published for public comment this month, and all final changes are expected by June 1, 2014.
In addition, starting on May 1, 2014, South Africa will begin a pilot program that will require foreign nationals who file immigration applications from within South Africa to go in person to submit their application and biometric data to new outsourced visa facilitation centers. The new process will become mandatory, beginning June 1, 2014.
Romania Honors Schengen Visas for Short-Stay Visitors
As of February 2014, visitors to Romania no longer need to obtain a Romanian visa if they also hold double- or multiple-entry visas, long-term visas, or residence permits issued by a Schengen member state. This will allow Schengen visa holders to reduce their processing times, as they will no longer have to apply for a Romanian short-stay visa.
India to Require New Visa for Foreign Conference Participants
India will now begin requiring foreign nationals traveling to India for the sole purpose of attending symposiums, international conferences, seminars, or workshops, to obtain a “conference visa” rather than the previously required “business visa.” However, foreign nationals who are travelling to India for both conference reasons and business reasons can travel on a “business visa.”
The now-required conference visas will be issued only for the duration of the conference; however, visa applicants can request a longer stay if they wish to combine tourist activities with conference activities, though these stays are granted at the discretion of Indian diplomatic officials. Travelers should be advised that conference visas are currently only valid at certain airports; thus, it is highly recommended that employers contact EIG to assess the appropriate visa for employees traveling to India.
Canada Implements New Work Visa Application Fees and Processing
Applicants who wish to apply for a temporary resident visa for Canada will now be automatically considered for a multiple-entry visa and will no longer need to apply separately for a single- or multiple-entry temporary resident visa. In addition, the cost of the application will now be C$100 (down from C$150). However, the fee for a work-visa application, for both a new application and for a renewal, has increased by C$5 and has increased by C$25 for a study permit.