New Zealand – new stricter standards for residence of skilled migrants

Effective 12 October, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has made significant changes to its Residence Programme (NZRP), which manages residence authorisations for skilled workers, investors, entrepreneurs, and their accompanying dependents. The changes are designed to curb the growth in immigration to the country, which has continued to exceed INZ targets and posted a record-high net immigration level this past year, according to Statistics New Zealand figures. The primary countries whose citizens are fuelling this current growth are India, China, and neighbouring Australia. The most significant of these changes is an increase in the minimum criteria level required for applicants to qualify under the Skilled Migrant category of residence. Determined by a points-based system, foreign nationals must now earn at least 160 points to qualify automatically (an increase from the previous 140- point requirement).Expressions of Interest (EOIs) will still be considered for candidates scoring 100 points and above if they hold a job offer in New Zealand, but automatic approval will now be reserved for those at the 160-point level and above.
INZ has also redefined the English language requirements for applicants in the Skilled Migrant category. Previously, applicants could satisfy the language standard based on their country of citizenship, length of stay in an English-speaking country, or 12 months of previous full-time skilled employment in New Zealand. Now under the new requirements – unless the applicants are citizens of Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, or the United States – they must fulfil one of the following three new standards:

  • A recognised Level 7 bachelor’s degree earned from an institution in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the UK, or the US after two years of study
  • A recognised Level 8 qualification earned in Australia, the Republic of Ireland, the UK, or the US after one year of study
  • A test report from the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) showing an overall band score of at least 6.5

These new standards apply both to the employee applicant and their dependent family members aged 16 years and older.Immigration advisors are therefore now recommending applicants obtain qualification assessments from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) for any educational credentials that are not on INZ’s published list of recognized qualifications. If the qualification is not on the list, and does not pass the qualification assessment, the applicant will then be required to take the IELTS exam.With these additional requirements, companies employing foreign nationals from outside Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the UK, and the US should plan for the additional cost and time of obtaining the NZQA assessments and/or IELTS test reports in planning the budget and timing of job assignments to New Zealand. For detailed assessments of specific cases and the impact of these new requirements on your global mobility programme, contact you Pro-Link GLOBAL immigration advisor. 

Immigration changes from around the world

Equatorial Guinea – residence authorisations significantly delayed by new decree

A recent governmental decree is significantly lengthening the process for securing residence authorisation in Equatorial Guinea. The decree mandates that the Equatorial Guinea Secretary of State must first obtain the authorisation of the Vice President before approving any Permanencia Visa or Resident Permit applications. The addition of this required step is causing significant delays for foreign nationals applying for both forms of residence authorisation. In the case of Permanencia Visa applications, some immigration advisors are reporting that processing times have now increased from one month to three months. For Resident Permit applications, processing times have reportedly doubled from three months to six months. Equatorial Guinea is the largest sub-Saharan oil producer in Africa, with oil and gas extraction accounting for more than 53 per cent of its GDP. While the recent decree ostensibly applies to foreign nationals working in all sectors, many observers expect to see certain exceptions made for the oil and gas sector due to its importance in the local economy. Pro-Link GLOBAL is continuing to monitor developments here and will report on any changes as information becomes available. In the meantime, all companies should be prepared for the longer processing times and plan upcoming foreign employee assignments to Equatorial Guinea accordingly. 

Ireland – Short-Stay Visa Waiver extended to 2021 

The Republic of Ireland’s Short-Stay Visa Waiver programme has been extended for another five years. The popular programme, in place since 2011, was scheduled to expire on 31 October, but will now continue through 31 October 2021. While the primary intent of the Short-Stay Visa Waiver was tourism, it has become a convenient option for business travellers from the eligible countries engaged in commerce in both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.Ireland’s Short-Stay Visa Waiver programme essentially relies on the UK’s short-stay visa scheme, allowing holders of a UK short-stay visa to enter Ireland.Under the provisions of the UK’s short-stay visa, travellers may remain in the UK for up to 180 days each year. The Irish programme allows foreign nationals of 18 countries who hold a UK short-stay visa to use a portion of those 180 days in Ireland. The 18 nations whose citizens are eligible under the programme include: Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Oman, Montenegro, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.Nationals from these listed nations holding a UK short-stay visa who have entered the UK may then cross into Ireland without an Irish visa if there remains unused time on their visa after the stay in the UK. The permitted period of stay in Ireland is then the remaining number of days left on the UK visa (up to a maximum of 90 days). The Short-Stay Visa programme will continue to be a convenient option for foreign nationals of the approved nations doing business in the UK and Ireland. For more details on this option, and the rules and requirements, contact your Pro-Link GLOBAL immigration advisor.

Singapore – minimum salary for employment passes increases 1 January

Starting 1 January, the minimum salary required by the Singapore Ministry of Manpower for applicants to receive an Employment Pass will increase from SGD 3,300 to SGD 3,600 per month (or approximately USD 2,592 monthly, or USD 31,104 annually). This is a regularly scheduled increase in the minimum salary standard and the first increase since 2014.The Employment Pass is the most common work authorisation route of foreign nationals in the executive, managerial, and skilled occupations in Singapore. This upcoming increase, however, should have minimal effect on most foreign nationals seeking employment in Singapore.According to a recent survey by HSBC Expat Explorer, almost half of Singapore’s expats earn over USD 200,000 annually, and even those working in traditionally middle-income skilled occupations typically earn USD 36,000 to USD 54,000 per year. That said, employers and foreign employees planning assignments in Singapore should keep in mind that salary is only one of several factors the MOM considers when evaluating applications for Employment Passes, and meeting the minimum salary requirement does not necessarily guarantee approval.

Venezuela – stricter enforcement of rules for TR-L Visas

The Venezuelan Service Administration of Identification, Immigration and Aliens (SAIME) is tightening enforcement of some procedural rules regarding Transient Labor (TR-L) Visas. The TR-L Visa is the primary work authorisation route for foreign nationals working in Venezuela. The SAIME is now requiring all TR-L Visa holders to have their renewed work permits in-hand from the Ministry of Labour (MOL) prior to submitting applications for renewal of their TR-L Visas. Applications submitted prior to obtaining the renewed work permit are now being rejected. This requirement is not new, but its enforcement has been lax in recent years. This new emphasis by SAIME on strictly following procedures was reportedly prompted by recent urging of the MOL.Foreign nationals working in Venezuela are also reminded that if they obtain a new passport, they must be sure to transfer their TR-L Visa stamps – both the valid stamps and any expired stamps – prior to travel outside Venezuela. If they fail to transfer the visa stamps, they risk being denied re-entry upon returning.With the new emphasis on more closely executing immigration rules in Venezuela, employers and their foreign employees are urged to follow the strict letter of all regulations even if in the past certain requirements were routinely overlooked. To ensure that their practice complies with current standards, and to avoid any resulting delays and complications, companies and employees are urged to contact their immigration advisors well ahead of expected renewals of passports and visas or any planned trips outside the country.

Pro-Link GLOBAL
1 NOVEMBER 2016