Japan – one-year permanent residency coming soon for certain highly skilled foreign nationals
Japan will reportedly move forward with plans to shorten the path to permanent residency from five years to three years and create a special one-year path applicable to certain highly skilled foreign professionals. The current five-year path is often referred to as the “fast track” route in Japan. Once implemented, the new one-year path could aptly be named the “lightning-fast-track,” as it would become the world’s fastest permanent residency program.
The proposal for shortening requirements for Japanese permanent residency first surfaced in June as just one of dozens of points in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Strategy for Revitalization of Japan 2016. However, lawmakers are reportedly now working in earnest on the particulars necessary to implement the proposal, with the goal to have the program in place by the end of March 2017.
The move is clearly a wise use of immigration policy on the part of the Japanese government to address the country’s inability to sustain consistent economic growth in recent years, which economists blame primarily on the shrinking population. The 2010 and 2015 national census figures revealed that Japan’s total population decreased by almost one million people during that period, and the resulting shortage in available working-age natives has put the brakes on Japanese business, particularly in the higher-skilled professions where the labour pool is already small.
Pro-Link GLOBAL believes we are likely to see similar refinements in Japanese immigration policy in an attempt to solve their current demographic and economic challenges. We don’t see, however, a significant relaxing of policies for employment-based immigration within general labour categories. Rather, the reforms will be aimed at attracting and retaining highly skilled talent on a long-term basis. While the details of the current proposed changes to permanent residency requirements have yet to be announced, our PLG | KGNM Correspondent Offices in Japan expect to see the list of eligible occupations include engineers, scientists, researchers, investors, and high-level corporate managers. Pro-Link GLOBAL will continue to monitor the business and political climate in Japan with interest and report on immigration developments as they come to light.
Immigration changes from around the world
Azerbaijan – migration service increasing on-site audits
Companies in Azerbaijan who employ foreign nationals should be aware that the State Migration Service (SMS) is stepping up auditing activity with random work site visits. While random audits by the SMS in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour are not new in Azerbaijan, Pro-Link GLOBAL is seeing an increase in frequency, particularly for first-time sponsoring companies employing foreign nationals with temporary residence permits. Companies should work with their immigration advisors to be prepared for such audits by ensuring that foreign employees are not performing work activity prior to the relevant permits being issued and that necessary records are available on-site. During the visits, SMS officials may request to see a range of company documents in addition to valid permits and employee records (including, but not limited to site leases, incorporation documents, and internal operating procedures).
Bahrain – new visas and lengthened stays benefit business travellers
Bahrain’s Nationality, Passports, and Residence Affairs (NPRA) has added two new visas and increased permissible stays on other visas, making entry more convenient for business travellers to the Kingdom. The visa changes announced 20 November by NPRA include:
- A new single-entry, two-week-stay visa for business and tourism, available to citizens of 114 countries
- A new one-year, multiple-entry visa valid for stays of up to 90 days for business and tourism, available to citizens of 114 countries
- The permissible stay on the current three-month, multiple-entry visa – applicable to most foreign nationals – has increased from two weeks to one month
- The permissible stay on the current five-year multiple-entry visa – applicable to citizens of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland – has increased from 30 days to 90 days
The 114 countries whose nationals are eligible for the new visas cover most of Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa. Notably, 13 African nations have been added to the list of visa-eligible countries. The new visas will also be available upon arrival to those citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations and 67 other countries currently eligible for visa-on-arrival.
“This new round of visa announcements represents another step for Bahrain’s commitment to openness,” stated Assistant Undersecretary Prince Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa. The present changes are the fourth phase of a visa reform plan that started in 2014. This plan seeks to greatly expand the number of visa-eligible nations, improve electronic application and processing, and lengthen validity and stay periods. The reforms were part of an overall effort by the Bahrain government to further develop the country as a regional hub of tourism and commerce in the Middle East.
More information, as well as online application and processing, for the new visas is available at the Bahrain eVisa system website.
France – process for new ICT Permits and Talent Passports taking shape
As we reported previously, France underwent a major overhaul of its work permits scheme in November, which included creating two new permit categories: the “ICT Employee Permit” and the “Talent Passport.” See our Global Brief of 11 November for more details. The overhaul called for the processing of the two new permits to be performed by French consular posts abroad without the need for an in-country work authorisation through the Ministry of Labour, as is the current process for other work permits. At the time of writing our recent Global Brief, specific guidelines and forms were not available. As promised, Pro-Link GLOBAL has been reaching out to French authorities for guidance, and we are beginning to receive more clarity as some French consulates have begun processing applications for the new permits.
While many French consulates have yet to begin accepting applications for the new ICT Permits and Talent Passports, we can confirm that consulates in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, India, and South Africa are processing applications for the new permits, and other posts are soon to follow. The required documents being requested thus far consist of essentially two parts: the basic documents commonly required for visa applications, and the basic documents commonly required by the regional Labour Authorities (DIRECCTES) for work authorization in France. However, applicants are cautioned that document requirements are likely to be subject to frequent changes over the coming months as the consulates develop and refine their processes. Be aware that the requirements listed on consulate websites have yet to be updated.
Further, applicants who receive their issued permits should closely examine the permit for accuracy, as our Immigration Specialists have discovered errors, particularly relating to the distinction between permits issued for posted assignments under a foreign employment contract and assignments under local employment contract. Especially during this period of transition, it is imperative that companies and their employees remain in close communication with their corporate immigration advisors throughout the process.
Malaysia – “Pre-Approval” adds two months to work pass process for oil and gas industry
With the inclusion of just one additional step, Malaysia has added four to eight weeks to the processing time for both initial and renewal Work Pass applications for many foreign workers in the offshore petroleum industry in East Malaysia. Effective immediately, all applications for Work Passes in this industry filed for work in the State of Sabah must first be submitted for “pre-approval” to the Sabah Chief Minister’s Department, the Jabatan Keuta Menteri (JKM). These pre-approvals must be obtained before the Work Pass application can be submitted to the Immigration Department. In addition, affected applications already pending with the Immigration Department at the time of the requirement’s implementation have been put on hold until a letter of approval is obtained from the Sabah JKM. In the initial cases processed under the new rules by Pro-Link GLOBAL’s KGNM offices in Malaysia, this new pre-approval step has taken four to eight weeks.
With more than 3,500 companies operating in the oil and gas sector in Malaysia, and almost all the production taking place offshore, the impact of this new requirement in terms of delay and lost production time comes at no small cost for both affected companies and their foreign employees. To minimize the impact, petroleum companies operating in Sabah are encouraged to add an additional two months to their workforce planning horizon and involve their immigration advisors early in the process of planning upcoming assignments in the state.
Peru – document requirements for work permits relaxed
By legislative decree, the government of Peru has relaxed document requirements for work permit applications. Legislative Decree N. 1246 has made various administrative simplifications to governmental processes, including no longer requiring work permit applicants to submit legalised professional degrees and certificates, or legalised copies of their return air ticket, to the Administrative Labour Authority in support of their applications.
In addition, companies are no longer required to submit an affidavit that hiring the foreign employee complies with the required local-to-foreign employee ratio. Rather, the company is now only required to submit an affidavit that hiring the foreign employee “complies with the conditions established by this Law and has the training or work experience required by the same.”
It is important to note that these recent changes modify the document requirements needed in support of applicable applications, but do not amend the substantive eligibility criteria that an applicant must meet to be granted a work permit. The Labour Authority retains the power to audit the veracity of the application at any time and request additional supporting documents.
Therefore, Pro-Link GLOBAL’s KGNM Immigration Specialists in Peru continue to recommend that companies have their foreign employee’s professional degrees and certificates and return air tickets available if the Authority requests them, and that companies continue to comply with their local-to-foreign employee ratio obligations under the limiting percentages imposed by the Law on Hiring Foreign Workers. Article 4 of the Law, which requires foreign personnel not to exceed 20 per cent of the total number of employees or 30 per cent of payroll, was not amended and continues to apply.
For related news and features, visit our Immigration section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Caveat Lector | Warning to ReaderThis is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change at a moment's notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by Pro-Link GLOBAL's Counsel and Knowledge Management teams. We worked with our PLG | KGNM Azerbaijan Offices “Alibi Professional Legal & Consulting Services LLC” and “PIR Group”, our PLG | KGNM Bahrain Office “PRIME instant Offices & Business Centre”, our PLG | KGNM France Offices “Cosmopolitan Services Unlimited” and “Home Conseil”, our PLG | KGNM Japan Offices “Q Inc.” and “Tokyo Orientations, Inc.”, our PLG | KGNM Malaysia Offices “Asian Tigers Mobility Limited” and “Orientations Inc.”, and our PLG | KGNM Peru Offices “Estudio Olaechea“ and “Rossello Abogados” to provide you this update.Information contained in this Global Immigration Dispatch is prepared using information obtained from various media outlets, government publications and our KGNM immigration professionals. Written permission from the copyright owner and any other rights holders must be obtained for any reuse of any content posted or published by Pro-Link GLOBAL that extends beyond fair use or other statutory exemptions. Furthermore, responsibility for the determination of the copyright status and securing permission rests with those persons wishing to reuse the materials. Interested parties are welcome to contact the Knowledge Management Department (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any additional requests for information or to request reproduction of this material.