Pro-Link Global immigration dispatch – Argentina, Panama, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates
Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Argentina, Panama, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar: increasing globalization bringing pro-business immigration reformsWhile Qatar suffered its slowest economic growth in two decades in 2016, government and business leaders remain optimistic, with analysts predicting a modest rebound of global oil prices in 2017 and infrastructure investment intensifying ahead its hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Numerous major housing and stadium projects, a new Doha Metro rail system, and a major expansion of Hamad International Airport are all currently ongoing. As Pro-Link GLOBAL identified earlier, the increased global attention, and the need to diversify its economy with the softening oil market, is bringing increased openness and globalization in the gulf monarchy. The significant reform of Qatar’s restrictive foreign worker “kafala system” in December was a major improvement. For more details, see our Immigration Dispatch of December 12. We expect to continue to see refinements in Qatar’s international business climate and corporate immigration process over the coming months. Below are some changes we are seeing now.
Four-Day transit visas, and fast-track visa system on the horizonIn an effort to boost tourism, the Ministry of Interior (MOI), the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), and Qatar Airlines (QA) teamed up recently to implement a free four-day transit visa for all QA travelers transiting through Doha. Travelers from all nations can apply at a QA office or online for the single-entry visa, valid for 90 days. While the primary aim is tourism, the option is also available to business travelers for meetings and conferences in Qatar as well.In a joint MOI-QTA-QA press conference last August, the MOI also announced that it is moving forward with a plan for a fast-tracked visa application system in collaboration with VFS Global, a global provider of visa-processing services. The roll-out of the new system is slated for some time in the second quarter of this year.
Loosening of sponsorship transfers coming soonOn December 13, 2016, a new immigration law was enacted which will provide more flexibility for companies and foreign employees switching employers. While full implementation awaits the Executive Regulations being published in the Official Gazette, the Ministry of Administrative Development Labour and Social Affairs (MADSLA) is expected to soon eliminate the requirement for new sponsors to obtain block visa approvals when a male foreign national switches employment from his original sponsor. Pro-Link GLOBAL and our KGNM Qatar office continue to watch for the official announcement and will report on more details as they become available.
Employment contracts must be created in new MADSLA online portalAs part of ongoing efforts to systematize and improve the work authorization and immigration processes in Qatar, the MADSLA has now stopped accepting hard copies of employment contracts. Rather, employment contracts must now be created and filed online through the MADSLA portal. Companies must go into the portal to input the contract details and select from the standardized clauses to create the employment agreement, which is later executed and attested manually at the MADSLA office. Any customized clauses which the company or foreign employee wants inserted into the contract must be scanned and attached.
Immigration changes from around the world
Argentina: new decree brings attention to length of stays abroad by foreign residentsEffective January 31, a new Decree 70/2017 of the Argentinian government is causing a stir among foreign nationals with temporary or permanent residency in the country. While the motivation behind the Decree is clearly an attempt to combat international organized crime – with increased revocations and deportations of foreign residents who are convicted of serious crimes in other countries – two provisions of the Decree apply to all foreign residents in Argentina regardless of criminal record. These two provisions, covering the cancellation of residency for prolonged stays outside Argentina, do not actually create new law, but rather confirm rules already in effect.Pro-Link GLOBAL reminds foreign nationals with temporary residency or permanent residency in Argentina of the following:
- Temporary residence holders who remain outside Argentina for more than 50 percent of their visa’s duration automatically lose their temporary residency; and
- Permanent residence holders who remain outside Argentina for a period of two consecutive years automatically lose their permanent residency.
Panama: visa-free entry extended to holders of certain foreign visas, revoked for EU/Schengen visa holdersEffective January 13, a new Resolution No. 591 of December 28, 2016 by the Panamanian government has revised the rules on entry for nationals requiring Panamanian visas. Foreign nationals of countries otherwise requiring a visa to visit Panama may still enter for 30-day business and tourist stays using a multiple-entry visa issued by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, or Australia – provided the visa has been used at least once previously in one of those countries and is valid for at least one remaining year. The 30-day stay may then be extended for an additional 60 days.Previously, this same privilege was also extended to holders of visas issued by European Union (EU) and Schengen area countries. However, as of January 13, this is no longer the case: EU and Schengen visa holders from visa-required countries must now obtain a Panamanian business or tourist visa before entering. Pro-Link GLOBAL observed a similar move recently by neighboring Costa Rica in December, also removing EU member visas from the list of visa holders who received visa-free entry there. For more details, see our Immigration Dispatch of December 19
United Arab Emirates: upcoming changes may present opportunities for highly-skilled workersWalking out of the federal cabinet meeting last Sunday, United Arab Emirates Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum posted to Twitter, “we agreed on a new entry visa system that focuses on attracting exceptional talent. The new system aims to attract entrepreneurs, pioneers and talented minds in the medical, scientific, research, IT and intellectual sectors.” The Tweets were then followed by a public ceremony later that day at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, where gulf media reported a new “advanced entry visa system” was launched.While the reports out of the UAE are thin on details, the Ministry of Interior’s Security Media Department reports that the fanfare is regarding a project to re-launch an entry visa program for “tourism, education, medical treatment, and talented foreign workers.” The description of the program provided by Security Media seems to intimate a competitive system where companies are ranked on various performance indicators into four groups (Platinum, Green, Yellow, and Red) with further A through E letter grades within each group. The companies would then presumably be given assistance in attracting and bringing foreign talent to the UAE.The description of the new program sounds vaguely similar – yet somewhat different – from the UAE’s “Tawteen Program” and renewed efforts at “Emiratisation” which Pro-Link GLOBAL reported on last week. Whereas the focus of Emiratisation is on improving opportunities for local UAE nationals, this next round of potential developments appears focused on improving opportunities for companies to benefit from highly-skilled foreign talent. We are continuing to closely monitor the developments through our KGNM UAE offices in this most dynamic of markets in the Middle East, with an eye toward opportunities and challenges for our clients. Please follow future Immigration Dispatches for more. For details on recent changes in Emiratisation requirements and the “Tawteen Program,” see our Immigration Dispatch of February 5, and for an expert overview on Building Your UAE Immigration Program, watch our webinar hereCaveat 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 Argentina Offices “Employee Mobility Solutions”, “Estudio Kaufer Barbe & Vincent”, and “Holistic Mobility Services”, our PLG | KGNM Panama Offices “Icaza Gonzalez Ruiz & Aleman” and “LARM Group”, our PLG | KGNM Qatar Offices “Future Gate LLC” and “QShield LLC”, and our PLG | KGNM United Arab Emirates Offices “Executive Expatriate Relocations” and “Move One Inc.” to provide you this update.
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