Navigating New Horizons in Global Immigration: Emerging Trends 2024

January 30, 2024

By: Charlotte Branigan and Ben Sookia

In the ever-evolving landscape of global mobility and immigration, the year 2024 stands as a pivotal moment for significant transformations and technological advancements. This article provides a comprehensive analysis of the latest shifts and innovations in the field, ranging from the implementation of the EU Entry/Exit System (EES) to the increasing digitization of visa processes, the strategic pursuit of global talent, and the crucial balancing act between immigration compliance and enforcement.

As nations strive to attract highly skilled professionals while ensuring robust border security, let’s explore the intricate dynamics and forward-thinking strategies that are shaping the future of global immigration and mobility.

Entry/Exit System (EES)

The EU Entry/Exit System (EES) is an automated system for registering travellers from third-countries, both short-stay visa holders and visa exempt travellers, each time they cross an EU external border. The system will register the person’s name, type of travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and captured facial images), and the date and place of entry and exit, all while fully respecting fundamental rights and data protection.

The introduction of this system will ensure that travelling to European countries is more efficient and removes the need for passport stamping and border control procedures on arrival as registration will be done at the external border. The EES will also make it easier for immigration officials to identify any traveller who has overstayed in EU countries or confirm if an individual has no right to enter.

Whilst the exact date that the EES becomes operational is still to be confirmed it is expected to be in place in or around October 2024.

Digitisation Persists

Throughout 2024, we expect to see an increase in countries continuing to leverage advanced online filing systems to simplify immigration procedures. Governments have continued to phase out mandatory requirements to submit hard copy applications, with the widespread adoption of electronic visas expected to become more standard practice.

For example, the Australian Government are looking to implement changes that will improve the migration system’s efficiency. Their plans include streamlining visa application routes and enhancing overall user-friendliness within the immigration system.

Countries such as Kenya have recently implemented digital pre-travel security checks for visa-waiver nationals through electronic travel authorization systems. This will eliminate the requirement to obtain a visitor visa for Kenya. The UK are also preparing to introduce the ETA in 2024 and final preparations will be made for the implementation of ETIAS in EU/Schengen which has a revised start date to begin in 2025.

Global Talent Dynamics

The competition for global talent will remain as organizations seek specialized skills. Countries will prioritize attracting and retaining highly skilled professionals to drive economic growth. In December 2023, Ireland’s Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment announced an increased eligibility for employment permits for non-EEA nationals adding 11 roles to the Critical Skills Occupation List and made an additional 32 roles eligible for a General Employment Permit.

The recent update to the EU Blue Card is another example that demonstrates greater facilitation of the movement of foreign nationals, specifically within the EU. Once the EU Blue Card holder has completed 12 months employment in the first member state (which was previously required to be 18 months) they may then be eligible to enter, reside, and subsequently work in a second member state within 30 days of filing a simplified new EU Blue Card application. Time spent on the EU Blue Card in the first Member State will count towards the legal residency requirement for obtaining EU Long Term Residency status in the second member state.

Furthermore, remote work visa options and digital nomad visas continue to be considered by an increasing number of countries as a means to attract foreign workers and accommodate the rise in flexible work arrangements. South Korea have recently begun a pilot operation of the digital nomad visa which began on January 01, 2024. This visa allows foreign nationals to work remotely while being able to avail of an extended stay in South Korea. The foreign national must be employed outside of South Korea.

Another emerging trend is that of governments choosing to extend visa-waiver options to nationals of additional countries. From March 2024, Thailand and China will permanently waive visa requirements for each other’s citizens. Additionally, China is granting a visa waiver to nationals of six countries (Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Malaysia and the Netherlands), who will be able to visit China for up to 15 days for business, tourism, family visits and transit purposes.

Despite all the above-mentioned measures being introduced to lure foreign talent, protectionist measures will persist due to ongoing economic challenges. Governments will need to navigate a delicate balance between global talent acquisition and safeguarding jobs for local workers. Hungary is introducing changes to existing immigration rules, with an aim to tighten their immigration regulations.  In the second half of 2024, elections will take place in the United Kingdom and United States and the outcome of these will determine immigration policies in both countries.

Immigration Compliance and Enforcement

Governments will intensify efforts to enforce immigration compliance by way of visa inspections and increased scrutiny of purpose of travel at borders.

For example, we have recently observed German immigration authorities requesting temporary reinstatement of internal Schengen borders.  We also anticipate an increase in inspections to verify posted worker compliance in EU and EEA countries as well as more focus on the social security aspect of compliance (A1 form).

Countries including the US, Canada, and South Africa continue to grapple with huge application backlogs, largely rooted in the COVID-19 pandemic. These backlogs leave foreign nationals in a state of limbo for extended periods and lead to some seeking more efficient administration and security elsewhere, which is problematic, particularly in the case of highly skilled migrants. The United States Department of Homeland Security plans to make changes in 2024 to the process for adjustment of status to permanent residence. This change is anticipated to reduce processing times and promote the efficient use of immediately available immigrant visas

Preparing for the Next Global Challenge

Finally, companies increasingly find themselves operating in challenging locations and subject to adapting to the latest “polycrisis”. Emergency situations and the need for crisis management are becoming increasingly common and require complex strategic solutions. The need for urgent international travel—either in to or out of locations—can result from many types of emergencies: from natural disaster to pandemic; from political upheaval to military conflict.

We also anticipate growth and high volumes of movement in the Middle East and particularly Saudi Arabia. Authorities in Saudi Arabia have introduced a tourist eVisa, which allows foreign nationals to take part in tourism-related activities such as events, family and relatives visits, or leisure activities. It is also anticipated that Saudi Arabia will introduce an eVisa for business travel. With Saudi Arabia being the sole bidder for the FIFA World Cup in 2034, we expect that this will create a significant increase in job opportunities for companies seeking to hire foreign talent.

This immigration update is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal or scenario-specific advice. Furthermore, it is important to note that immigration announcements are subject to sudden and unexpected changes. Readers are encouraged to reach out to Newland Chase for any case or company-specific assessments.