Top 10 Global Immigration Changes for the First Half of 2019

June 27, 2019

Changes to global immigration laws and processes have been frequent and numerous over the first half of 2019. In case you missed one, here’s our “top 10” for the first six months of this year.

By Kent O’Neil, Global Legal Analyst, and Dan King, Senior Researcher, Newland Chase

Thus far in 2019, Newland Chase has published 159 (and counting) alerts, blogs, and weekly roundups of significant immigration news and insights for HR, global mobility, immigration, and business travel professionals.

Here is our quick recap of the top developments in global immigration for 2019… so far.

(Links to the full alert or blog are provided for more information.)


On April 10, the EU and the UK government agreed to a new, flexible extension of the Article 50 period, lasting only for as long as necessary to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement and, in any event, until no later than October 31. Both orderly Brexit (with a ratified Withdrawal Agreement) and disorderly Brexit (without a ratified Withdrawal Agreement) are still possible – as is the possibility of extending the deadline yet again, or of canceling Brexit altogether.

Keep up with all the latest on our Brexit and Immigration: What You Need to Know page of our website.

EUROPEAN UNION | Schengen Visa Improvements

Two significant developments on the Schengen Visa front: one a welcomed relief for UK nationals and a second potentially benefiting all travelers to the Schengen area of Europe.

On April 4, the European Parliament approved a draft law exempting UK nationals from visa requirements to enter the EU for short visits (up to 90 days in any 180-day period) after the UK leaves the EU. Further action is required by the EU Council, and a reciprocal policy by the UK is a condition – however, it is a clear sign that UK citizens will continue to enjoy visa-free access to visit Europe post-Brexit. More information here.

Long-awaited amendments to the Schengen Visa code were adopted by the Council on June 6. Implementation is expected six months after official publication. The reforms promise to be largely positive for travelers – with more flexible application procedures (including electronic applications) and multiple entry visas with longer validity periods (five years). As a trade-off, there will be a modest standard visa fee increase from EUR 60 to 80. More information here  

CANADA | Global Talent Stream Moves toward Permanency

Announced in March, the Canadian government’s 2019 budget included an ongoing allocation to establish the successful Global Skills Strategy and Global Talent Stream as permanent fixtures of the Canadian immigration system. The two-year pilot program was due to expire in June, but the fast-tracked route for Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) visas has proved so popular with corporations and highly skilled foreign talent that it is likely now permanent.

The innovative program has also been popular with local economic development officials who have seen marked business growth and increasing numbers of top talent recruits from abroad – especially in the Canadian tech sectors. More information here.    

AUSTRALIA | Improvements to Skilled Occupation Lists, Accredited Sponsorship, and New Visa Categories

On March 11, changes to the lists of skilled occupations eligible for skilled visas came into effect. Most significantly, 36 occupations were added to the Medium and Long-Term Skilled Shortage List (MLTSSL) – primarily in science-related fields. More information here.

Also in March, the Minister of Immigration expanded opportunities for employers to receive streamlined processing of sponsorship and visa applications. A new fifth category of “accredited sponsorship” was added for companies that invest at least AUD 50 million that generates local employment in Australia. This should allow more companies to qualify for accredited sponsorship that could not meet the current 75% or 85% Australian workforce profiles. More information here.

Two new provisional visa categories and a new permanent visa were announced and are slated to be available in November of this year. The two new provisional visas are a Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional Visa and a Skilled Work Regional Visa. Both will be valid for five years, with a pathway to the new permanent visas after three years. The new visas are designed to meet skills shortages on a regional level. More information here and here.

IRELAND | Greater Immigration Opportunities Address Skill Shortages and Brexit Demands

With a booming economy and increased interest as a potential post-Brexit EU location – Ireland continues to improve immigration opportunities to meet demands. More information here.

Effective April 22, changes to the Critical Skills List of Occupations and the Ineligible List of Occupations significantly expanded the number of occupations eligible for Employment Permits. Many of the changes were in skilled construction trades – an attempt to address skills shortages in Ireland’s booming construction sectors. More information here.

Other improvements this year included the abolition in May of the re-entry visa requirement for those holding Irish Residence Permit (IRP) cards and GNIB cards – making it significantly easier for them to travel. More information here. In addition, spouses and de facto partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) holders received welcomed news in March that they may now work in Ireland without first obtaining an Employment Permit. More information here.

MEXICO | Major Restructuring of the INM Brings Major Delays

In the first half of this year, the National Immigration Institute (INM) has been undergoing major restructuring – with a new Commissioner and other personnel, department changes, and pressure on limited resources to deal with the ongoing irregular migration from Central America. Expect continuing and potentially worsening process delays for the foreseeable future. More information here.

SINGAPORE | Tightening of Foreign Worker Quota Rules

Pressure to protect the local labor market is continuing to lead to tightening of foreign worker quota rules in Singapore this year. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced in March upcoming changes designed to make it harder for companies to employ foreign workers over local workers.

Effective July 1, the Local Qualifying Salary (LQS) will increase by SGD 100 per month for companies in all sectors. The increase effectively reduces the number of local employees that can be counted when determining a company’s Work Permit and S Pass quota entitlement – forcing companies to raise local salaries in order to recruit more foreign workers.

Coming in January 2020, the Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) and S Pass Sub-DRC for companies in the services sector will be lowered. The DRC sets the percentage of foreign workers a company can hire. Companies will be forced to either reduce the number of Work Permit and S Pass employees or hire more locals. More information here.  

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Five and Ten Year Visas and “Golden Cards”

On March 11, the UAE cabinet approved the regulatory framework for five- and ten-year visas for special talents, investors, entrepreneurs, and outstanding students. Previously, residence visas were capped at a maximum of three years. More information here.

In June, the UAE started issuing new permanent residency “Golden Cards”. Golden Card holders and their spouses and children will be able to live permanently in the UAE. However, only qualifying investors and exceptional talents in science and knowledge fields (i.e. physicians, specialists, scientists, inventors, and creatives) are eligible for the privilege. More information here.

SAUDI ARABIA | Nitaqat Changes and a New Permanent Residence Scheme

Early this year, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD) made several significant changes to block visa and work visa rules and the “Nitaqat” Saudization system. Block visa validity has returned to two years. A new “compensatory” or “replacement” block visa scheme was launched – allowing qualifying employers in the platinum and green Nitaqat categories to replace employees within six months of leaving.

Employee onboarding or releasing will now count immediately toward a company’s Nitaqat rating. Previously, it took 26 weeks for onboarding to have either a positive or a negative effect on the Nitaqat rating. While this may be less beneficial to larger companies – smaller companies looking to increase their ratings to qualify for block visas will benefit. More information here.

Similar to the UAE, Saudi Arabia has moved toward opening opportunities for permanent residency. The government has approved a new special residence scheme – similar to green card systems found in other countries. Like the UAE system, the Saudi system is likewise aimed at affluent and highly-skilled foreign nationals. Expected to be implemented sometime in the next five years, this “special privilege” iqama will allow holders to work, sponsor relatives for visas, hire workers, own property and transport, travel without exit/re-entry visas – all without a Saudi sponsor. More information here.

ARGENTINA | Ten-Year Police Clearances May Cause Long Delays

A subtle but significant change in application requirements in Argentina may result in significant delays in obtaining various immigration documents. Effective March 6, a new immigration authority regulation requires police clearance certificates submitted in support of applications to include the applicant’s criminal record for the ten years prior to the certificate’s issuance.

Previously, immigration authorities did not specify how many years of criminal records had to be covered by clearance certificates. Obtaining ten-year certificates from countries where the applicant has lived can often take several months – significantly delaying application submission. More information here.

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Newland Chase, a wholly owned subsidiary of CIBT, is the leading global provider of immigration and visa services for corporations and individuals with over 1,700 expert immigration and visa professionals, attorneys and qualified migration consultants located in over 70 offices in 25 countries.

Kent O’Neil is a Global Legal Analyst and frequent writer and speaker on international business and global corporate mobility for Newland Chase. Kent received his Juris Doctor from Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law and a Bachelor in Economics from Clarion University. Prior to joining Newland Chase, he worked in both private practice and in-house for a multinational corporation operating across North America, Europe, Asia, and the APAC region. Now based in the U.S., Kent has lived and worked as an expat in Pakistan and the Philippines.

Dan King is a Senior Researcher at Newland Chase. Dan monitors developments in immigration law and processes around the world and provides expert knowledge and research support to the company’s advisory services and immigration specialists. He has been particularly instrumental in keeping companies in the UK and EU abreast of the latest developments and guidance throughout the changing Brexit climate. Dan is a graduate of Christ’s College, Cambridge with an MA (Cantab) in Modern and Medieval Languages (Russian and French).

This publication is not intended as a substitute for legal advice.  Readers are reminded that immigration laws are subject to change. We are not responsible for any loss arising from reliance on this publication. Please contact Newland Chase should you require any additional clarification or case specific advice.