Latest Developments in Global Immigration

This week, the Global Immigration team at Smith Stone Walters wishes to bring attention to recent updates from Australia, Canada, China, Finland, Iceland, Kuwait, Oman, and the Philippines.

Australia: Enhanced Security Measures for ImmiAccount

Starting from January 31, 2024, all new and existing ImmiAccount users are required to verify their email addresses. This initial phase of security enhancements aims to provide better protection to ImmiAccount users. Existing users with unverified email addresses must verify or update them upon their next login. New users must ensure their email addresses meet the security criteria during account creation. These changes are intended to ensure that all active ImmiAccount users have valid email addresses associated with their accounts.

Canada: Extension of Ban on Foreign Ownership of Canadian Housing

The government has announced a two-year extension to the ban on foreign ownership of Canadian housing. Initially introduced on January 1, 2023, the ban was set to expire on January 1, 2025, but it will now remain in effect until January 1, 2027. Foreign commercial entities and individuals who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents will continue to be prohibited from purchasing residential property in Canada.

China: Relaxation of Entry Rules for Hainan Province for Select Nationalities

As of February 9, 2024, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) has announced that nationals from certain countries can enter Hainan Province visa-free for up to 30 days. Eligible purposes include commercial activities, trade, visits, family reunions, medical treatment, attending exhibitions, and participating in sporting events. However, long-term work and study purposes are excluded.

The eligible countries include Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine.

Foreign nationals visiting Hainan for the specified purposes can enter through any open port in the province and remain within the province’s administrative area during their stay period.

Finland: Elimination of Service Point Visits for Child Applications

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) has announced that children under 18 years old are no longer required to visit a service point when applying for an extended permit, a new residence permit card, or a new residence card. Instead, their parent or guardian can apply via the Enter Finland account, using strong identity authentication and including the child’s customer number in the application.

To avoid service point visits, the application must be for reasons such as an expiring card, lost or stolen card, unreadable information on the card, or an expiring passport containing a residence permit sticker.

Iceland: Increase in Financial Support Requirement

Effective February 15, 2024, the Directorate of Immigration has raised the financial support requirement for individual residence permit or citizenship applicants to ISK 239,895 per month, up from ISK 217,799. For married couples, the requirement has increased to ISK 383,832 per month from ISK 348,476. These amounts refer to pre-tax income and apply to applications received from February 15, 2024.

Kuwait: Expansion of Family Visa and Resumption of Visit Visas

Starting January 28, 2024, the government has resumed issuing family residence visas, expanding eligibility to include dependent spouses and children of foreign national residents with a minimum salary of KD 800. The minimum salary requirement may be waived for children under five years old whose parents are both resident in Kuwait.

Other family members of the principal applicant are currently ineligible for family residence visas. Additionally, applicants must hold a university degree corresponding to their field of work in Kuwait, with certain professions exempted from this requirement.

Visit visas for family, commercial, and tourist purposes have also been resumed as of February 7, 2024, with specific eligibility criteria and application processes outlined by the Ministry of the Interior.

Oman: New Deadline for Wages Protection System Registration

On January 14, 2024, the Ministry of Labour of Oman announced that small and micro companies must register in the Wages Protection System (WPS) within 55 days. The system facilitates electronic salary transfers through approved banks or financial institutions. Large and medium companies were required to register earlier, as mandated by a government decree issued in July 2023.

Violations of WPS requirements may incur administrative penalties, including warnings, suspension from work permit services, and fines.

Philippines: Removal of Medical Clearance Requirement

Effective February 1, 2024, the Bureau of Immigration has lifted the Bureau of Quarantine medical clearance requirement for nationals of 53 countries listed in annex A of BI Operations Order No. SBM-2014-059. This requirement was initially introduced in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

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