By: Gabriele Vennewald and Rania Abboud

Please note: while we address some country-specific updates related to the COVID-19 pandemic, this Alert contains information regarding global restrictions and closures as they stand today. Given the constantly changing nature of this situation, we highly recommend reviewing any global mobility inquiries on a case-by-case basis, including any consulate-specific or immigration authority resources, in “real-time” before traveling internationally. Please reach out to our Global Mobility Team in advance of any international travel.

Australia – Sponsorship Notification Obligations

Australia requires companies sponsoring work visas to hold a valid business sponsorship.  While this business sponsorship triggers notification obligations, experience shows that it is not uncommon for sponsors to overlook these obligations.

The Australian Immigration Department has published these obligations here.  Generally the Department seems to take a generous approach to failures to notify (for example, director appointments and changes in ownership).  Nevertheless, failure to notify within 28 days of the event constitutes a breach of the sponsorship obligations, and may be used as added ammunition should the Department have concerns with a sponsor in relation to other factors or breaches that come to their attention (for example, through a sponsor monitoring exercise).

In those cases where the Department does commence action, it can become time and labor intensive for a sponsor to respond to the Department’s requests or notices – – even when ultimately no sanction is applied.  Sanctions may include the following:  

  • Not being approved for sponsorship for TSS or any other visa
  • Being barred from sponsoring additional visa holders for a specified time
  • Cancellation of all of existing sponsorship approvals
  • Requiring the sponsor to enter into an enforceable undertaking (ie. a written promise to undertake and complete certain actions to show that the failures have been rectified and won’t recur)

A Sponsor may also be issued a Civil infringement notice carrying one of the following financial penalties:

  • AUD 1,650 for individuals and AUD 8,250 for corporate entities per obligation breach for a first notice
  • AUD 3,300 for individuals and AUD 16,500 for corporate entities per obligation breach for subsequent notices
  • Civil penalty of up to AUD 82,500 for a corporation and AUD 16,500 for an individual for each failure.

Canada-  Visitors can continue to apply for work permits inside Canada, with temporary policy extended by 2 years

On February 28, 2023, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), announced the extension of their temporary policy allowing foreign nationals currently in Canada as visitors and who receive a valid job offer to be able to apply for, and receive, a work permit without having to depart the country.  Visitors applying under this public policy who held a work permit within the last 12 months will also continue to be able to request interim work authorization to begin working for their new employer prior to receiving an approval. This COVID-era temporary public policy has been extended by 2 years – – until February 28, 2025 – – to help address labor shortages during this period of economic expansion.

To be eligible to apply, an applicant looking to benefit from this temporary public policy must:

  • Hold valid status in Canada as a visitor on the day they apply.
  • Have a job offer supported by a labor market impact assessment (LMIA) or an LMIA-exempt offer of employment (applications for open work permits are not eligible under this policy).
  • Submit an application for an employer-specific work permit no later than February 28, 2025.
  • Meet all other standard admissibility criteria.

Germany – New Visa Processing Fees for National Visa Applications and New Checklists for Schengen Visa Applications

The German missions in India announced that, effective February 27, 2023, the visa processing fees for national visas will change to 6.700 INR; the national visa fee for minors will change to 3.400 INR.

The fees for Schengen visas will remain the same.

The German Consulate in India publishes up to date fee information on their website here under “Step 5 Visa Fees”.

Schengen Visa Applications

In order to further streamline the process, the German Consulates in India have updated their visa checklists.  The checklist for Schengen business visitor visa applications can be found here.

It is important to note that if the inviting company arranges for accommodation, then they should confirm this in their invitation letter.  The applicant is then not required to provide further proof of accommodation such as a hotel reservation.

Another important change relates to the format of sponsor and applicant financial documentation. The Indian sponsoring employer needs to provide evidence such as the Certificate of Incorporation of the Company, GST Registration,  Proof of Company Registration and Acknowledgement of the company’s ITR Returns for the last three years  (latest first, for example, 2022 to 2020).

The Consulates in India also point out that the typical three-week processing time only starts once the application reaches the Consulate. This might take up to six working days depending on the delivery conditions and public holidays.

Singapore – Ease of Entry Requirements Related to Safety Measures During the Pandemic

The Singapore government announced that for visitors all COVID-19 border measures are removed as of Monday, February 13, 2023. This is regardless of vaccination status or traveler profile.

The Ministry of Manpower reminds the public that all foreign nationals who apply for new work passes must still be fully vaccinated (including booster, if required) with WHO-EUL vaccines as part of work pass requirements.   After entering Singapore, they must verify their overseas vaccination records and update them in the National Immunization Registry (NIR) by taking a serology test or getting their digitally-verifiable vaccination certificates (DVCs) verified at a local clinic.

Switzerland – Relaxation of Requirements

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) has decided to implement various changes to the requirements to hire certain Non-EU/EFTA nationals as of February 2023.

Labor market review may be waived in certain shortage occupations such as Managers, Engineers, and ICT specialists.  In professions with a pronounced shortage of skilled workers, permits may also be granted for positions that do not necessarily require a university degree (non-academic professions).

Please see the following details:

Relaxation of Requirements in connection with Labor Market Review

The Swiss cantonal authorities may waive the labor market review in the following occupational categories that are evidently affected by the structural shortage of skilled workers:

  • Managers (executive positions) in Information and Communication Technology, in Management Consulting, in the Finance and Insurance industry, in the mechanical, Electrical, and Metal industry, and in the production of Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Food Products;
  • Engineering occupations, scientists, and researchers in Mathematical, Scientific, and Technical fields, as well as specialized professionals in Information and Communications Technology;
  • Health Care professions: Medical Specialists, Medical Residents, specialized Nursing personnel (e.g., Surgical Nursing, Acute and Emergency care), Radiology Assistants, as well as
  • University Teachers.

 In critical circumstances, the competent authority can demand suitable evidence (e.g., advertisement of the vacant position at the RAV or in the EU/EFTA area, etc.).  The reason for such requests may be, for example, the cantonal labor market situation, regional economic priorities, or macroeconomic interests.

Ease of Educational/Professional Requirements

In professions with a pronounced shortage of skilled workers, qualified persons with special professional knowledge or skills or indispensable skilled workers may be admitted (Art. 23 para. 3 let. C FNIA).  Permits may also be granted for positions that do not necessarily require a university degree (non-academic professions), e.g., in the skilled trades or in the field of nursing specialties or if the professional experience required as a rule after a completed course of study is still lacking. In terms of the legal requirements, either at least a vocational training qualification or several years of professional experience, usually at least 5 years is a prerequisite.

The following occupational fields may fall under the enforcement facilitations in terms of professional qualifications:

  • Health Care professions: Specialized Nursing personnel (e.g., Surgical, Acute and Emergency care), Radiology Assistants;
  • Technical and specialized occupations in the field of Information and Communications Technology