Expat Focus International News Update December 2018

UK cracks down on ‘golden visas’

A route into the UK for wealthy foreign investors who utilise the country’s ‘dolden visa’ schemes have been suspended by the UK government in a crime crackdown. Currently, foreign investors are spending millions of pounds to access a Tier 1 visa, which is a fast-track route to settlement in the country.However, this has now been suspended until new rules are published early next year. The government says it is introducing reforms to tackle money laundering and organised crime issues connected with the scheme.

Introduced in 2008, the aim for a Tier 1 visa was to attract non-EU citizens to invest substantial amounts of money into the country. More than 1,000 of these visas were granted in the 12 months to September 2018. Tier 1 applicants need at least £2 million for investment purposes and they are given indefinite leave to remain after five years.

Caroline Noakes, the immigration minister, said:

"The UK will always be open to genuine legitimate investors who are committed to helping businesses and our economy grow. However, I've been clear that there will be no tolerance for those who seek to abuse the system and do not play by the rules."

From next year, independent auditors will be used to assess an applicant’s financial and business interests and then check they have control of these funds for up to two years after arriving in the UK. All successful candidates will be eligible for a visa that will run for three years, with extensions of two years available.

UK will offer work visas to low-skilled expats

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Meanwhile, the UK government says its new post-Brexit immigration rules will see visas being offered to low-skilled migrants from the European Union – and other countries.

The migrant workers will be offered short-term visas and the home secretary, Sajid Javid, says the UK will not impose a cap on highly skilled expats coming from anywhere in the world. The new immigration scheme will also be open to those low-skilled migrants who come from countries that have no previous record of abusing the UK’s immigration rules.

The move will see them receiving short-term visas that last up to 12 months, but they must then leave after their visa expires and will be unable to return for another year.

A bid by the government’s Migration Advisory Committee that no low-skilled migrants should be permitted to work in the UK after Brexit has been softened after businesses called for a re-think.

Melbourne and Sydney ban new expats

Melbourne and Sydney look set to become no-go zones for new expats wanting to move there as Australia tries to tackle a growing population imbalance. There are also worries that these over-populated cities are facing other challenges.

Now Australia’s Department of Immigration says that one in 10 people who move to Australia are relocating within 18 months to one of the cities. Last year, Melbourne and Sydney became the home for 87% of the skilled migrants entering Australia. However, this is leading to huge pressures on housing, healthcare, schools and also public transport. This is despite other areas in the country struggling with a decline in population numbers.

This move could see a change to the country’s immigration visa policies which will impose restrictions on where expats are allowed to settle. However, the Department for Immigration acknowledges that expats who enter with employer-sponsored visas – half of all new arrivals – are unlikely to be affected by any changes.

One of the proposed stipulations is that any expats accepting a new visa must agree to live in a less populated town or city for at least five years before being allowed to move to another, bigger city. The full list of cities that will be prohibited to new expats in the country has not yet been published.

Brits may have to pay to visit EU

The European Commission has revealed that post-Brexit, Brits will not need to apply for a visa to visit the EU’s members states but will need to pay €7 every three years to do so.

The EU will have a new document necessary for travelling – whether it is for business or holidays – called the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) , which will come into force from 2021. This new travel requirement is not just for those travelling from the UK but also for travellers heading to the EU from non-EU countries. The new system will operate along the lines of the United States ESTA programme, which costs $14.

Anyone travelling to the EU for business, medical, tourism or travel-related reasons will be free do so for up to 90 days if they have the relevant ETIAS document in place. Part of the reason for the imposition of the new travel document is to tighten freedom of travel in the Schengen area over growing security concerns for terrorism and the migrant crisis.

Saudi Arabia reviews expat fees

In the face of an expat exodus and rising living costs, Saudi Arabia is said to be reviewing its policy for imposing fees on all expat workers there. Rather than being repealed, it looks likely that the system will be restructured or modified with a final decision coming early next year.

The fees were introduced in 2016 as part of the country’s ‘Saudisation’ programme to create more work opportunities for Saudis but the costs have proved to be unpopular with business owners who have seen hundreds of thousands of expat workers leaving. These expats had most been the source of cheap labour in the kingdom.

Also, since 2017, expats have had to pay a fee for every dependent member of their family, starting at 100 riyals (£21/$27) per month for each dependent. This is scheduled to increase by 100 riyals every year.

The news on the visa fees review was revealed by Bloomberg who say that the mass departure of expats has left the kingdom with its highest unemployment level for a decade at 12.9%. One issue is that Saudi employers say that citizens are not interested in working in low status jobs.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has also announced that expats with dependents over the age of 25 will no longer have their residence permit renewed when an expat renews their work permit. However, some expat groups are calling on the authorities for residence permits to be renewed for children over the age of 25 who are pursuing university studies, particularly in engineering and medicine.

Kuwait cuts more than 1,000 expat education jobs

The Ministry of Education in Kuwait has announced that it will cut 1,080 jobs that are occupied by expats for the financial year. The decision also covers around 600 expat support staff in one educational district whose employment contracts will be ended this year.

Also, the number of expatriates working in the Ministry has fallen and the Ministry prides itself on having a Kuwaitisation rate of 95% – more than any other public institution or ministry.

The only teacher jobs not to be made redundant are those for expat teachers who have rare fields of specialisation that the country needs. The redundancy news follows an announcement by Kuwait’s government that over the next seven years, around 1.5 million expat jobs will be culled from the workforce.

In addition, the country’s Manpower Ministry has cancelled the job titles of thousands of expats in supervisory positions after discovering they do not have qualifications for their posts.

A new condition for work permit renewals means that expats need to present their original educational certificate but news outlets say that many expats have left the country following their job title change. The remaining expats have seen their job titles change from ‘manager’, for example, to ‘mandoub’.

Permission needed to hire expats in Oman

It’s been revealed that Omani-based employers will need permission from Oman’s Ministry of Manpower before they can hire any expats in the future. A new online system for applying for expat visas is being rolled out and employee quotas are being monitored.

Under the system, any employer that meets the country’s standards will receive approval to hire expats. Employees falling short of the quota needs will be barred from hiring foreign workers. A ministry spokesman said: “The system focuses on boosting Omanisation rates in the private sector.”

News outlets in Oman are also predicting that the current expat visa ban that expires at the end of January next year may be extended for several months and a decision is expected shortly. The ban on recruiting expats into the purchase and marketing sectors has already been extended by six months.

Meanwhile, Oman’s government has announced that its aim to reduce the 90% expat population in the private sector will ‘take a long time’ and the country will still rely on expats because many of them are working on ‘mega-infrastructure projects’.

UAE extends expat amnesty scheme

To mark the UAE’s 47th anniversary of independence, the government has announced an extension to its expats’ amnesty scheme. The scheme is aimed at thousands of expats who have overstayed their visa or who have entered the country illegally to rectify their situation legally or leave the country without being prosecuted. Thousands of expats are said to have already benefited from the amnesty, which runs until the end of December.

Indian expats must register with emigration portal

From 1 January, Indian expats who work in 18 countries must register with an emigration portal before they head overseas. This must be done at least 24 hours before departure and they must give their visa, travel and personal details, along with emergency contact information in India and the country they are working in.

All Indians holding a non-emigration clearance passport with an employment visa to any of the 18 countries will be required to register when visiting their home country. Among the countries listed are Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Thailand and Yemen.

Best and worst cities for expats revealed

A new ranking has revealed the best and worst cities for expats, with some surprising entries.

The study by InterNations looked at expat life in 72 cities and ranked them for a range of criteria, including quality of life, housing, finance and work opportunities.

In first place is Taipei with Singapore in second place. The remainder of the top ten is made up of Bahrain’s capital Manama; Ho Chi Minh City; Bangkok; Kuala Lumpur; Aachen in Germany; Prague; Madrid; and Muscat.

The worst cities in the survey are Riyadh in the top spot, followed by Jeddah and Rome.

International students shun US universities

The number of international students enrolling with US universities and colleges fell by nearly 7% last year, according to official data. This is the second year running that numbers of new international students have fallen in the country, which is causing a dent in a market that is worth $42 billion (£33 bn) to the economy.

The data has been published by the International Institute of Education and they found that students are increasingly worried about the country’s politics, the practicalities of studying there and the costs involved.

In other news

The number of expats working in the Philippines may be reduced, the government has announced. The move follows calls from labour groups and organisations for the government to investigate and curb the growing numbers of expats who are working there. The organisations fear that jobs for Filipinos are going to expats instead.

The United Arab Emirates has approved plans to offer long-term visas for expats in the country. The five- or ten- year visas will be offered to entrepreneurs, investors and also specialists in scientific, medical and technical fields. These benefits are also being extended to the expat’s spouse and children.


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