Russia:  E-visas Introduced for Russian Far East

Effective 1st September 2018, E-visas were introduced which are valid for travel to the Russian Far East.  These visas can be obtained for free online, without the need to visit a Russian Consular Office, and are expected to improve tourism into Russia.  Prior to this development, it was only possible to enter Russia on e-visas through Knevichi airport in Vladivostok.

The full story as reported by Visa House can be found here.

Germany: New Visa For Vocational Skills Considered

The German government is considering a review of its visa and immigration system in the light of the current climate of low unemployment and an ageing population, which is making it difficult for employers to fill medium skilled roles.  The current system in Germany allows people to come into the country if they have formal qualifications and a highly skilled job.  It also allows people to enter Germany to look for highly skilled job on a job-seekers visa and then secure a job in-country.  What it does not provide for is for migrants to access jobs which require vocational as opposed to academic qualifications.  Yet, this category accounts for 60 percent of available jobs in Germany.

The proposed new system is yet to be fleshed out.  What is known is that it is to take into consideration such things as a person’s qualifications, age, language skills and financial situation.  Yet, is it not to be a points based system.  The UK, Australia and Canada by contrast currently operate points based systems, allocating points to migrants based on such criteria as their formal qualifications, age, availability of a job offer, etc.  If a person scores enough points, they get the visa, and there is little or no discretion in the application of the rules.  It will be interesting to see what Germany comes up with as an alternative to the points based system favoured by others, and whether it will achieve the aim of attracting medium skilled workers to their economy while reasonably restricting migrant access to social welfare packages.

USA: Texas Judge Gives Reprieve to DACA

A judge in Texas has refused to rule against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, despite stating in his judgement that he is not convinced of the legality of the program itself.  Rather, his decision was based on the reasoning that it is already in effect and that to roll it back would cause hardship to many.  He effectively called on Congress to take action to save the popular program and not rely on intervention from the courts.

CNN’s reporting of this story can be found here.

USA: US Plans For Detention of Families

The US government is actively making plans to enable the long term detention of migrant families –including children – on US soil.  This is in violation of a long-standing court agreement under which families were detained for only short periods of time, the aim being to avoid keeping children in custody for more than 20 days.  These moves come on the heels of the much publicised detention of children in the US and the subsequent court order requiring the government to reunite those children with their families.  The US Department of Homeland Security has expressed the opinion that current laws incentivise migrant families to enter the US illegally.  They are hoping with the new approach to strengthen the US Federal Government’s ability to pursue immigration enforcement, including long term detention of families until their immigration cases have been resolved.

USA today’s reporting of this story can be found here.

Thailand: Visa run across border curbed by new rules

The immigration authorities in Thailand have restricted the number of times that one can cross the border at Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia for the purpose of visa renewal.  These visa runs will now be permitted for a maximum of 2 times per calendar year.  The reason for this change is to encourage people to apply for visas in advance, instead of relying on getting a 30-day visa at the immigration post upon arrival at the border.  This restriction applies just to land crossings and not arrivals via the airport.   In the latter scenario, people will still be allowed to obtain 30-day visas up to 6 times per calendar year.

The full story as reported on the Thai Embassy Website can be found here.

Saudi Arabia: Indian Airline Crew to Keep Passports Upon Entry

Indian airline personnel have welcomed good news from the Saudi Immigration authorities, as their passports will no longer be held by immigration officers while they are in transit via Saudi Arabia.  Previously, their passports would be held up on arrival in Saudi Arabia and released to them upon departure, causing complications for the individuals during their brief transit.  Affected airline staff were, for instance, unable to produce their passports as ID during routine security checks in the city and were unable to present their passports at their hotels.  After representations from India, the decision has been made to take biometric information from the airline personnel in lieu of their passports.

The full story as reported in the Times of India can be found here.

USA – Man threatened with deportation after 34 years in the US

The Detroit Free Press has reported that a Nigerian who faces severe physical challenges has been threatened with deportation to the country of his birth despite his not having lived there for 34 years.  The man in question, 48 year old Mr. Francis Anwana, reportedly entered the US aged 14 on a student visa and does not have current legal immigration status in that country.   However, it has been argued by (his lawyers) that deportation will result in a “death sentence” for Mr. Anwana, presumably due to the extent of his physical challenges coupled with his unfamiliarity with his home country.

The full story can be read here.

Green Cards – Trump Announces Planned Changes

USA: President Donald Trump joined forced on Wednesday with Senators David Perdue of  Georgia and Tim Cotton of Arkansas to promote a new bill, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, touting a skills-based points system for obtaining US Green Cards.   Under the current system, Green Cards can be obtained via family sponsorship, job sponsorship, the Diversity Lottery, and on compassionate humanitarian grounds.  Most are obtained via family ties.

The proposed new law would make process changes, awarding points for the fulfillment of certain requirements and determining eligibility based on the points awarded.  Consequently:

  • Highly skilled people would be prioritized
  • Extended family members would be de-prioritized
  • Spouses and children would still be supported
  • The Green Card lottery (diversity program) would be curtailed or scrapped
  • English -speakers would be favored
  • Refugees admitted would be capped at 50,000 per year
  • Overall numbers of green cards issued would be expected to drop by 41% in the first year, and 50% over a 10 year period.

This is just the initial announcement of a proposal which the President and Senators Perdue and Cotton support.  It is not law, nor will it be unless and until it is introduced to the Senate and the House of Reps, passed both houses with the required majorities and is signed into law.  The road ahead is predicted to be rocky for the bill, especially because a very similar bill was introduced earlier this year, but found little or no support.  Senator Lindsey Graham has already voiced his opposition to the bill, saying that it would devastate the economy in his constituency, as the agriculture and tourism industries of South Carolina rely heavily on immigrant workers.

It is worth noting that Australia, Canada and the UK already have points-based immigration systems to various extents and these have arguably worked well for those countries.  However, none of them rely solely on the points-based structure and have aspects of their immigration programs e.g. family applications determined by other means.