Please note: while we address certain country-specific updates, this Alert contains information regarding global requirements, policies, and procedures as they stand as of the date of publication. 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.

Canada – Student Program:

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced significant alterations to the international student program on January 22, 2024. These include a new cap on study permit approvals for 2024 and a provincial attestation letter policy. This cap and attestation process is a temporary measure, set for two years, with a reassessment planned for 2025. The cap is part of a series of measures to enhance the integrity of the student program and balance the rapid growth in international student numbers with national infrastructure capacities

Key Changes:

  • Implementation Date: The changes, including the study permit cap and attestation letter requirement, took effect from January 22, 2024. Applicants who did not submit their study permit application prior to January 22, 2024, will be subjected to these new policies, regardless of having a Letter of Acceptance (LOA).
  • Study Permit Cap: IRCC has set a limit of 360,000 study permit approvals for 2024.
  • Provincial Attestation Letter: Provinces and territories have until March 31, 2024 to finalize the process for issuing attestation letters.
  • Exemptions from Cap: Minor children attending primary or secondary school, Master's, PhD, or other post-graduate program students, and those extending/renewing their permits are exempt. The process for changing Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) in 2024 remains to be clarified.
  • PGWP Program and Spousal Work Permit Restrictions: New guidelines under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program and restricted work permit eligibility for spouses of certain study permit holders will be implemented.

Denmark – Salary Threshold and Increase of Government Fees

The minimum gross base salary on the pay limit scheme will be DKK 487,000 per year (DKK 40,584 per month) as of January 1, 2024. The Supplementary Pay limit Scheme will require a minimum gross base salary of DKK 393,000 per year (DKK 32,750 per month).

We face the following governmental fees in 2024:

  • Principal – initial and renewal: DKK 6,300/EUR 845
  • Company Fast-track Certificate: DKK 6,300/EUR 845
  • Dependent - initial and renewal: DKK 2,900/EUR 390

Europe – Electronic Travel Authorization for Visa Exempt Nationals (ETIAS)

It was expected that ETIAS would "go live" this year, but it was recently announced that the system is not yet ready and may start mid-2025. For more information, please see here.

ETIAS will require that visa-exempt nationals who historically visited European countries for short business trips based solely on their passport will first have to register via ETIAS (similar to the ESTA system for travel to the United States).

Germany – Easier Access to Citizenship and Multiple Citizenship

The German parliament has officially passed a reform of the citizenship law on January 19, 2024.

Among other changes, it will provide easier access to German citizenship. The residence requirement of eight (8) years will be reduced to five (5) years. In addition, individuals will be allowed to hold citizenship of multiple countries. This can have a positive impact for applicants who wish to apply for German citizenship without having to relinquish their current citizenship, and for German nationals who currently have to receive approval of their application to retain German citizenship before being able to acquire another country's citizenship. The new regulations are expected to come into force around May 2024.

Portugal – Automatic Extension Process Continued

On January 1, 2024, Portugal again extended the regularity of expired residence permits and expired visas until June 30, 2024. All expired permits or permits expiring soon will be automatically extended until this date. The Agency for Integration, Migrations and Asylum (AIMA), is still in a transition period with respect to implementing a new process. As there is a significant backlog of pending renewal applications, the automatic extension will continue to apply until June 30, 2024. It is important to note that the automatic extension of validity is only recognized within Portugal.

South Korea – Introduction of Digital Nomad Visa

Effective January 1, 2014, South Korea introduced a Digital Nomad visa called the Workcation Visa. This visa will allow residence in South Korea while working remotely for an overseas employer. The application materials will need to include evidence of sufficient minimum income, no criminal record, and work experience. The South Korean Embassy in Ireland has published a list of supporting documentation here.

The United Kingdom - Salary thresholds updated and Immigration Salary List Review by MAC

On January 17, 2024, the Home Secretary commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to carry out a rapid review of the new Immigration Salary List (ISL), a replacement of existing Shortage Occupations List, and provide a report by February 23, 2024. Due to these tight timescales, the MAC is not carrying out the usual stakeholder consultation and will rely on data gathered in 2023. Thus, they will only consider roles currently included on the shortage occupation list and/or the list the MAC recommended back in October 2023.

A fuller review with engagement later in 2024 is promised by Home Secretary, where he intends to set out the parameters and timing of the Graduate route review.

The new ISL will be implemented in April 2024, with exact date to be confirmed. It will use the Office for National Statistics' Standard Occupational Code (SOC) 2020 coding system.

The importance of ISL is particularly high in light of upcoming and now confirmed salary increases for Skilled Workers from £26,200 to £38,700 in force from April 4, 2024.

Occupations included on the ISL will need to be paid the going rate for the role, but will benefit from a discount against the new £38,700 overall salary threshold. This could become crucial to certain sectors, such as Digital Technology, Life Sciences and Manufacturing. As of March 14, 2024, the 20% going rate discount for shortage occupations will be removed.

Existing Skilled Worker holders will be exempt from new salary threshold, as well as those who are on Health and Care visas or national payscales (such as teachers).

UK license validity and automatic renewal

On January 25, 2024, the Home Office announced via Sponsor Management System notice that from April 6, 2024 the requirement to renew the sponsor license by the sponsors will be removed. The license will be extended automatically upon expiration of its validity date. As a result, sponsors do not need to file an extension and pay a renewal fee.

To prepare for this, the Home Office extended license expiry dates on all licenses due to expire on or after April 6, 2024 by 10 years. Sponsors are advised that they do not need to take any action. Any sponsor licenses expiring before April 6, 2024 would still need to apply for an extension.

The changes mean that more responsibility is now placed on UK sponsor license holders to ensure compliance and, in particular, that they have access to the sponsor license at all times. If previously unused licenses were able to expire in the absence of action from the company, they are now going to be extended automatically. The company is therefore bound by the UK immigration compliance requirements throughout the validity of the license - which is now 10 years and beyond. The responsibilities include reporting about any changes to the company, including corporate changes or restructuring, as well as reporting about any changes in the circumstances of sponsored employees.

The UK Home Office can then take action on suspending, downgrading, and revoking the license to sponsors who are on the list of sponsors, but do not comply with their obligations.

Where access is lost (for example, due to relevant people leaving the company), the reinstatement of access can take several months. One can also foresee situations where the company can completely lose track of their license, apply for a new license when this is required, and thereby be refused in a new application. Old licenses can be simultaneously audited and/or immediately revoked - leaving the company in a difficult immigration position.

We regularly advise our clients on UK immigration sponsor license compliance matters to ensure they are in line with their obligations. If you have any questions about your license, please reach out to our UK immigration team.

Immigration Health Surcharge increase to start on February 6, 2024

The start date for the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) increase was previously unknown, although was widely reported. It was confirmed on January 19, 2024 that the relevant legislation has been passed and will come into force on February 6, 2024.

The main details about the increase in the IHS:

  • The increase will apply to visa applications submitted on or after February 6, 2024.
  • The IHS will increase from £624 to £1,035 per year of the visa for most adult visa applicants.
  • The discounted rate (for students, Youth Mobility Scheme applicants, and under-18s) will increase from £470 to £776.

Revised Minimum Income Thresholds for Family Visas Unveiled

Previously, we reported that the UK government intended to increase the minimum threshold for family visas of British and settled nationals to £38,700 (from current £18,600) in line with the UK Skilled Worker visa minimum salary . The Government have now modified this and confirmed that the increase will be introduced in stages.

The minimum threshold will be increased to £29,000 initially from April 11, 2024 and will eventually reach £38,700. However, we do not yet have a timetable for the increases. In the future, the government intends to incrementally increase the threshold to the 40th percentile (currently £34,500), and finally to the 50th percentile (currently £38,700, and the level at which the General Skilled Worker threshold is set) by early 2025. Full details of transitional provisions will be set out when further policy details are announced.

In a positive development the Home Office will remove the additional income requirements for children included in applications made under the family route. This is to ensure that British nationals are not treated less favorably than other migrants.

The changes will not apply retrospectively to those who are already in the UK on a family route.

European Union's Entry and Exit Scheme (EES) confirmed for October 2024

The European Union's Entry and Exit Scheme (EES) is due to start on October 6, 2024. The EES is an automated IT system for registering non-EU nationals travelling for a short stay, each time the person crosses the external borders of European countries using the EES. It is similar to the existing ESTA system in the U.S.

The scheme will apply to travelers who require a short-stay visa and those who do not need a visa for stays of 90 days in any 180-day period, which means all tourist and business travelers to the EU. Notably, the scheme includes all EU member states except Cyprus and the Republic of Ireland and is adopted by the EFTA states: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

The ESS program will automate data collection each time the traveler passes the border of a participating country. It will store the information in the system to identify travelers who have no right to enter or who have over-stayed in the participating countries, as well as detect false identities or fraudulent passports.

This program will apply to British and U.S. travelers, as well as non-EU nationals, all of whom will need to submit fingerprints and facial biometrics. Once the scheme is running, UK travelers will then need to obtain an online permit via the as European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). Please also see information about ETIAS above.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.