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Immigration updates vary from region to region. To keep track of what is going on around the world, K2 Singapore continued the K2 webinar series with another live session on 3rd June.

This webinar focused on immigration updates in APAC (Asia-Pacific), aiming to give relevant and informative updates on the current situation of immigration, across countries in the region.  The webinar discussed what immigration trends we are seeing, potential future scenarios, and best practices right now. Attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions, for an overview of the questions asked, please see below.

The session began with an introduction from Paul Barrett, Managing Director for APAC, who welcomed the attendees and informed that the webinar will focus on the immigration landscape in the APAC region, as we begin to emerge from the covid-19 shadow. Paul shared an encouraging message, confirming how in many places first steps have been taken to resume somewhat of normal life, with offices reopening and in person support beginning to begin again. Paul also added that the challenge of these progressive steps, is moving forwards in a safe and gradual way, with measures in place to ensure that we can all protect lives and livelihoods.

Paul then handed over to our immigration expert, Jesper Albrekt, Global Immigration Manager. Jesper talked through some key topics such as immigration in era of border closure, potential future scenarios and red flags, best practice preparations for post covid-19 immigration challenges, application processing recommendations and how to handle corporate restructures and redundancies especially relating to covid-19.

Jesper notes that immigration has of course been largely impacted by covid-19, and that this has led to a wide variety of responses from country to country, with no regulation currently put in place being the same as another country. Each country has its own jurisdiction and set of rules which differ from the other. Jesper navigated the presentation and key topics by providing regional insight and drawing upon worldwide examples and comparisons.

The webinar concluded with both Jesper and Paul answering live questions submitted by the attendees. To read through the questions asked, please see below.

We know that immigration rules and regulations are changing more than ever. Here at K2 we are keeping our foot on the pedal as best possible, and we hope these webinars are helping you to do the same.

Access the recording of this session here

Question recap 

What are you seeing will happen once the borders open up again, will they process applications equally or will the immigration authorities only attend to/prioritise certain visa types or industries?

I think it is likely some applications may be prioritised. Some already are, as part of a standard immigration processes. For example in South Korea, an application submitted a company with a high revenue, will be processed quicker, compared to others.

Equally, some industries may actually prioritised. For example, if a country has a shortage of workers within health care, transport and logistics, manufacturing, pharmaceutical industries, there may well be a scenario where authorities will actually approve the applications of workers in these industries quicker compared to others. There are fast track processes for a number of countries already in place. But, yes, according to the local labour needs, we may see some applications come through quicker than others.

When borders re-open, and we’ve seen the impact on things like unemployment locally, have we got a sense whether countries may then limit the number of work permits they wish to issue? Or perhaps revise those numbers down in favour of pushing companies to hire locally? Do we have any sense at the moment or is it too early to tell?

Looking at different labour needs in the countries, for now it’s hard to say how covid-19 will affect visa issuance. I think within a couple of months we’re going to see which companies are still able to operate in this financial situation. From that point, I think the governments will be able to more closely monitor the local labour needs of companies.

So yes, it is possible that we may see these kinds of things being more stringently implemented by governments. In terms of increasing the quota, for example, in Australia there is already some fear that the interview process for the TSS visa may be much more stringent in the future, just because of covid-19. This is because the government in Australia has already said that they will be trying to protect Australian jobs in the future.

They’ve already put in place a very interesting system in Australia where companies need to pay a training levy for each employee, which is very expensive, up to 5000 Australian dollars for a four year visa. So, knowing the Australian Government, how they work, in terms of recent immigration, they are very, very keen to protect Australian jobs.

Therefore it is not unlikely that if we start to see more and more people in different countries being laid off, we may well see that governments will put in place more stringent measures to make sure that they protect the jobs of their local employees and urge companies to hire locally.

Please can you give a little more detail on when the training levy is applicable for foreign workers in Australia?

The training levy is applicable to all foreign workers on a TSS visa or for employer sponsored permanent residence. So, not for short-term work visas such as the Subclass 400 visa or Subclass 407 training visas.

So, if we have a new employee coming to Australia under a TSS Visa, we will be paying for the training levy, when he converts a permanent resident, this will need to be paid again. Is this correct?

That is correct. So if for example the company sponsors the permanent resident visa, then the company needs to pay the training levy again if the employee is already on the TSS visa. However, there are also pathways where employees can obtain permanent residents on their own and then there is no training levy as it is not sponsored by the employer.

When it comes to moving an assignee, and their family, for example to Australia, do you expect families to be able to travel together?

Let’s say we have somebody going into Australia; we have an approved TSS Visa, and the family has also been approved, they should be able to travel together.

What we’re seeing in Australia is that there is no measure put in place yet, so we can’t know for certain just yet. Generally, what we’re seeing is that there is a hierarchy on who can travel and who can’t. So, we expect to see work visa and their family members to be able to travel sooner, rather than having business and tourist visas travelling.

So, if we have an approved TSS visa and TSS Visa for the family members as dependents, most likely, they should be able to travel together. It is still unclear, at this point, but that’s the expectation, and that’s what we’re seeing generally across APAC and the world.

I am concerned about assignees that are still moving, and we are worried that borders will open with a priority for work permits/ business visas, with no mention about allowances for family visas. 

From Australia and New Zealand, we would expect clarity on these issues. But equally, we’ve seen a lot of unclear information that may be interpreted in different ways. We might see work permit holders being able to travel sooner than family members. That is a possibility and we need to review it on a country by country basis.

As we see countries open up, maybe to business travel first, potentially before new long term residents coming in. Have you had any clients, asking about different types of visas? For example, instead of sending people on a long-term assignment so therefore applying for a long-term work permit, maybe applying for short-term visa, or simply looking at who they could send on a business trip.  Do we think that’s going to be a viable alternative in the short term? 

Yes, we have seen this to some extent, but actually the other way around. For example, in Taiwan, ordinary travel to Taiwan is currently not possible, however with a work visa, you can travel to Taiwan. Therefore, we are seeing some companies who have business travellers that need to travel to Taiwan for a couple of days, actually obtaining work visas for these foreign nationals. So, even for a short business trip, they have obtained a work visa, for them to be able to travel. So there may be some interim solutions, if there are urgent business travel needs.

At the moment quite a lot of places cannot progress at all, as they are going through a gradual, restarting, re-opening of government departments, authorities restarting/ processing existing applications. Other than time delays, what are your thoughts on additional costs? Do we get a sense that application costs may now increase significantly, or, again, too early to tell?

In Australia, we may see some changes, in order for them to protect local jobs for Australians they may increase application costs for long-term visas.

In other places there may be a need for governments to hire more employees in order to manage social distancing, and also perhaps build out facilities to make them bigger to be able to facilitate immigration processes. Therefore, we may see application costs going up or for visa applications as well.

Equally for visa processes, for a business visa or choice visa, which is done in person, you may need to be able to submit a health certificate, which may be an additional cost.

There may be more costs, but I would say, normally, the costs for short-term visa is quite minimal already. So, it’s not going to increase a lot, I think where we’re going to see costs going up more will be in the cases where governments want to protect the jobs of their nationals, that may be where application costs go up more rather than normal visitor visas.

Please may you expand on the additional costs and expectations that you predict over the coming months, outside of immigration, for example for people who might be stuck abroad or people already in the moving process?

During these last few months, it’s been very much reactive response, certainly for the clients that K2 is supporting. So, as we’ve dealt with evacuations, almost forced repatriations, and people getting held or stuck in locations, that has meant additional accommodation costs, extending visas, putting them into short-term accommodation, cancelling flights and travels, not just for the individual but for the family as well.

Looking forward, it is now about trying to predict what may be involved. Where an individual is from, what their nationality is, what passport they hold, or where they are ultimately coming from as well, will have a huge bearing on how companies and their relocation partners plan for, and execute on a move.

Individuals that may have actually been identified for transfers or assignments may now no longer be a viable candidate, because of the passport they are holding. So, all of these factors are going to have to be evaluated before companies initiate on a move.
Maybe in the short-term alternative solutions such as local hires, commuters where appropriate, short-term or business travel might be adopted.

Just because people are physically able to travel doesn’t necessarily mean that either the company or the individual will actually want to take up that travel. So, a lot of this needs to be built into the evaluation and identification of candidates, and then obviously the planning of preparations for the move themselves. So, a lot of considerations as we, as we move forward.

Access the recording of this session here.

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