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February 23, 2011

Global News Briefs

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CANADA - Employers Advised to Prepare for Tougher Compliance Requirements
(February 22, 2011 – Pro-Link GLOBAL Inc.)

Fiscal Year 2012 H-1B Cap Filing Starts on April 1
(February 18, 2011 – Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP.)

Global InSight 18 February 2011
(February 18, 2011 – Deloitte)

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Changes to Australian Skilled Sponsored Visas (02/09/11)
Australia is revising the rules for its Australian Skilled Sponsored Visas to eliminate the permanent family sponsored visa, though family members can still be sponsored with the provisional sponsored migration visa, which can lead to permanent residence. Those expats with provisional sponsored skilled migration visas may still be eligible for a Skilled Regional Residence visa if they meet certain criteria. The changes take place July 1, and the government is expecting demand for skilled foreign workers to increase as the Australian economy grows.

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Bulgaria to Benefit from EU Blue Card (02/08/11)
The new EU Blue Card will allow skilled workers from outside the union to take jobs in member states, and is expected to benefit countries like Bulgaria that have a major shortage of highly skilled workers. It will be easier for workers from the Ukraine, Serbia, Russia, Turkey, Croatia, and Moldavia to find work in Bulgaria and other EU countries although, to qualify for the blue card, they must have a higher education certificate. Not all member states are taking part in the blue card program—the U.K. is opting out, for example—but those participating must have the blue card directive implemented by July 1.

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New Rules Impact the Future of Representative Offices in China
Mondaq (02/09/11) Roos, Maarten; Yun, Chen
Many foreign companies opt to establish a presence in China by forming a representative office. Such an office cannot engage in commercial activities like trade, services, or manufacturing, but can hire expatriates (directly) and local employees (indirectly) for the purposes of liaison activities and marketing. A representative office also gives a foreign company the means to pay expenses directly in China. However, China has adopted new legislation effective March 1, 2011, designed to more strictly regulate such offices, reemphasizing that they are prohibited from engaging in commercial activities. Under the new representative office rules, such offices are specifically permitted to organize market surveys, exhibitions, and publicity activities related to the products and services of the foreign parent company. They can also engage in liaison activities related to the sales of products, provision of services, domestic procurements, and onshore investments of the foreign parent company. Any activities beyond this scope will be prohibited, and failure to comply can lead to a fine of CNY 10,000 to CNY 100,000. In serious circumstances, the representative office's business license will be revoked. If a representative office engages in profit-making activities, its proceeds and business-related tools, raw materials, equipment, and products could be confiscated, and the representative office can be fined between CNY 50,000 and CNY 500,000.

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Foreign Companies Resuming Normal Operations in Egypt
Wall Street Journal (02/14/11) van der Meulen, Anna Marij; Karpstein, Matthias; Benoit, Angeline

Following weeks of protests and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation, foreign companies are now rushing to get the operations in Egypt back to normal. Businesses are working on restarting factories and sending back expatriate workers evacuated during the turmoil. There are still some problems preventing business in Egypt from returning to normal, including some ongoing protests and strikes by workers including the police, bank, textile, and oil workers, demanding higher pay and better conditions. Still, companies including brewer Heineken, consumer goods giant Unilever, chemicals company Akzo Nobel, and industrial giant Siemens, say they have resumed near-normal operations in Egypt. Unilever, which has four production sites in Egypt, says it recently resumed operations, and Heineken says it is once again fully operational. Heineken spokeswoman Anoeska van Leeuwen says half of Heineken's 25 expatriate employees had returned by mid-February, and the other half were expected to return by the end of the month. Cement and building materials manufacturer Lafarge says its operations were hit hard by the crisis, but have fully recovered, and that the company has repatriated about 70 foreign workers who are now returning to Egypt.

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Global Interest

Unhappy Expat? It’s Time to Change Your House (02/14/11) Hyslop, Leah

The Interchange Institute conducted an online survey of 130 expats living in 48 countries and found that those who like their home are more loyal to their employer, happier with their jobs, and have better mental health than those who were not happy with their homes. The home’s decor and the neighborhood influenced their happiness, expats said, though their spouses tended to be most concerned with privacy, decor, and comfort. Curiously, those living in open-plan or “centripetal” homes had the highest happiness rates, though few had specifically chosen that type of home for themselves. “Those who had such houses generally found settling in far easier, probably because this type of home brings everyone together more and breaks down barriers,” said Dr. Anne Copeland, the institute’s director and co-author of the study. She recommended that anyone planning to live abroad visit homes in person before choosing and, once moved in, personalize quickly. “Regardless of the type of house you end up in, it's the steps you take to ‘nest’ and make it feel like home which will often affect the success of your expat assignment ... most people in a new home will unpack their boxes straight away, but the happiest expats in our study were those who had very quickly put up their family photos.”

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong Rents Third Most Expensive in World
Wall Street Journal (02/15/11)
Rents in Hong Kong were 22 percent higher in September compared to the same period last year, putting the city in third place on ECA International’s list of most expensive rental markets in the world. The city is also the third-most expensive in the overall residential market, thanks to a rise in housing prices, up from ninth place in 2010. Tokyo and Moscow held the top two spots with monthly rent in Tokyo averaging $4,352 for a two-bedroom apartment compared to $2,380 in Hong Kong. In the high-end real estate market Hong Kong takes second place for luxury two-bedroom homes, and it is the most expensive for three-bedroom luxury homes, averaging $16,700 per month. Tight supply, low interest rates, and strong liquidity have combined to heat up the property market in Hong Kong, said ECA Asia regional director Lee Quane. But companies do not hesitate to locate employees here, he says, because other Asian markets are also expensive. “Most companies in Hong Kong are already familiar with the expensive accommodations we have,” he said. “That hasn’t made them get up and leave.”

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Foreign Workers Threatened by Changes to Agency Laws
Moscow News (02/09/11) Bentley, Ed

Russia is considering a bill to ban agency labor, which could cause thousands of expatriates in the country to lose their jobs. The bill would severely restrict outsourcing, and many business groups have expressed strong opposition. If the bill were made law, “the influx of highly skilled foreign professionals to Russia would be suspended,” said the Association of European Businesses. Currently just 0.2 percent of the country’s workers come from recruitment agencies, a much lower number than most developed countries. And the new law would produce “a sharp increase in unemployment, loss of investment attractiveness, lower tax payments to the budget, extensive corruption, and new growth in gray and black labor payment schemes and illegal employment,” the organization said. Supporters of the bill say the existing law allows employers to avoid paying taxes and that it would not prevent foreign workers from coming to Russia, as companies must hire through the Federal Migration Service and obey quotas already. The IT industry is a particular problem, they say, as some workers have been with a company for years but are technically still contracted with recruitment firms.

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South Korea

Interns Help Make Seoul More Foreign-Friendly
Korea Times (Korea) (02/11/11) Rahn, Kim
Policies for expatriates in Seoul City are being shaped with the input of foreign interns, who are providing the perspective of users as part of their internship for the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Chinese student Ma Qianqian has been interning for five weeks, and has suggested that public centers for migrant workers should have more education about Korean culture. “The center currently offers Korean language and computer classes to foreign employees,” Ma said. “But I think it would be better if it provides programs through which they can learn about Korean culture, like Korean cooking classes or field trips.” There are interns from 21 countries participating in the program, and they are placed at city government offices and affiliated organizations such as Seoul Global Center and Seoul Namsan Gugakdang. At the end of their internship they are asked for input on expat policy, and the government has already made changes based on their suggestions. “Some pointed out that signboards, information announcements on subways and city maps for foreigners, which we thought were expat-friendly, were actually not,” said city official Shin Dong-Hoon. “We amended them following their suggestions.” The program grows more popular each year, with 216 people applying for 43 positions in 210.

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South Sudan

South Sudan's Next Task: Build a Nation From Scratch (02/08/2011) Baldauf, Scott; Harman, Danna
South Sudan is close to full independence after 22 years of civil war, and now the country must deal with the reality of building a new nation from scratch. The enormous undertaking will require the help of returning refugees who have become skilled workers while exiled in foreign countries. The country will continue to develop its military strength to avoid future wars, but now needs “more conventional skills, too, like how to sit in offices and make things function,” said Malul Ayom Dor, one of the limited number of skilled administrators in the country and among the most educated in the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. The long civil war left a generation of Sudanese uneducated, but many of the thousands that were exiled gained higher degrees started their own businesses overseas. "These returnees can be very helpful to us today," says Alor. "They bring back ideas and investment and language. They are an asset." One returnee said it is an adjustment to return home when they have become accustomed to life in a developed country. “It is hard to start fresh,” said Subek David, who has been living in Australia. “But I was always longing for my home. It feels different being here. It is home. Now we just need to put it in order."

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United Arab Emirates

Medical Check Must Be Completed in the U.A.E.
Move One (02/15/2011) Emri, Agnes
Medical exams for UAE residency visa applicants can be completed only in the UAE, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labor and the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai has confirmed. Currently, foreigners must take a blood test and chest x-ray in an approved hospital or clinic. In free zones, appointments are arranged through the zone authority. Employees of private companies, registered with the Ministry of Labor (outside of free zones), should obtain medical fitness request either online or at a typing center. Testing positive for HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis or syphilis will result in deportation, under current policy.

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United Kingdom

Air Traffic Controllers No Longer Skilled Enough to Enter UK Under Immigration System (02/08/11) Peacock, Louisa

The U.K.’s Migration Advisory Committee has advised the government to remove 71 job titles from the list of those allowed into the country from outside the U.K. under the Tier 2 points-based immigration system, and among those no longer considered skilled enough for the designation are air traffic controllers, hairdressers, and engineering technicians. This would reduce migrant numbers by about 10,000, the committee says. Those still qualified for Tier 2 include nurses, teachers, civil engineers, and financial analysts. "Skilled foreign workers make a valuable contribution to the British economy but, in the context of limits on migration, it is essential that the immigration system is designed to select those migrants we need the most,” said David Metcalf, chair of the committee. “We have recognized this by ensuring our recommendations will allow the most skilled to continue to come and work here." British Chamber of Commerce Policy Director Adam Marshall said companies understand the need for tighter eligibility criteria, but want to make sure they can get the workers they need. “An inflexible system could harm business growth,” he said.

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High Earners Exempt from Immigration Curbs
Sky News (02/16/11) Errington, Ursula
A new law in the U.K. will allow expatriates earning more than GBP150,000 per year to work without being counted as part of the immigration quota. Starting in April, the new cap on migrants allows less than 21,000 expatriates into the country per year, and each applicant will have to have a certificate of sponsorship from an employer in the U.K. and will be assigned points based on their skills—highly skilled professionals like scientists will get more points than others. Those coming from outside the EU must have a graduate-level job, speak English, and earn at least GBP20,000. For April the top 4,200 applicants will be granted entry, and afterward the limit will be GBP1,500 per month. The rules will be relaxed for multinational companies transferring their own workers abroad, and employees earning at least GBP40,000 may relocate using an Intra-Company Transfer. Those planning to stay less than one year need make only GBP20,000 per year. "Britain needs to attract the brightest and best to fill the jobs gaps but this should never be at the expense of workers already here," said Home Office Minister Damian Green. British companies applauded the new rules and Adam Marshal, director of policy at the British Chamber of Commerce, said it is evidence that the government “is listening harder to business concerns ... companies will have a better chance of getting much-needed international talent and growing their business.”

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United States

Expatriate U.S. Voters Finding It Easier to Receive Ballots
New York Times (02/12/11) Knowlton, Brian

American expatriates say that they are finding it easier to obtain absentee ballots thanks to the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, however many of those ballots are still going uncounted according to the Overseas Vote Foundation. The law requires states to provide absentee ballots at least 45 days before a federal election unless the state has a Defense Department-approved waiver. Last year six states were granted waivers, though all states provided ballots via e-mail or online download in response to the new law. One-third of expats participating in the foundation’s web survey said they still could not vote because they did not get their ballot in time, though it is better than 2008 when 50 percent had the same problem. There are still some problems with states’ interpretation of the new law, though—it specifies that states may not reject ballots because they are not officially witnessed or notarized, but does not require them to remove the language instructing voters to be notarized, and this can have “a very distinct chilling effect,” said the foundation’s Claire M. Smith.

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