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SINGAPORE (March, 2016) – Employment Pass renewals undergoing greater scrutiny


Employment Pass renewals are undergoing increased scrutiny, but only certain applications are being flagged as suspicious. In particular, officials are watchful for applications from newer entities with a high ratio of foreign to Singaporean workers or instances where a foreign employee receives a sudden salary increase to meet Employment Pass criteria.


What does the change mean? In general, applications from established companies without any unusual changes are being renewed as usual. Renewal applications that raise the suspicion of immigration officers are not being renewed for a full two-year period, but instead are being approved for a shorter one-year period. 

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Employment Passes.
  • Who is affected: Companies sponsoring foreign workers for Employment Passes.
  • Business impact: Employers should review their policies and make sure they are in compliance with all regulations and be prepared for possible requests for additional documentation when renewing Employment Passes.

The Ministry of Manpower appears to be reviewing renewal applications more closely. Officials may request additional supporting documentation or reverification of educational degrees, for example. Applications in which an employee’s salary is suspected of being boosted to qualify for an Employment Pass instead of an S Pass (or an S Pass instead of a Work Permit) may also raise red flags.


In general, larger established companies with appropriate ratios of foreign workers as determined by the ministry and without any unusual changes to foreign employees’ salaries have not been affected by the increased scrutiny and are not experiencing difficulty in renewing Employment Passes for the full two years. BAL is following trends in approvals and enforcement and will update clients on any significant developments.



Spain – Citizenship for Descendants of Sephardic Jew


Effective 1 October 2015, anew law (Ley 12/2015) grants Spanish citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews.

Under the new law, descendants of Sephardic Jews will be granted Spanish citizenship without first holding a residence status in Spain, and without renouncing their nationality, if they meet the required criteria. Applicants must prove their Sephardic background and show a special link to Spain, such as donations to a Spanish charity or investment in Spanish property. Applicants over the age of 18 must also pass a test of Spanish language and knowledge of the culture and constitution of Spain. A criminal record certificate will also be required from any country in which the applicant has lived during the previous five years, as well as the applicant’s birth certificate. The citizenship application must be submitted online before 1 October 2018 (although the deadline may be extended an additional year).


Spain and Portugal both expelled Sephardic Jews in the fifteenth century. Earlier this year, a similar citizenship law came into effect in Portugal, with looser qualifying requirements. There are an estimated 3.5 million people of Sephardic heritage around the world, but it is expected that only a small proportion will apply for Spanish or Portuguese citizenship.

Action Items

  • Consider a Spanish or Portuguese citizenship application for employees who are of Sephardic heritage.



USCIS and FY2017 H-1B Petitions


On April 1, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2017 cap. U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering, and computer programming.


The congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas for FY 2017 is 65,000. The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap.


USCIS expects to receive more petitions than the H-1B cap during the first five business days of this year’s program. The agency will monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public when the H-1B cap has been met. If USCIS receives an excess of petitions during the first five business days, the agency will use a lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions required to meet the cap. USCIS will reject all unselected petitions that are subject to the cap as well as any petitions received after the cap has closed. USCIS has used the lotterey for the H-1B program for the last several years.


Premium processing for cap-subject petitions. H-1B petitioners may still continue to request premium processing together with their H-1B petition. However, USCIS may temporarily adjust its current premium processing practice based on historic premium processing receipt levels and the possibility that the H-1B cap will be met in the first five business days of the filing season.

  1. USCIS reminds H-1B petitioners that when the temporary employment or training will be in different locations, the state where the company of organization’s primary office is located will determine the appropriate Service Center to which petitioners should send the Form I-129 package, regardless of where in the United States the various worksites are located. When temporary employment or training will be in different locations, the address on page 1, Part 1 of Form I-129 is for the organization’s primary office. When listing a “home office” as a work site location on Part 5, question 3, USCIS will consider this a separate and distinct work site location.

Cases will be considered accepted on the date USCIS “takes possession of a properly filed petition with the correct fee.”

The Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL) recommends filing during the first five business days in April.


Contact your ABIL member for help with H-1B applications


מקור: Pearl Law Group