August Global Immigration Update

Aug 24, 2023 | Global, Immigration Updates

This month’s Global Immigration Update includes more immigrant-friendly developments from Singapore, Australia, Canada, and more!

Spotlight on Singapore: Details of New COMPASS Framework for Employment Passes Goes Live September 1st

Overview

The new Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) for Employment Pass applications will go live in Singapore on September 1, 2023 for new applications (and September 1, 2024 for renewals). COMPASS will usher in several significant changes to the Employment Pass process, so it is crucial that companies with operations in Singapore understand the new system. We provide a brief recap of the new points-based system for Employment Pass applications, but please do not hesitate to get in touch with your WR team members should you need further assistance!

The COMPASS framework requires that to be successful new Employment Pass (EP) applications must score a minimum of 40 points based on the following categories:

  • Salary
  • Qualifications (education)
  • Diversity
  • Support for local employment
    ** Bonus points may be earned based on the job being on the shortage occupation list or the company aligning with strategic economic priorities **

Three scores are possible within each of the four foundational categories:

  • Exceeds expectations = 20 points
  • Meets expectations = 10 points
  • Does not meet expectations = 0 points

Salary – The minimum salary to qualify for an Employment Pass is SGD 5000 (SGD 5500 for the financial sector), but COMPASS also compares compare the salary offered to the average salary offered to local Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMET) in the company’s sector by age and awards points as follows:

  • 20 points if the salary is above the 90th percentile compared to
  • 10 points if it is between the 65th and 90th percentile
  • 0 points if it is below the 65th percentile

Qualifications – COMPASS looks at the degree held by the candidate and awards points as follows:

  • 20 points if the candidate’s diploma is from a school on the list of top-tier institutions that is released each March
  • 10 points if the candidate’s diploma is a degree-equivalent qualification
  • 0 points if the candidate’s diploma is not a degree-equivalent qualification

Diversity – COMPASS looks at the company’s diversity based on the nationality of their current PMET employees and awards points if the candidate is increasing the company’s diversity as follows:

  • 20 points if the share of the candidate’s nationality among company’s PMET’s is less than 5%
  • 10 points if the share of the candidate’s nationality is 5 to 25%
  • 0 points if the share of the candidate’s nationality is equal to or greater than 25%
  • Alternative: If the company has less than 25 PMETs they are automatically granted 10 points for Diversity
  • Frequency of update: Calculation is updated in the Company’s MOM Portal on the 6th of each month on the basis of the average data from the past three months

Support for local employment – COMPASS looks at how the company compares to other companies in its sector in terms of the percentage of local (Singaporean citizens and permanent resident) PMETs and awards points as follows:

  • 20 points if the company’s share of local PMETs is equal to or greater than the 50th percentile
  • 10 points if the company’s share of local PMETs is between the 20th and 50th percentile
  • 0 points if the company’s share of local PMETs is below the 20th percentile
  • Alternative: If the company has less than 25 PMETs they are automatically granted 10 points for Diversity
  • Frequency of update: Calculation is updated in the Company’s MOM Portal on the 6th of each month on the basis of the average data from the past three months

Bonus Points for Skills – If the job offered is on the Shortage Occupation List COMPASS awards 20 bonus points. Reduced to 10 points if the Diversity score is 0.

Bonus Points for Strategic Economic Priorities (SEP) – If the company contributes to Singapore’s SEP by participating in an eligible program and committing to local workforce development COMPASS awards 10 bonus points.

Action Items

Going forward, we strongly recommend that companies take the following actions to avoid unpleasant surprises under the new framework:

  1. Access the Portal – Log into the portal on a regular basis so that they can see where they fall in terms of the company-based attributes and take action to correct any erroneous information that could impact future Employment Pass applications.
  2. Pre-assess candidates – Conduct pre-assessments of candidates as soon as possible in the recruitment process, either through the COMPASS assessment tool available in companies’ MOM portals or in conjunction with counsel.
  3. Develop an immigration strategy – Strategically and proactively consider which categories they are most like to be able to earn “exceeds expectations” scores under to offset other categories that may be problematic for them. For instance, if salaries tend to be below the 90th (or even the 65th percentile), it may be prudent to try to maximize the nationality-based diversity of candidates to offset salary-based points losses or to focus on recruiting foreign nationals for jobs on the shortage occupation list.
  4. Audit renewals – Plan to audit their existing population of Employment Pass holders well in advance of the September 1, 2024 deadline when COMPASS will begin to be applied on renewal applications.

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Australia: 482 Work Visas

Australia has implemented a program where companies sponsoring UK nationals for Subclass 482 work visas will be exempted from having to complete labor market testing to show that an Australian national is not available to fill the role. This will reduce the burden of sponsorship and expedite timeline for securing a 482 work visa.

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Canada: H-1B Visa Holder Work Permit Program Closes in Record Time

The new program of open work permit for US H-1B visa holders proved to be even more popular than anticipated – the program closed after only one day as all 10,000 visas were allocated. However, other programs that were announced at the same time remain a possibility, including a remote work visa, prioritization of processing for visas in certain fields, and targeted invitations to apply for permanent residence based on skill areas.

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China: Visa Free Policy for Citizens of Singapore and Brunei

 China has instituted a visa free policy for citizens of Singapore and Brunei seeking to visit for purposes of tourism or business. They now allow citizens of Singapore and Brunei traveling to China to stay visa free for up to 15 days. If a traveler already holds a Chinese visa it will remain valid, potentially permitting a longer duration of stay than the new visa free policy.

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Israel: Harsh Penalties for Non-Compliant Companies

Summer has brought with it a sharp uptick in work site inspections in Israel, with the authorities imposing harsh penalties on companies that are not in compliance with immigration regulations. Companies should ensure that they are performing regular visa and work permit checks to be sure that all workers at their site hold proper immigration authorization, and that they are complying with all related regulations regarding employment contracts, wages, housing, insurance and the like for sponsored workers.

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UAE: Emiratization Requirement Extended

The UAE has recently extended its Emiratization requirement to apply to companies employing between 20 and 49 employees. These employers are now required to meet a quota for the minimum number of UAE nationals by hiring at least one new national in 2024 and one in 2025. Companies who fail to do so will be fined.

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