-- July 2014 ~ Travel and Immigration 101

Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Australian Visa Program to Lure Wealthy Chinese

country. The visa helps its holder to invest money abroad. A typical applicant is a millionaire and invests around $4.73 million to qualify for Australian residency. The visa also helps to sidestep restrictions imposed by the Chinese government on converting the currency and sending it to foreign shores.
The visa has literally opened a money train into Australia. According to Baker & McKenzie LLP, a law firm, investments through this channel could be in the tune of $9.45 billion per year. Approximately $1,000 individuals have sent in their applications. Many more applications are to be expected after a similar program was canceled by Canada in February. The sheer numbers have compelled the Australian government to hasten the review process and quicken the proposals. Many banks and hedge funds are actively competing to capture this kind of money.

According to Bill Fuggle, partner, Baker & McKenzie, based in Sydney, these investors are not the run-of-the-mill private equity kind of investors. He says that fund managers are required to visit China and then convince a prospective client of investing in Australia not simply for a visa, but also for a better lifestyle and also with the aim of preserving wealth.

These Significant Investor Visas, issued by Australia, are available with a minimum investment of $500,000 and a need for job creation. The visas are created to attract foreign capital and permit permanent residency in Australia.

According to the website hosted by the Department of Immigration, immigrants must put A$5 million into certain funds or government bonds which invest in agribusiness, infrastructure and real estate assets. The applicant at first must complete a residency of a minimum of 40 days every year over a period of four years before the permanent residency is granted.

The first visa under this program, named the 188 visa, after the number eight being considered auspicious among Chinese, was given to a Chinese toy manufacturer in 2013. The Australian Government has now made clear its intentions of “rebooting” the concerned visa regime making it easier to implement it.
The visa approval process has been made quicker after the new Liberal National coalition took over Australian administration reins in 2013. About 282 applicants were awarded the visas in the September 2013 to June 2014 period, in contrast to the four granted during the program's initial seven months.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Very Bad Week: Airline Disasters Come In A Cluster

Nearly 300 passengers are killed when their plane is shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine. Airlines suspend flights to Israel's largest airport after rocket attacks. An airliner crashes during a storm in Taiwan, and yet another disappears in West Africa. Aviation has suffered one of its worst weeks in memory. Industry analysts and safety experts say they can find no common themes. Nor do they think the events indicate that flying is suddenly becoming less safe.
Less than one in 2 million flights last year ended in an accident in which the plane was damaged beyond repair, according to the International Air Transport Association. That includes accidents involving cargo and charter airlines as well as scheduled passenger flights.

"One of the things that makes me feel better when we look at these events is that if they all were the same type event or same root cause then you would say there's a systemic problem here, but each event is unique in its own way," said Jon Beatty, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, an airline industry-supported nonprofit in the U.S. that promotes global aviation safety.

But Beatty said he also finds the disaster cluster "a cold reminder" that airline accidents are likely to increase because the industry is growing, especially in developing countries. The more flights there are, the more potential for accidents, he said.

The misfortunes began July 18 when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine with 298 people on board. It's still not clear who fired the missile that destroyed the plane, but Ukrainian officials have blamed pro-Russian rebels.

The mysterious disappearance in March of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people on board, combined with the destruction of Flight 17, added up to more than twice the total global airline fatalities in all of last year, which was the industry's safest year on record. Ascend, a global aviation industry consulting firm based in London, counted 163 fatalities in 2013 involving airliners with 14 seats or more.

On Wednesday, a TransAsia Airways plane crashed in Taiwan in stormy weather trailing a typhoon, killing 48 passengers, injuring 10 others and crew and injuring five people on the ground. On Thursday,an Air Algerie flight with 116 passengers and crew disappeared in a rainstorm over Mali en route from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital. The plane was operated for the airline by Swiftair, a Spanish carrier.

Together, the disasters have the potential to push airline fatalities this year to over 700 — the most since 2010. And 2014 is still barely half over.
Aviation industry analyst Robert W. Mann Jr. said he doesn't expect the recent events to deter travelers from flying.
"They're all tragic, but the global air travel consumer has a very short memory, and it's highly localized to their home markets where they fly," he said.

Airline passengers interviewed by The Associated Press said they weren't overly concerned about their safety.

"It could be happening every day or never again," said Bram Holshoff, a Netherlands traveler at Berlin's Tegel Airport. "It's a bit much that it happened three times this week, but for me nothing will change."
Lam Nguyen, 52, of Tahiti, who was headed to Los Angeles from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, said he considers flying "a very safe mode of transportation."

"And if it has to happen, it will happen. ... It doesn't prevent me from taking planes," he said.

The shootdown of Flight 17 has raised questions about whether airlines, and the aviation authorities in their home countries, are adjusting flight routes quickly enough when unrest in troubled parts of the world threatens the safety of planes. But aviation safety consultant John Cox, a former airline pilot and accident investigator, said he sees no connection between that event and the other disasters.

"I don't know how you could respond to anything when there is not a commonality of events," he said. "We don't have a full understanding of the Taiwan accident, and certainly not on the" Air Algerie plane.

Cox attributed the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's decision Tuesday to prohibit flights to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv to "hypersensitivity" to the possibility of another shootdown. The FAA issued the order after a Hamas rocket exploded about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the airport. The prohibition was lifted 36 hours later.

Aviation is "fundamentally safe and getting safer, but can it can always fall prey to the mistakes or ill will of man," said former FAA chief counsel Kenneth Quinn. "We sometimes forget the magic of flight, or the fragility of life, but this week has brought home the need to appreciate this more and protect both better."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

How To Be a Better Traveler

We all like to think we’re pretty good tourists, expanding our horizons and learning about foreign cultures, but sometimes even the most experienced traveler can be guilty of some common travel slip ups. To guide you along a more enlightened path, here’s how to be a better traveler.

  • Contribute: Contributing to the local economy is one of the best things you can do when travelling. By buying locally made products or staying in homegrown hotels (not big international chains), your tourist dollars go direct to the people who need them. If you’re visiting an orphanage or school in a developing country, find out beforehand whether it’s worth bringing items such as pencils or schoolbooks for the local children.
  • Research: Heading somewhere new? Then do some research on the local customs and traditions, even if it’s just for five minutes on the plane. You may find out what not to wear, whether some gestures could be misinterpreted as rude, or even pick up useful some local words. Are public displays of affection frowned upon? You’d thank yourself for finding out before anything happened.
  • Show respect: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. You should remain respectful to everyone you meet, whether that’s the women at the convenience store, the hawker interrupting your beach session, or someone working behind the airport check-in counter. If you treat others with respect, then they’re more likely to offer helpful advice if things go wrong.
  • Live in the moment: Are you guilty of dining in McDonald’s everywhere you go? Trust us, it tastes the same. Travelling should be able trying new things, even if that’s a local delicacy you can’t pronounce. Be adventurous, and you’ll get a whole lot more out of your experience.
  • Don’t blow your lid: Schedules inevitably change when travelling. Although this can be extremely frustrating, blowing your top about it isn't going to help anyone - least of all you. Being patient and accepting of the situation, knowing that it will eventually get resolved, will get you a lot further as people are more likely to help a calm person than an irate one.
  • Be patient: Patience is a virtue. When you accept that most things are going to be done differently from what you’re used to, you’ll have a more relaxing trip. Some countries are much more laid back than others and may take longer to respond to requests. Just be patient.
  • Go local: You never know if or when you will get to experience the country you are travelling in again, so try to get the most out of it. Hang with the locals, learn about places to explore which aren’t mentioned in your guidebook, and just soak up the authentic local culture.
  • Be a good passenger: Long plane and bus journeys are usually pretty uncomfortable, so stay mindful of your fellow passengers. Avoid invading their personal space by spilling into their seat, and if you have a weak bladder maybe request the aisle seat. Everyone is pretty crammed together so it’s also a good idea to freshen up before you embark on the long journey.
  • Barter with respect: When visiting developing countries, most market vendors are usually open to a bit of bargaining and quite enjoy the banter that goes along with it. Just keep in mind that the $1 or so you’re bargaining over may feed this salespersons family for days, so stay fair and real. Don’t treat the person poorly just because you’re trying to secure a better deal.
  • Be organised: Ensure you are totally organised before you set off on your travels. Have your map and guide book close and exchange some money before you leave. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport to avoid unexpected delays.

Friday, July 25, 2014

After 17 Years, Naia-3 To Be Fully Operational

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 will finally be fully operational by the end of July, the Transportation department said, noting that it has been 17 years since the contract for the project has been awarded.
Five international carriers will transfer to NAIA-3 from NAIA-1 starting next week. Delta Airlines will fly out of the newest terminal by August 1. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and Cathay Pacific will soon follow suit.

“We are extremely pleased to confirm that full airline operations will begin at NAIA Terminal 3 next week. Our gateway airport will now be able to welcome 3.5 million more passengers with modern facilities every year, “ Transport chief Emilio Abaya said.

The contract, awarded in 1997, was supposed to have been finished by 2002. Allegations of anomalous transactions with contractor Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc., and cases consequently filed, have stalled project completion.

The terminal opened in 2008, but has been operating at half its intended capacity of 13 million passengers. In August 2013, the government struck a deal with the original contractor Takenaka Corp. to complete the project pending resolution of cases.

“[T]he Japanese firm has undertaken completion works for systems such as, flight information displays, computer terminals, gate coordination, landing bridges, and fire protection systems” over the past year, the Transport department said.

Around 85 percent of the works had been completed, it added, noting that other systems “which are non-critical to full airline operations, such as the building maintenance system,” would likely be completed within the year.

The transfer of five airlines to NAIA-3 is expected to reduce NAIA-1’s annual passenger traffic to its design capacity of 4.5 million from its current rate of 8 million. NAIA-1, which has been tagged the worst airport in the world, is also undergoing renovation.

Abaya added that the five carriers transferring to NAIA-3 “have the highest volume of international flights coming in and out of NAIA, so we look forward to giving them a new home.” The move thus cuts he number of travelers affected by NAIA-1 works.

The Cabinet official said NAIA-3’s completion is part of the President Benigno Aquino’s promise of good governance. “We made sure that 17 years and 4 administrations later, the whole Terminal 3 facility may be enjoyed by the public,” Abaya said.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Few Biting So Far on Japan Special Visa for Workers

Desperate to reinvigorate the long-stalled economy, the government has spent the past two years cozying up to highly skilled foreign workers through a batch of visa perks. There’s just one problem: few have been wooed.
Hoping to change that, the government passed a bill through the Diet in June to revise the Immigration Law, giving skilled foreigners a new visa status that allows them to stay indefinitely and with a broadened roster of privileges.

“Launching a new visa specifically designed for them means a lot, because that shows the world Japan is becoming more serious than ever about accepting those skilled foreigners,” said Immigration Bureau official Nobuko Fukuhara.

Questions remain, however, over whether creating the new visa alone will encourage more foreigners to move to Japan. Experts say little will change unless Japan brings its corporate culture more in line with global standards and reinvents itself as a place more foreigners would want to live in.

Under the current system, foreigners who earn more than 70 points in a government-designated evaluation system, based on criteria such as annual income, academic background and language skills, can stay in Japan under a “designated activities” visa status for five years.

During that time, they are granted a series of perks, including a fast track to permanent residency, working visa status for their spouses and the right to bring along their parents and housekeepers.

At the end of five years, they can switch to permanent residency, but would lose all the visa privileges they have enjoyed up to that point.

Since its launch in May 2012, the government-sponsored initiative to attract so-called highly skilled foreigners has trodden a rocky road. It kicked off with a grand goal of 2,000 registrants per year, but as of April 30, almost two years after its start, only 1,276 people were deemed eligible.

Of them, only 59 ended up using the program to enter the country as of the end of March, according to the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau, which oversees the program.

Meanwhile, under the revised law, which will take effect next April, foreigners who qualify for the points-based program could get a quasi-permanent residency visa status after three years, instead of the current five. Tentatively titled “highly skilled professionals,” people with this new visa could not only to stay in Japan indefinitely like permanent residents, but remain eligible for the perks for as long as they live here.

But there’s a catch. While permanent residents can do as they like, including nothing, those designated highly skilled professionals would have to keep working. In other words, they can’t stay if they get fired or retire. They will lose their privileged visa if they remain inactive for more than six months.

What’s more, Eriko Suzuki, an associate professor at Kokushikan University, says the visa perks themselves are restrictive. For example, while guaranteed the right to bring along their parents, the way the rule stands they must be the baby sitters of their grandchildren, up to age 7. This means they’ll have to leave once their child-rearing duties have ended.

“The implication is that the government doesn’t want those foreign parents to burden its social welfare system,” she said.

The bigger problem, Suzuki points out, is the overall unattractiveness of Japan’s corporate climate. Gender inequality, a deeply ingrained “organization-first” mindset and a tendency to overwork employees are all hallmarks of Japan’s corporations that repel most foreigners.

Wage systems are also different. However talented those foreigners might be, Suzuki predicts few employers would dare to pay them any better than long-term Japanese employees.

Making the working environment more foreigner-friendly is also high on the government’s agenda.

Several government ministries will work together to “identify problems regarding Japan’s lifestyles and working environments” and hash out solutions by the end of this fiscal year, the government’s growth strategies released in June said of the highly skilled foreigner program.

The Japanese government aims to lure 5,000 highly skilled foreigners by 2017.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Top 10 Airlines around the Globe for Flying Economy

Flying is often simply something we have to do to get our holiday started but these airlines are doing their best to make sure it is enjoyable. This list of the best airline economy offerings has been compiled by Business Insider Australia and is ranked on two factors; experience on the plane and timely departure and arrival. The data is collected from reviews on Skytrax and on-time performance from Flightstats.com. You can see the full calculations at Business Insider.
10. Thai Airways Economy seats on the Thai national carrier are of a high quality with reviewers praising the friendly staff and good food options. A lack of in-seat entertainment on some of the older planes is something holding the airline back. In-flight experience: 78 On-time performance: 82 

9. Oman Air Reviews say the seats on this small airline are super-comfortable bringing it into number nine on this list. In-flight experience: 82 On-time performance: 76 

8. Lufthansa Professional and friendly crew, along with tasty food are what bring Europe’s largest airline to number eight. In-flight experience: 80 On-time performance: 80 

7. Korean Air Leg room is what passengers want and it is what Korean Air delivers along with very clean planes making this Seoul-based carrier popular. In-flight experience: 78 On-time performance: 84 

6. Emirates This popular airline out of Dubai is host to one of the best in-flight entertainment systems that is praised by passengers travelling on its many long-haul routes. In-flight experience: 82 On-time performance: 79 

5. Malaysia Airlines Consistent great service on board Malaysia Airlines flights are what we see from reviews. The 5-star airline also offers great value for money. In-flight experience: 83 On-time performance: 77 

4. Asiana Airlines Receiving top marks for efficiency of service and comfort, passengers love this 5-star airline. In-flight experience: 85 On-time performance: 78 

3. Qatar Airways This impressive airline doesn’t make the top spot due to poor on-time performance but the great in-flight entertainment and the fact that economy passengers get to enjoy features like smartphone and tablet connectivity to their personal screens is a plus. In-flight experience: 90 On-time performance: 71 

2. All Nippon Airways (ANA) Cleanliness and safety are what make this Japanese airline stand out from the crowd. The fact that many of the planes feature a slide-forward, side-reclining seat that increases overall privacy doesn’t hurt either. In-flight experience: 85 On-time performance: 83 

1. Singapore Airlines Topping this list for the second year running, Singapore Airlines ticks all the boxes for service, in-flight entertainment and cabin cleanliness. In-flight experience: 90 On-time performance: 83

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Know The Most Visited Cities in the World

We weren't surprised that London is the most popular international travel destination. But the other cities rounding out the index may surprise you. Bangkok, Singapore, and Dubai all saw a surge in international visitors this year that is expected to continue growing with advances in technology and a rising middle class in emerging markets.

It has been a tight race between London and Bangkok for the No. 1 position in the last few years. Bangkok first overtook London in 2013 to become the top-ranked destination city in the world, but London regained the top rank this year with an 8 percent growth in visitors versus an 11 percent decline in Bangkok’s visitors due to political unrest in Thailand.

Half of the top destination cities in the index were in Asia, while the United States has only one city, New York, in the top 10.

Here are the top destinations that people are visiting right now:
10. Seoul — Expects 8.63 million visitors in 2014. 
9. Hong Kong — Expects 8.84 million visitors in 2014. 
8. Kuala Lumpur — Expects 10.81 million visitors in 2014. 
7. Istanbul — Expects 11.6 million visitors in 2014.
6. New York — Expects 11.81 million visitors in 2014. 
5. Dubai — Expects 11.95 million visitors in 2014. Dubai’s international visitors are surging, with a growth rate of 7.5 percent. If current growth persists, Dubai is poised to overtake both Paris and Singapore as an international destination within the next five years. 
4. Singapore — Expects 12.47 million visitors in 2014. 
3. Paris — Expects 15.57 million visitors in 2014. 
2. Bangkok — Expects 16.42 million visitors in 2014 
1. London — Expects 18.7 million visitors in 2014.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Immigration Bureau Uses High-tech Visas to Track Tourists

The Bureau of Immigration has started using new high-tech security visa stickers to thwart counterfeiting and other so-called "illegal transactions."
In a statement, the BI said the intricately designed security visa stickers for temporary visitor’s visa (TVVs) have features that are supposedly impossible to duplicate.

BI Commissioner Siegfred Mison said the security visa sticker for TVV is available at the BI head office in Intramuros, Manila; Makati, Baguio, Cebu and Davao offices.

Mison said the same technology is used in making the security visa sticker for Special Study Permit (SSP) and Long-Stay Visitor Visa Extension (LSSVE).

According to the BI, the sticker visa label has a self-adhesive substrate, UV dull and rounded corner and micro line prints.

Mison said the new security visa sticker is part of BI’s modernization program and should help in the BI’s drive against fake stamps.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thousands of jobs at risk after Senate disallows visa changes for foreign offshore rig workers

The Federal Government says foreigners working on offshore oil and gas projects are being forced to stop work after the Senate killed off a new visa regime.
Last night Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United Party teamed up in the Senate to stop foreign workers being employed on maritime crew visas.

Assistant Minister for Immigration Michaelia Cash says the foreign workers will now have to down tools, and that could have flow-on effects for other workers.

"Labor senators knowingly placed thousands of Australian jobs at risk," she said.

Labor and the Greens had the support of Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan, Australian Motoring Enthusiast senator Ricky Muir and the three Palmer United Party senators - including Jacqui Lambie, who said the regulation applied to workers on ships that were permanently in Australian waters, adding they should have their full conditions protected.

"The rates of pay of these seafarers are so low that it will be impossible for vessel operators to ignore the option of employing overseas workers within Australia's exclusive economic zone," she said.

Paddy Crumlin from the Maritime Union of Australia said the maritime crew visa was a loophole being used to exploit workers.

"It was here to bring in Filipino, Indonesian seafarers, not on Australian wages and conditions," he said.

Senator Cash said she was seeking urgent advice from the Immigration Department.

"We will currently have people who are literally on vessels or potentially on rigs, who had temporary visas up until the disallowance motion went through, who if they now undertake the role that they are being paid to do will be in breach of their temporary work conditions," she said.

"Will the contracts that these companies have be able to be discharged? I don't know." 

Senator Cash dismissed the view that the regulations allowed workers to be paid less than Australian standards as "propaganda" by the Maritime Union, which she called the most militant union in Australia.

Government can issue quick fix, says Bandt

Greens industrial relations spokesman Adam Bandt said Senator Cash could easily ensure that everyone affected could keep working.

"The minister can issue a new regulation that says people who are working in offshore oil and gas can continue to do it if they're from overseas," he said.

"It just means that the basic floor that applies is Australian wages and conditions. You can't undercut that."

Fifield accuses Greens, Labor of delaying carbon tax repeal

The disallowance motion has demonstrated that the Government cannot take anything for granted in the Upper House at the moment.

The Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Mitch Fifield, accused the Greens and Labor of a deliberate go-slow on the carbon tax debate.

He said they spent three-and-a-half hours on one amendment.

"That is not acceptable. It is seeking to delay the inevitable, seeking to defy the will of the Australian people expressed through the ballot box," he said.

"We will use the full avenues available in the Parliament to ensure the carbon tax is repealed."

He said a gag motion could be used to cut off debate.

"There are a range of parliamentary procedures which are available and we will use those to best advantage to make sure the carbon tax is repealed," he said.

Senator Fifield hinted he could have the support of crossbenchers for a gag motion.

"Parliamentarians have had their say over 50 hours of debate with the three presentations of the repeal package to the Senate ... and the interesting thing is that actually everyone knows what their position is," he said.

"It's time to vote. It's time to repeal the tax."

Senator Fifield also reiterated the Government's determination to have a vote on the mining tax repeal bill.

"If the Senate needs to continue for an additional day to make sure that we vote on the repeal of the mining tax then that's what will happen," he said. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Immigration Hunts Fake-Passport Holders

The Immigration Office in Batam has increased its efforts to detect illegal migrant workers from Indonesia using fake passports with fake visa stamps.
Last week, immigration officials at Batam Center Port confiscated 40 counterfeit documents from workers. Batam Immigration Office head Yudi Kurniadi said his office had blacklisted and slapped travel bans on 200 illegal migrant workers since June.

“Ahead of Idul Fitri, we usually see a high influx of migrant workers who return home from Malaysia, so our officials have to be more alert,” he told The Jakarta Post.

He said fake visa stamps were generally different in format and color. His office also found fake visas from other Southeast Asian nations.

Yudi said the perpetrators could be prosecuted, but he preferred to give them some leeway by applying travel bans and blacklisting them.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thailand Immigration Gets Tough

Foreigners who exit Thailand to extend their visa-free stay will not be allowed to re-enter the country at airports and land checkpoints, effective 12 August. A ban on the out/in trips has already been effective since last month at land checkpoints, but on 12 August it will extend to all modes of transport; air, land and sea. The out/in trips allow foreigners to extend their visa-free stay in Thailand by simply stamping their passport at a border checkpoint.
Many do it to avoid having to apply for a 60-day tourist visa or the 90-day non-immigrant visa, the basic visa that allows them to apply for a work permit. Thailand’s Immigration Bureau confirmed it would strictly apply  the law, effective 12 August, which will end the practice of  border  runs for many foreigners who reside in Thailand to seek work. The practice is incorrectly called “visa-runs” by some media channels, but in fact it is really about exploiting a loophole to allow them to stay in Thailand without the need to apply for a visa.

Foreigners visit overland checkpoints that are close by such as Aranyaphrathet at the border with Cambodia, around 200 km east of Bangkok, or the far north border at Mae Sai, just 80 km from Chiang Rai town. When officials adopt the policy at airports  it could cause considerable expense for airlines that are legally forced to fly the traveller back to the place they embarked on the aircraft. Some travellers may decide to get a new passport with no previous Thailand entry and exit stamps to start a clean slate.

But the immigration bureau is making this move knowing it has the capability to check every foreigner’s travel history in the country. The ability to track and crackdown on offenders is based on a technology  upgrade that has  linked all airport and overland checkpoints to a national database  so online checks can be made at  border checkpoints  to show the travellers previous trips and profile.

The crackdown should not impact on genuine tourists, but it will force visitors who want to stay much longer in the country to apply for a tourist visa, rather than rely on repeated visa-free entries. It could technically cause some inconvenience to travellers who use Thailand as holiday base to visit neighbouring countries. They may stay in Thailand for 15 days tour the main destinations and then take a trip to Myanmar for a week before returning to Bangkok for a final round of shopping and entertainment before they return home.

In this case, showing return ticket to their home country and details of their trips and bookings in Thailand and neighbouring countries should be enough to convince immigration officials they are not stamp collectors exploiting visa-free privileges. Border runners are those who leave Thailand and return immediately for the purpose of extending their stay. By exploiting visa exemptions, or the extensions allowed on a 60-day tourist visa, many foreigners can work illegally in language schools, or restaurants and other businesses for months or years.

It is easier for some to get jobs this way, as some employers do not want to go through the complicated process of seeking work permits and like to avoid the expense involved. The tourism business is not immune to this practice as many people working as guides, or working for travel related companies, even hotels, do not have work permits or the appropriate visa to start the process.

The Immigration Bureau website said: “Leniency will be granted until 12 August, but only for passengers arriving by air. Foreigners who come to Thailand must seek a proper visa in line with the purpose of their intended stay here.” Now, those on a visa run who are allowed back in will find an “O-I” (Out-In) mark next to their latest entry stamp. From 13 August, nobody with an O-I sign on their passport will be allowed to re-enter Thailand if they cannot produce a proper visa.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

35 Genius Travel Tips that Can Make your Vacation Easy

Travel is full of pitfalls. One wrong step and your vacation could be ruined by a seedy hotel room, an overpriced restaurant, a wasted afternoon at a tourist-trap attraction or an overnight flight crammed in the middle seat. So, guarantee a smooth trip by planning thoroughly.

See all the tips here…

35 Genius Travel Tips That Will Change Your Life Forever

Saturday, July 12, 2014

South Africa's New Visa Rules Spark Outcry

Strict new South African immigration laws have sparked confusion and panic among foreign residents in this "Gateway to Africa" and forced 250,000 Zimbabweans to decide whether to return home.
Walk down most streets in Johannesburg and you will hear accents and languages from across this vast African continent.

Builders by the roadside waiting for work chatter away in the sweet sing-song rhythm of African Portuguese, waiters stand and gossip between orders employing the rolling Rs. and whistles that mark out Shona, a language of Zimbabwe and southern Zambia.

Congolese, Somalis, Nigerians, Mozambicans and above all Zimbabweans, flock to the "City of Gold" in search of their own little slice of the riches of the Highveld, as the surrounding region is known.

Since the 1880s, when Johannesburg exploded to life with the discovery of vast gold deposits, this has been a city, and a country, of immigrants.

"Shosholoza", perhaps South Africa's most beloved song - belted out at sporting events, political rallies and anywhere more than a handful of people gather - originally came from the Zimbabwean workers making the train journey south to work the mines.

But today the South African authorities, wary of the inflow amid brutally high unemployment, have begun tightening visa regulations and closing loopholes.

New rules quickly snapped into force shortly after the country's May election, catching scores of expatriate workers of guard.

A German doctor waiting six months for the processing of her residence permit was banned from returning to South Africa for five years for overstaying her tourist visa.

A Briton was stranded in London, separated from her husband and 18-month-old child, after being declared an undesirable immigrant for a similar reason.

There are fears the new rules may hit the vital tourist industry. Immigration consultants have lodged a slew of court cases challenging the laws, which they say are unconstitutional.

Haniff Hoosen, an opposition Democratic Alliance lawmaker, said "the new regulations have already ripped apart families, dissuaded investors, and led to the suspension and even cancellation of multi-million rand film and tourism ventures."

But the most far-reaching implication may be felt by the more than a quarter-of-a-million Zimbabweans who fled the political and economic crisis at home after disputed elections in 2008.

They were granted special permits that expire later this year.

According to the new laws, if they want to continue living in South Africa they will have to return home to apply for extensions.

"Sending 250,000 back just to extend their permits doesn't make sense," said Bernard Toyambi, the paralegal officer of the non-governmental organisation the People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty.

"How will they keep their jobs? How long does the process take?"

The worst fear is mass deportations if no special political deal is secured.

"It's like they're chasing us out, they're killing us," said Sascha Madipa, 28, a Zimbabwean immigrant in downtown Johannesburg.

The rules have "created such an element of uncertainty, uneasiness among the people. It's like doomsday," said Gershon Mosiane, an immigration lawyer and president of the Forum of Immigration Practitioners (FIPSA).

"These people were not given ample time, and to declare a person undesirable, our position is that it is arbitrary and is against the principle or the rule of law... that a person is innocent until proven guilty," said Msiane.

South Africa has promised to make a decision on the status of the Zimbabweans, with immigration chief Apleni Mkuseni saying they should "wait patiently and with no panic".

But new South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba signalled a less sympathetic stance.

"Workers from other countries, and I dare say Zimbabwe, have flocked to South Africa seeking asylum. We must ask: Is there a conflict in Zimbabwe which necessitates that Zimbabwean nationals must apply for asylum in South Africa?" he asked.

With Zimbabwe's economy still spluttering, unemployment unofficially estimated to be as high as 80 percent, a fresh financial crisis looming and president Robert Mugabe recently returned to power for another term, many Zimbabweans are reluctant to return home.

A Zimbabwean opposition politician, Ngqabutho Mabhena of the Movement for Democratic Change, who helped negotiate the special permits, has been talking to South African officials about the looming crisis.

"Our guess is that the majority of the people will want to re-apply because after the 2013 election in Zimbabwe, no Zimbabwean that we have spoken to wants to go back," said Mabhena

Over one hundred years after Johannesburg sprung up from the dust, Zimbabwean workers may again be making a journey, this time northward and homeward, leaving behind a city that is a little less cosmopolitan. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

New Technology Helping to Fight Immigration and Visa Fraud in Australia

The lengths visa and citizenship fraud criminals will go to and how new technology is combating immigration crime has been revealed by Australian officials.
The National Investigations Section of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has highlighted some recent cases in its annual report. These include a couple from Queensland alleged to be involved in arranging 500 false marriages for migration purposes. They also owned nine properties and had $2.1 million in assets.

Also, multiple search warrants were issued on a West Australian business alleged to be falsifying employment records for skilled migration and providing unregistered migration assistance to applicants for permanent skilled migration.

An individual who used up to three false identities to circumvent visa requirements and lawful migration rules was taken to court and subsequently left the Australia voluntarily.

A spokesman said that these positive results have been achieved through the continued development and refinement of information technology, corporate governance, policy structures and strategic partnerships with key agencies.

Modern technology is also playing a role in combating visa and immigration fraud. Investigators use a range of new and innovative tools and capabilities to analyse risk and identify mitigation strategies. A key tool is the application of enhanced analytic in a range of areas, including fraud control, risk management and integrity scans.

Risk models are being used to help determine the nature and degree of risk associated with visa applications. Complex statistical models are used to process large amounts of data in real time to identify higher than acceptable levels of risk.

A Border Risk Identification System (BRIS) scans information collected through the department’s advance passenger processing system. All inbound travelers are screened, and travelers representing potential risk are more closely examined.

Additionally, there is a networks analytic system that can identify hidden connections between people, organisations and addresses. Using analytic and business intelligence processes allows the department to forecast more accurately future trends in traveler arrivals to Australia and generate alerts when unusual patterns are detected.

Biometrics also play an important role. The department has been collecting biometrics since 2006. These now include facial images and fingerprints from those in immigration detention, applicants for citizenship, those who apply onshore for a Protection visa, offshore applicants and more recently, a pilot project that verifies the identity of arriving passengers.

The collection of data is now global in scale. For example, fingerprint matching against international data has proven to be extremely valuable and has revealed information that supports a client’s claims as well as important information that was not disclosed to the department by a client.

For example, a visitor visa application was refused after the applicant’s fingerprints matched against those of a known child sex offender from the United Kingdom who left the country prior to sentencing.

An Onshore Protection visa applicant’s fingerprint match revealed that the subject was wanted for credit card and identity fraud in the United States.

Biometric matches also resulted in an offshore visitor visa application being refused after the applicant’s fingerprints matched against an Interpol alert showing the client was wanted for importing large quantities of cocaine into Austria.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

US-Bound Airlines to Screen Smartphones, Laptops Because of New Al-Qaeda Terror Threat

Airlines that fly direct to the US will be forced to step up checks on mobile phones and shoes in light of threats of an Al-Qaeda bomb attack. US officials say terrorists have found a way to conceal incendiary devices inside phones to avoid detection.
Passengers on flights from Europe, the Middle East and Africa bound for the US will be subjected to extra security checks, US officials have told Reuters. The US government warned earlier this week of an Al-Qaeda effort to create an undetectable bomb that could be smuggled through airport security.

According to US intelligence sources, the undetectable devices are most likely to be hidden in smartphones, including Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones. The bombs could also be surgically implanted into an insurgent’s body or be embedded in clothes fibers.

Officials say that bomb makers from an Al-Qaeda affiliate group in Yemen are collaborating with the Syrian al-Nusra Front to develop a device that foils security.

Airlines that do not step up their security measures could face bans on their flights entering the United States. 
Heightened security measures have already been implemented in UK airports with fears they may cause significant delays during the holiday season.

The tough new security policy subjects passengers to “vigorous” body searches and requires them to switch on their laptops, mobile phones and other electronic devices when they pass through security. Airport staff are also swabbing travelers’ shoes and clothes to check for traces of explosives.

Travelers at London’s Heathrow airport told UK media that the new measures had slowed the pace at departure gates. US student Eryk Salvaggi, who was heading to Boston, told The Daily Mail that it seemed to take “twice as long for his bags to go through.”

Members of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) check a passenger's bags with N.J. Transit Police to secure mass transit for the Super Bowl XLVIII, in Secaucus, New Jersey January 31, 2014. (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)Members of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) check a passenger's bags with N.J. Transit Police to secure mass transit for the Super Bowl XLVIII, in Secaucus, New Jersey January 31, 2014. (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

“There were a lot of bags being taken aside too, when they came out the other side, for extra searches,” he said. “There seemed to be a lot of frisking going on too.”

However, the two largest UK airports said they were operating as normal Thursday evening. A senior official from the US Department of Homeland Security told the BBC that there would be no delays in the coming days, but he also said the security measures had not yet been fully implemented.

The UK government has said that the security measures may be permanent at UK airports in response to an evolving terrorist threat. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned of the threat posed by the "medieval, violent, revolting ideology" behind the alleged bomb plots.

"We have to make sure the checks are there to meet the nature of the new kinds of threats. Whether it is forever – I can't make any predictions. But I don't want people to think that this is just a sort of a blip for a week. This is part of an evolving and constant review about whether the checks keep up with the nature of the threats we face,” Clegg said in an LBC radio interview Thursday.

Prime Minister David Cameron emphasized the importance of putting safety first, and said the new measures had been implemented after consultation with the US government.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

TigerAir Philippines Advisory on Flight Cancellation

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has announced the suspension of operations in the Tacloban Airport today, July 9, 2014 to make way for runway repairs.
The following Tigerair flights to and from Tacloban have been cancelled for tomorrow: DG 042/7044 Manila-Tacloban, and DG 7043/7045 Tacloban-Manila.

Tigerair Philippines is arranging the re-accommodation of passengers to the soonest available flights.  Passengers in these cancelled flights may avail of any of the following options for free Rebooking within 30 days from original departure date; refund or travel fund.  Please call CEB’s reservation hotlines for more details: +6327020888 (Manila) to +6332230888 (Cebu).

Friday, July 4, 2014

US Immigration Latest Green Card Priority Dates

The United States Department of State (DOS) has released its July 2014 Visa Bulletin.
EB-3 applicants from China and India are currently waiting for eight to ten years for a permanent residence visa (or 'green card' as they are popularly known).

The full figures are laid out in a table below.

Priority cut-off dates for Employment based visas
Visa CategoryGeneralMainland ChinaIndiaMexicoPhilippines
EB-2None1 Jul 091 Sept 08NoneNone
EB-31 Apr 111 Oct 061 Nov 031 Apr 111 Jan 09
EB-3 (others)1 Apr 111 Jan 031 Nov 031 Apr 111 Jan 09

Only applicants who filed their petitions (applied) for a green card before the 'priority cut-off date' can currently apply for their permanent residence visa (or 'green card' as it is known).

Adjustment of status

If they made their initial application before the priority cut-off date, and they are already in the US, for example with an H-1B 'specialty occupation' visa, then providing their petition has been successful, they can apply to US Citizenship and Immigration for 'Adjustment of Status' for a green card.
If they made their initial application before the cut-off date and are living outside the US, they can go to the US consulate or embassy in their country of residence and apply for their green card.

So, for example, if an applicant A from the UK filed his/her EB-3 visa petition on 3rd March 2011 then his/her priority date is 3rd March 2011. The priority cut-off date for EB-3 applicants from most countries is now 1 April 2011. Therefore, A's petition was filed before the cut-off date. He/she can, therefore, apply for Adjustment of Status/ a visa.

Chinese applicants wait longer

However, if an applicant B, from China, had filed his/her EB-3 application on the same day as A, 3rd March 2011, he/she would not be able to apply for Adjustment of Status/a visa because the cut-off date for Chinese applicants is 1st October 2006. Chinese applicants can only apply for Adjustment of Status or a green card if they applied before 1st October 2006.
This confusing system has arisen because of the complexity of the US visa system and because demand for US green cards greatly exceeds supply. Only about 140,000 employment-based visas are available each year and these are split between 5 employment-based (EB) visa categories.

They are divided as follows
Visa CategoryVisas available
EB-1 - Priority workers of extraordinary ability28% - 40,000
EB-2 Members of 'the professions' with advanced degrees, 'exceptional ability' or 'national interest'28% - 40,000
EB-3 Skilled workers and professionals28% - 40,000
EB-3 Other workersMaximum of 10,000 of the EB-3 quota
EB-4 'Special immigrants' including religious workers7.1% - 9,940
EB-5 Investors7.1% - 9,940
N.B. Some unused family visas from the previous year may be available for the EB categories each year. If so, the actual number of EB visas will be distributed according to the proportions set out in the table above.

Country caps

Because the US receives many more than 40,000 EB-3 visa applications each year, applicants will not receive EB-3 visas in the year that they apply. Over the years, lengthy waiting lists have accumulated and now, many applicants have to wait for years after making their visa application before there is a visa available for them.
This problem is particularly acute for applicants from some countries with high demand for US visas. This is because only 7% of the total number of visas in any category can go to applicants from one country. (So, for example, only 2.908 EB-2 visas can go, each year, to any one country).

Because many more than 7% of the applicants each year come from several countries with high demand (such as China, India, Mexico and the Philippines), applicants from those countries have to wait longer than other applicants before a visa becomes available.

Indian cut-off date November 2003

Thus, the priority cut-off date for Indian applicants for EB-3 skilled worker visas now stands at 1st November 2003. This cut-off date has actually moved backwards in the last year as have several others for countries with high numbers of visa applicants.
However, the main cut off priority date for most countries has moved forward by four years in the last year, from 2007 to 1st April 2011.

Sanwar Ali of workpermit.com said 'At workpermit.com, we have in-house US immigration attorneys who can help you with all your visa concerns. Please give us a call. We have many years of experience and have helped thousands of people with US visa petitions.

Most EB-3 applicants waiting three years

'There are currently no waiting times for applicants from most countries for EB-1, EB-2, EB-4 and EB-5 applicants though most EB-3 applicants will have to wait for at least three years.
'We would be happy to help with your petition'.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

South Africa preparing ‘critical skills’ list for work visas under new immigration rules

A ‘critical skills work visa’ has also been introduced as part of the ‘Immigration Regulations of 2014’, which came into effect on 26 May. The home affairs department said a list of what are regarded as ‘critical skills’ is yet to be published.

Quota work permit and exceptional skills work permits have been repealed under amendments to regulations. Those issued with business visas must now employ or prove that at least 60% of their total staff are South African citizens or permanent residents. Gigaba said the number required before the changes was just five employees.

Gigaba told a press conference on 29 May that immigration regulations had been “abused” in the past and it was important to “clarify those [regulations] and ensure that we streamline and simplify them”.
Under the new regulations the word ‘visa’ replaces the word ‘permit’, except for the permanent residence ‘permit’. No business visa may be issued or renewed to a foreigner who intends to establish or invest in a business that is listed as an “undesirable business undertaking”.

Asked about comments in the South African media that the new measures could deter foreign investors wanting to move to the country, Gigaba said the new regulations were not “set in stone”. He said he was aware of the need for firms such as the freight logistics company Transnet and national power utility Eskom “to be able to bring in skills from overseas for a period of time in relation to the infrastructure roll out programme”.

Gigaba said if the new regulations prove to be “too onerous and impede the growth and development of the economy, then we will take the necessary decisions in that regard whilst not compromising the need for security... but I think that is addressed in us saying that we will publish the list of critical skills, we will give people a temporary work visa that will last for four years or for the duration of the project”.

Visas issued in relation to work in the infrastructure sector, which Gigaba described as “critical”, will be renewable. There will be “ongoing discussions”, but he said: “What we cannot do, is, ahead of time, presumptuously, come to the conclusion that the needs of the economy supersede those of security, because without security we might not have the economy.”

On critical skills, Gigaba said “we are talking about artisans that are required by Eskom to build power stations, Transnet around rail and the pipelines; Sanral in relation to the construction of roads”. The minister said talks would be held with South Africa’s trade and industry minister to “identify those critical skills”.

A report published last January by South African workforce management company Adcorp said the national economy’s demand for high-skilled workers had “remained relatively stable over the past decade”. The report said there was “a consistent shortage of high-skilled workers amounting to around 829,000 unfilled vacancies, positions that could be easily or immediately filled if only the requisite skills were available”.

According to Adcorp labour market economist Loane Sharp: “South Africa’s skills shortage is substantial and is not being met by the local supply of high-skilled workers. Therefore the restrictions on foreigners living and working in South Africa should be relaxed, since this would supplement the dwindling local supply of skills.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Myanmar(Burma) to Launch Online Visa System for Tourists

Burma plans to launch an online application system for tourist visas later this year, according to the Ministry of Immigration and Population, which announced on Friday that it was opening a tender for the project.
As tourist arrivals in Burma continue to grow, the ministry has received complaints about the difficulties and delays in applying for visas at embassies, according to Maung Maung Than, director-general of the Department of Immigration and National Registration.

“We’re considering the process of online visa applications, and we’re confident we can get it operating by September,” Maung Maung Than told The Irrawaddy, adding that non-tourist visas would not be available through the new system.

Visa fees will be paid online, he said, adding that the fees would be determined later by the operating company and the government.

According to a statement in state-run media, information and technology companies can submit proposals for the project until July 16.

Currently, tourists must apply for visas at embassies in their home countries. More processing time is required if an applicant lives in a country without a Burmese embassy. Long wait times are also common at the embassies in Thailand and China, which neighbor Burma and see a high number of applicants.

Tourists can stay in Burma for 28 days on a single visa. According to figures from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, more than 2 million tourists came to the country in 2013. The ministry expects more than 3 million tourists this year.

Burma’s tourism sector saw the highest relative growth in Southeast Asia last year, with the number of foreign arrivals spiking 52 percent, according to a report by the UN World Tourism Organization. Despite the surging growth, Burma remains one of the region’s least-visited countries after decades of military rule and poor development.

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