Immigration Changes within the APAC Region

Nikki Martin, November 26, 2018

Immigration is an ever-changing industry. Changes are implemented for a multitude of reasons, commonly; economic changes, demand of visa applications, technology upgrades and broader government policies or laws. The frequency of the changes means it can be challenging to stay up to date. Here is a brief summary of some recent changes within the APAC region...


The most notable change for Australia in 2018, is the former 457 visa (employment-sponsored), being abolished and a 'Temporary Skills Shortage' (TSS) visa replacing it. The new TSS visa is now comprised of a short-term stream and a medium-term stream. The announcement of this change occurred in April 2017 and reportedly caused a great deal of concern amongst the 95,000 people that held a 457 visa, the changes came into effect in March 2018.

Concern was caused by the 200+ jobs cut from the list of occupations that overseas workers can apply for, under the new system and now broken down to two separate lists, falling under each stream. The short-term stream is valid for a maximum of two years and the medium-term stream is valid for up to four years, with eligibility to apply for permanent residence after three years.

This means that the existing 457 visa holders can still continue to work in their current role until their visa expires. If their employer is happy to sponsor them for a permanent residency visa, they can do so if the 457 visa holder had been working with the same employer for at least 2 years.

However, if the employer has decided not to sponsor an existing 457 visa holder, and the 457 visa holder’s role is now no longer on one of the new occupation lists, they would now no longer have a pathway to permanent residency and would be forced to leave the country once their current 457 visa expires.


Immigration application fees are regularly reviewed within each country, to ensure the costs involved in providing immigration services are being reflected correctly in the price. As of 5th November 2018, New Zealand has implemented a significant increase in the price of many of their application fees.

Fee banding depends on the applicant’s citizenship. There are 3 fee bandings;

  • Band A - those applying in New Zealand
  • Band B - citizens of Pacific countries (i.e. Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and Cook Islands)
  • Band C - all other countries, that do not fall under Band A/B or within a fee waiver country.

The New Zealand Government has bilateral fee-waiver agreements with Austria, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, Turkey and the USA. Citizens from these countries are exempt from fees and the immigration levy (if applicable) for most application categories.

Below is an outline of some of the fee changes for Band A (applications made within New Zealand):

  • 15% increase on Working Holiday visa
  • 8.8% increase on Skilled Migrant visa
  • 22% increase on Visitor visa
  • 15.5% increase on Partner of a NZ Resident visa.

Discounts for online applications will also no longer apply.


The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) of Singapore, is set to introduce electronic arrival cards, with a 3-month trial already underway, which commenced 4th October 2018. The electronic arrival cards will replace the previous paper-based disembarkation/embarkation cards.

Foreign visitors were previously required to provide personal information, trip details including; duration and purpose of stay as well as address whilst in Singapore. The card was then submitted to the immigration authorities, who granted entry to the country. This information can now be supplied via the ICA website or app, prior to arrival in Singapore.

Foreign visitors will only be required to produce their passport upon arrival for immigration clearance. The new system allows multiple applications from families and small groups travelling together. The information provided will be held for any future applications.


Chinese work and resident visas have now been combined to include the following:

  • A - Top Tier visa, for individuals on a salary of over 600,000RMB a year
  • B - Professional talent, bachelor’s degree or above, two years of work experience in a relevant field
  • C - Other, hold a work permit under the old system, but do not qualify for the A or B Tier under the new system, or undertaking short-term work in China.

Current Short-term visas in China:

  • R - Talent visa, issued to those who are high-level talents or whose skills are urgently needed in China, for a duration of 30 days, the employer must then apply for a temporary residence permit for up to 5 years
  • M - Business travel visa, valid for a duration of 30-60 days
  • Z - Allows people to enter temporarily before obtaining until residence permit is granted.

An interesting note to be aware of is that duel nationalities cannot be held in China.

Work permits are no longer required for residents of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau, wishing to work in mainland China, (these had previously been required for the past two decades).

To obtain a Work Permit, residents of the three regions would have previously had to submit up to 10 documents (including an employer’s business licence, employee’s health certificate and valid travel documents), in order to obtain a work permit. The work permit would need to be renewed every 2 years, or resubmitted if changing employer.

The abolishment of the work permit will not only attract many skilled employees to mainland China, but it will also help boost economic growth in the three regions.


The Hong Kong Government has recently reviewed and updated their immigration regulations to now recognise foreign same-sex partnerships to continue to attract skilled workers when granting dependent visas. Effective 19th September 2018, the new policy means same-sex spouses will be eligible to submit applications for dependent visas to stay with their partners working in Hong Kong.

Under prior regulations, same-sex spouses could not obtain a dependent visa and could only stay in Hong Kong for a brief period, as a tourist. The dependent will now be required to meet the normal immigration requirements, along with reasonable proof of a genuine relationship between the applicant and the sponsor. This policy does not yet extend to local same-sex partnerships, as same-sex marriages are yet to be legally recognised in China.

Written by Nikki Martin - Senior Recruitment Resourcer - Immigration & Expatriate Services at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd.

Posted in categories: Immigration Law & Policies, International
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