Access to talent is often cited as a key issue for fintechs – are there any immigration rules in your jurisdiction which would help or hinder that access, whether in force now or imminently? For instance, are quotas systems/immigration caps in place in your jurisdiction and how are they determined?
Bermuda’s pioneering work to regulate the global blockchain industry has attracted interest and incorporations from various fintech businesses, including start-ups, and the Bermuda Government has demonstrated that it understands the need for access to talent, as well as promoting jobs for Bermudians in the fintech sector. To this end, the Bermuda Government has implemented a new immigration policy for fintech companies desirous of setting up businesses in Bermuda. The Fintech Business Work Permit Policy allows a fintech company that is new to Bermuda to receive automatic approval of up to five (5) work permits within the first six (6) months of obtaining the first Fintech Business Work Permit.
Due to the size of the local population, the Cayman Islands government generally recognises the limitations on the available skilled workforce locally and whilst immigration controls are in place, there are no specific caps or quotas and the businesses are encouraged to establish physical presence in the Cayman Islands particularly in the SEZ under the SEZ Employment Certificate.
Unless contracted to government, expatriates must either hold a valid work permit (which term includes a SEZ Certificate), a Certificate of Direct Investment, a Residency and Employment Rights Certificate or hold Permanent Residency with the right to work in a prescribed occupation or occupations in order to work and reside in the Cayman Islands. The administration of work permits is the responsibility of the Cayman Islands Government Department of Immigration.
All positions (other than SEZ Certificates) are required to be locally advertised and the vacancy registered with the National Workforce Development Agency prior to obtaining a work permit for an expatriate in that role. Generally, work permits will not be granted unless the applicant is professionally qualified, well experienced in the relevant field or there is no relevant experience in the local workforce.
The SEZ certificate can be granted for a five year renewable period, does not require the employer to advertise the position locally, is a simplified application procedure and is processed on an expedited basis (within five business days).
- EEA / EU nationals: Cyprus is a full member state of the EU and applies the four core freedoms, including freedom of movement. As such all EU / EEA citizens are free to work in Cyprus.
- Non-EU/EEA: A work permit is required which can be obtained if the Ministry of Labour is satisfied that a Cypriot national or an EU citizen is not available to do the job. In practice expedited processes are offered to certain non-EU citizens, such as those of Russia and Serbia.
- Citizenship by investment: Fast track citizenship is available subject to screening processes for persons investing above certain thresholds in Cyprus. Persons and families obtaining such citizenship would be free to work in Cyprus as any other Cypriot or EU/EEA national.
Citizens from the EU, the Nordic countries and the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland are entitled to live and work in Denmark but must ap-ply for a registration certificate if the citizen intend to reside in Denmark for more than three months.
As a main rule, non-EU citizens are required to have a work permit in order to carry out work in Denmark. However, some citizens are visa exempt and do not need a visa for entering into Denmark for up to 3 months. As visa ex-empt, it is only possible to perform very limited work-related activities while in Denmark such as teaching or attending a course or participating in meetings, company visits, negotiations, briefings and training etc.
Several different schemes exist under which an applicant can apply for a work permit to Denmark.
As a foreign entrepreneur, it is possible to be granted a Danish residence permit in order to establish and run an innovative growth company through the Start-up Denmark Scheme. It is a requirement that the entrepreneur's business idea is approved by a panel of experts appointed by the Danish Business Authority before the relevant authorities can process an application for a residence and work permit based on the scheme. The scheme may be used by both individuals and teams of up to 3 people who want to start a business together in Denmark through a joined business plan.
Work permits can also be granted through the Pay-Limit Scheme if the em-ployee has been offered employment in Denmark with a minimum annual gross salary of DKK 417,793.60 (2018-level) and is able to present a contract or a specific job offer when submitting the application for a work permit. Salary and employment terms must be in accordance with Danish standards. It is worth noting that most start-ups will not be able to offer such a high salary to its employees.
A foreign citizen may also be granted a work permit if the person will take on employment in Denmark within professions experiencing a shortage of quali-fied professionals (The Positive List), or if the applicant has been offered a job so closely linked to this person that only he/she can carry it out.
As free movement of workers is a fundamental principle in the EU, EU citizens are free to work in Finland for a period of three months after registering the right of residence at the immigration authorities in Finland. For employees coming from outside the EU and EEA, working in Finland requires a residence permit.
There are no quota systems or immigration gaps in place which would help or hinder the access to talents. However, in spring 2018, a so-called Startup Permit was introduced for startup founders coming outside the EU and willing to build a startup company in Finland. The applicant of the Startup Permit must fulfil the requirements for residence permit (e.g. employment, salary) and the application must be backed by Business Finland, which is a Finnish innovation funding, trade, investment, and travel promotion organization fully owned by the Finnish Government.
In addition, some specialists may perform specialist work in Finland without residence permit, provided that they meet the salary thresholds.
Non-EU/EEA managers, specialists and trainee employees granted with an intra-corporate transferee permit in another EU member state may also to come to Finland to work in a unit belonging to the same company or group for which a person has been working for in another EU member state without applying a separate residence permit for Finland.
All employees working in Finland are protected by Finnish labour laws and applicable collective agreements (if any), which typically set out minimum terms of employment e.g. on working hours and salaries. The purpose of this is to ensure that Finnish and foreign employees are treated equally.
There are no immigration rules (different from those for all foreign workers) which would help or hinder access to talent for through fintech in France to our knowledge.
In general there are no quotas systems on immigration. Citizens of a Member State of the European Union can enter Germany without a visa. This also applies for citizens from Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and United States. Citizens of those countries can work in Germany if they have a job offer and the Federal Agency of Employment (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) agreed to this (§ 41 I AufenthV). It is just necessary to apply for a residence permit with-in three months after the entry into Germany and before commencement of work.
If foreigners from other countries of origin wish to work in Germany, they re-quire a visa as a matter of principle. They need to apply for a visa in person from the German representation abroad in the territory of which you live whilst still in your home country. The fee for a visa is generally 60 Euro per person. The rep-resentations abroad need an average of between two and ten working days to de-cide on a visa application for a short stay of up to three months. If someone would like to apply for a visa for a longer stay, the processing may take several months.
There is no specific cap or quotas. To work in Gibraltar, a foreign professional would need a work permit and, potentially, a Visa according to his/her nationality.
Access to talent has not been an issue with regards to novel industries, such as fintech and the gaming industry, particularly due to Gibraltar’s welcoming attitude to personnel having uncommon and specific skills and experience. Section 7(3) of the Employment Regulations 1994, which regards the provision of work permits, showcase Gibraltar’s attitude toward immigration – whereby employers should first seek talent within the jurisdiction before outsourcing it from outside. Therefore Gibraltar encourages access to talent from abroad while at the same time protecting the internal job market.
Being a full member of the EU, Malta respects the principle of freedom of movement within the Union. EU citizens (other than Croatian nationals) do not require a work permit to work in Malta and thus may reside in Malta. If such residence exceeds 3 months, an EU citizen must apply for a permit to reside in Malta. This procedure is fairly straightforward and not document intensive. Non-EU citizens and Croatian citizens require a single-work permit to work and reside in Malta, which permit can be obtained within 3 months and is valid for one year. It is also renewable for a further period of 1 year. If a non-EU citizen wishes to be employed in Malta, he must have a genuine prospect of gaining successful employment before coming to Malta with the intention of finding employment there and the employer will need to prove that the employee’s skills are not easily found within the Maltese talent pool. In addition, Identity Malta has recently launched a new scheme, referred to as the “Key Employee Initiative”, which seeks to facilitate the employment of highly specialised non-EU individuals who wish to be employed in Malta. The scheme is available to managerial or highly-technical posts which require relevant qualifications or adequate experience to the job being offered and where the prospective gross salary is of at least EUR 30,000.
As with any country a non-citizen wishing to work in Israel requires a specific visa. However, Israeli immigration laws are unique in that any person who is Jewish can automatically become a citizen. This allows many individuals who would otherwise need to obtain work visas, the ability to easily become citizens instead. In order to obtain a work visa for a non-citizen, the employer makes an application and submits documents to various governmental authorities on behalf of the potential employee, and if successful obtains a visa for a maximum of 1 year, which can be renewed until a total period of 5 years. If it can be demonstrated that the individual has specific, valuable knowledge in his or her specific line of work, then the chances are high that the visa will be granted after overcoming the bureaucratic hurdles.
The TMG recently initiated a program to increase the number of foreign entrepreneurs. Before this initiative, a foreigner wishing to start up a business in Japan had to obtain a "business manager" visa. In order to receive such residency status, the applicant had to open an office in Japan as well as employ at least two full-time staff members, or invest at least JPY5 million in Japan - a high hurdle to surmount.
Pursuant to the TMG program, an applicant can receive a residency status as a business manager for half a year even if the conditions mentioned above are not met, provided that his/her business plans and other necessary information are filed with the TMG, and the TMG then confirms that such applicant is likely to fulfill the conditions within the following six month period.
The Business Development Center Tokyo provides individual support under the program so that foreign entrepreneurs are able to fulfill the visa conditions by the end of the six months and renew their residency status.
Pursuant to Article 7 of the Federal Labour Law (‘FLL’), foreign individuals are permitted to work in Mexico, and the employee base of Mexican employers must be made up of at least 90% Mexican citizens (i.e. 9 to 1 ratio).
British Virgin Islands
There are no immigration quotas or caps in force now or imminently that would hinder fintechs’ ability to establish physical operations in the BVI. There is however, a labour regulatory regime which requires that a prospective employee who is foreign to the BVI, apply for and obtain a permit to work in the BVI. The work permit process is administrative in nature and generally proceeds seamlessly from application to grant unless a BVI citizen is qualified for and applies for the position to which the work permit relates. If the employee in question is a citizen of a country the nationals of which are required to obtain a visa to enter the BVI, that employee would need to apply for and obtain a visa to work in the BVI by way of an administrative and generally seamless application process. At present, there is little availability of technical expertise in the fintech space in the local professional market in BVI, and as such, we anticipate that the authorities, who are keen to attract fintechs to BVI, will facilitate the grant of any approvals to facilitate establishment of reputable fintech business in the BVI.
SSEK: There is no quota system or immigration cap in Indonesia with respect to talents in the fintech field.
Yes, there are immigration rules in Portugal which intend to facilitate the access of tech business developers to our country.
In fact, the new Regulatory Decree regarding the entry, permanence, exit and removal of foreigners into and out of the Portuguese national territory, published this month and which will be in force on October 1st this year, enables the optimization and flexibility of the residence visa and permit proceedings, notably for the foreign entrepreneurs and highly qualified workers in order to encourage the establishment in Portugal of new tech and innovative businesses.
These new provisions foresee the possibility of issuing a residence visa specifically for entrepreneur foreigners who wish to invest in Portugal notably in the tech and innovative areas.
An example of Portugal’s commitment to facilitate bringing these projects into our country is the “StartUp Visa” which is a program destined to bring to Portugal foreign business developers who wish to establish their projects in Portugal. This program had a previous certification process for the incubator companies to apply in order to host entrepreneur foreigners who wish to create and develop tech companies in the national territory.
The applications for the startup companies are already available online at https://webapps.iapmei.pt/StartupVisa/VisaEmp/Account/Login.aspx and there is still no deadline foreseen for the submission of the applications. When an application is approved, a residence visa may be requested by the entrepreneur(s) of the project (up to five for each project) at the consular post, which will be valid for four months and may be renewed. After arriving in Portugal, the entrepreneurs must schedule a meeting with the Immigration Authority (“Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras”) in order to request for the residence permit.
While the US is home to world class universities producing talented engineers and computer scientists, the political climate is hostile to immigration. U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services agency put out a new policy memo requiring 'detailed documentation' about H-1B workers employed at third-party work sites to demonstrate that employees are actually filling specialty roles for which they were hired. The Department of Homeland Security is considering a new rule entitled Strengthening the H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Classification Program that would narrow the pool of foreigners eligible for the visa program, further restricting companies' access to skilled talent.
The UAE has one of the more open immigration policies when it comes to acquiring talent. Its population consists of roughly 80% expatriates and 20% UAE nationals.
There are no quotas systems or immigration caps in place, although it is worth noting that an Emiratisation quota requirement exists whereby any company with more than 100 employees is obliged to recruit the stipulated number of UAE nationals to ensure the minimum percentage of participation of Emiratis in the workforce. This minimum participation varies depending on the economic sector of the company and job description.
There are no specific immigration rules and allowances in Ukraine that would allow to facilitate employment in the fintech industry.
According to the Labour Code of Ukraine, the employment relationship in Ukraine is established by an employment agreement between an employer and an employee.
In general, most agreements are concluded for an indefinite term. Even though Ukrainian labour law enables an employer to conclude fixed-term employment agreements, these agreements should be concluded only with those employees whose work is by nature of a limited duration. It is also possible to enter into an employment agreement ‘until the completion of agreed-upon work’. Considering the complexity involved in dismissing employees under Ukrainian law, employers frequently use the probationary period as a legal and practical way to ascertain the suitability of a candidate for the position.
In Ukraine the employer is a tax agent, obliged to pay payroll taxes on behalf of his employee (18%).
Presuming the complexity involved in tax regime of employment, many companies in Ukraine use the entrepreneur contracts instead of the labour agreements. In such a case the employee acts as a private entrepreneur contracting with the company for some scope of a job.
According to bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU, there are no quotas for citizens of EU member states and such citizens have a right to a work permit in Switzerland. For third party nationals, there are quotas and various permits that may be issued, from 90 day permits to full-year permits; such persons taking up employment in Switzerland need a permit issued prior to their employment. As a rule, any work of more than eight days per calendar year performed by a foreign national in Switzerland requires a prior work permit or online registration.
There is no per se quota system which is applicable for immigrants into India. However, the minimum salary for a prospective employee to get a visa in India is in excess of USD 25,000 per year. Apart from certain exemptions, visas are given only to individuals with skills which are unavailable in India (such as highly qualified technical experts, senior executives in a managerial position, etc.) While there is no specific validity specified for employment visas for the Fin-Tech industry, for individuals working in the Information Technology enabled sectors, the validity of a visa is limited to three years at a time. However, this is extendible. Generally, employment visas for most other sectors are valid for only 2 years at a time, which is extendible.
The UK immigration system has specific categories for the tech sector, including the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category which is designed to attract those who are at the very top of their field.
Companies in the UK can apply for a Tier 2 sponsor licence which permits them to bring non-EEA nationals to the UK to work in skilled roles. There is a cap on the number of skilled migrants who can come to the UK under Tier 2 (General) and it is set at 20,700 per annum. At the end of 2017, the cap was met and continued to be met for several months which adversely impacted the ability of tech companies to hire staff.
Over 1.3K tech sector professionals were refused UK visas during this period and in July 2018, the UK Government removed NHS doctors and nurses from the cap. This temporary measure is an example of a solution which can help sectors to overcome challenges in securing talent.
Another example is the introduction of a start-up visa in Spring 2019. The scheme was announced by the Government during London Tech Week 2018 and would allow UK businesses and accelerators to sponsor entrepreneurs.
This new scheme is designed to be more generous than the current Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) programme which requires successful applicants to be endorsed by their Higher Education Institutions and is capped at 1,000 per annum.
The above measures may therefore go some way to alleviating concerns in the fintech industry on access to talent.
The Netherlands has a liberal business immigration policy. Immigration schemes are intended to facilitate highly skilled labor immigration, rather than restricting it. Employees from an EEA-country or Switzerland do not need a residence and work permit. There are several work authorization schemes that can be used for employees from other jurisdictions.
The knowledge migrant (KMR) scheme KMR scheme is a fast and reliable immigration scheme for highly skilled personnel. Instead of a test on skills and qualifications, a salary threshold is the only material requirement. Required for the KMR permit is that the foreigner has signed an employment contract. For personnel under the age of 30, the salary threshold is set at € 3,229 and for personnel aged 30 or above, the salary threshold amounts to € 4,404. The employer must be recognized as a sponsor by the Immigration & Naturalisation Service when attracting highly skilled migrants. Spouses are allowed to accompany the foreign worker in the Netherlands and are allowed to work as well.
Other options are provided by European legislation such as the European Intra Corporate Transferee permit (ICT-permit). This permit is intended for enterprises that have at least one entity outside the EU and that belong to the same group of companies. This permit requires the work contract between the transferee and the sending company outside the EU to exist. Again, a salary threshold is applicable. And the European Union Blue Card is the European alternative for the KMR permit offering more mobility rights.
China has flexible regulation and practice on immigration matters, and the general policies welcomes foreign talents. Although the law requires that all foreign nationals working in China are subject to the work visa and work permit requirements, it is not difficult for foreign national talents to obtain work visas and work permits if they have legitimate employer contracts with decent employers.
In addition, the central and local governments of China both release policies to offer convenient and incentives to attract high level technical talents. The high-quality talents include foreign national experts in certain science and technology areas, and the highly educated Chinese returnees.
To protect domestic employment, Taiwan has developed very restrictive immigration rules. Foreigners are not permitted to work in Taiwan unless their Taiwanese employer obtains a work permit for them. The permit does not belong to the individual, but is issued to the employer for hiring a foreigner for a certain job. As a result, a foreigner with a work permit has very limited ability to change his/her employer. Moreover, in principle, foreign workers are only allowed to be employed to engage in specific types of jobs as prescribed by law, and the maximum period of work permit allowed for foreign white-collar workers is 3 years.
To eliminate hurdles that employers may face in accessing foreign talents, a new law took effect on February 8, 2018. The new law stipulates that a foreign white-collar worker who needs a longer period to seek employment in Taiwan may apply for a six-month visitor visa for multiple entry. In addition, if a foreign professional possesses special expertise that Taiwan needs in the fields of science and technology, economics, education, culture, arts, sports, etc., as announced by the central competent authorities, the maximum period of his/her work permit could be extended to 5 years.
With Malaysia’s continuous economic growth, specifically through the launch of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) in September 2010, Malaysia has been recognised as a world-class destination for foreign talent and is ranked by the World Bank in its “Doing Business 2015” report as the top 20 globally “ease of doing business” destinations, coming ahead of Switzerland, UAE, Japan and France, to name only a few. The ETP focuses on the implementation of 12 National Key Economic Areas which are significant areas in promoting and strengthening the economic stability of Malaysia.
In line with the above, the mammoth growth of multinational corporations (MNCs) and the establishment of foreign businesses in Malaysia has resulted in a massive increase in job opportunities across various industries. The professional opportunities available in Malaysia are certainly an attraction for foreign talent to move to Malaysia. Malaysia also recognises the value and contribution of foreign talent and several programmes have been implemented towards achieving the goal as setting Malaysia as the top destination for foreign talent. These programmes are listed below:
i. Establishment of Talent Corporation Malaysia Berhad (Talent Corp)
Talent Corp was established on 1 January 2011 under the Prime Minister’s Department to attract and retain foreign talent. Talent Corp collaborates with the Immigration Department of Malaysia to streamline and enhance immigration service delivery for expatriates. One of the facilities introduced in 2011 was the Residence Pass-Talent (RP-T), which is a 10-year renewable pass for highly qualified expatriates to continue to reside and work in Malaysia. The RP-T offers expatriates an attractive range of benefits such as the flexibility to change employers without having to obtain a new work pass and facilities for dependants to work and study in Malaysia.
ii. Introduction of Malaysia Expatriate Talent Service Centre (MYXpats Centre)
A new processing division to bring faster processing of work pass and related applications was introduced on 1 June 2015, called the MYXpats Centre. With the introduction of the MYXpats Centre, which is a joint initiative between Talent Corp and the Immigration Department of Malaysia, the related immigration processes to facilitate foreign talent in Malaysia have improved significantly. Employers sponsoring work pass applications can benefit from consistent five-day processing time of Employment Pass applications and other related applications. The overall immigration service has also been enhanced with the establishment of the Help Desk at MYXpats Centre, which can be easily accessed for any immigration related queries. The Help Desk has also been prompt in issuing notices of closure/disruption of service during festive season which helps in managing expectations of employers and their business needs.
iii. A new classification of Employment Pass (Employment Pass Category III)
As of 15 July 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs introduced a new category of work pass, the Employment Pass (Category III). Foreign nationals whose Malaysia work contracts do not exceed twelve months and whose monthly basis salaries range from MYR 2500.00 to MYR 4999.99 are eligible to apply under this category of work pass. This is significantly less than the current minimum salary requirement for a standard Employment Pass application, which is MYR 5000.00. Employers seeking to hire foreign nationals under this category will, however need to obtain an exemption from the minimum salary requirement of MYR 5000.00 from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Malaysia. The implementation of Employment Pass (Category III) is a platform for employers to hire short-term foreign nationals under a lower salary than the standard Employment Pass.
iv. International Students Mobility Programme under a Social Visit Pass
Importance is also placed in attracting international students to Malaysia. The International Student Mobility Programme was implemented to attract companies registered with the Expatriate Services Division that intend to undertake short-term placements of international students within their company. The programme allows international students pursuing a degree or equivalent certification from a recognized university or institution outside of Malaysia to participate in activities such as student exchanges, industrial or practical training, internships, mentorships and other similar programmes at the sponsoring company’s offices in Malaysia.
Other factors such as cultural diversity, stability, geographical advantages, healthcare, education, and infrastructure have also made Malaysia a top talent destination. Based on these various factors, Kuala Lumpur has also been voted among the top 100 most liveable countries in the world in the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2014 Global Liveability Ranking.
v. Returning Expert Programme
The Government of Malaysia also appreciates the significant contribution its citizens can offer towards the growth of the country’s economic, political and social development from their own experiences abroad. It recognises that these contributions can be more effective and beneficial if the knowledge, experience, contacts and intercultural abilities citizens have gained abroad can be applied in Malaysia. Therefore, the Returning Expert Programme which was originally introduced in 2001 and is now under the purview of Talent Corp, aims at encouraging and facilitating Malaysians abroad with expertise in selected priority sectors to return and work in Malaysia. The objective of this programme is to allow them to contribute their skills and experience towards the development of the country. This programme offers attractive living and financial incentives and is also intended to help overcome the shortage of professional and technical experts in the country by creating a world-class workforce in Malaysia.
The above-mentioned initiatives are expected to attract foreign talent to Malaysia to support the economic growth in Malaysia by streamlining immigration rules and procedures which will then result in substantial contributions to Malaysia’s economic performance and growth in human capital.