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| 5 minutes read

ICYMI: Ramadan, real estate, recruiting, and immigration

If you're involved in global mobility and moving talent around the world, then you are likely always trying to stay on top of anything that could affect the timing of someone's relocation or assignment. Employees and hiring managers are often unaware of the various things that can (and do) impact the relocation process.  That's why we are bringing you these bi-weekly updates specifically to break down what's happening around the world that just might impact your global mobility program!

This week, we'll start broad and on a positive note. Ramadan is coming! The Islamic holy month is expected to begin on or around March 22nd, meaning that processing immigration applications is likely to be delayed as government offices across the Middle East, Southern Europe, North Africa, and Asia have shorter working hours. Employers and employees are encouraged to plan ahead and file time-sensitive applications as soon as possible to avoid possible processing delays. Individuals should contact local authorities for more information on office hours and closures. 

What you should pay attention to:

  • Employers and employees should expect shorter than normal business hours from about March 22nd through April 21st, although exact dates are dependent on lunar sightings and may vary from country to country.
  • Foreign nationals and employers should anticipate processing delays during and after Ramadan. If possible, those with time-sensitive applications should file before Ramadan begins.
  • Government offices in many countries will close for three or more days for Eid al-Fitr immediately following Ramadan.

Iran, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India are some of the countries that celebrate Ramadan. Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and Indonesia are a few more. Check this out for more information!

Elsewhere in the world:

  1. China: Per Newland Chase, "Recently, China eliminated some entry requirements and dropped the mandatory COVID-19 quarantine period following entry to the country. Now all a traveler needs to enter China is a negative PCR-test taken no earlier than 48-hours prior to departure, along with a valid visa." Join Newland Chase on February 23rd at 10:00 am (US EST) for a live Q&A session and a chance to submit your China travel questions to CIBT’s panel of live experts.
  2. Singapore: Travelers arriving in Singapore from February 13th, regardless of vaccination status will no longer be subject to any Covid-19 measures. Prior to this, unvaccinated travelers would need to meet additional requirements, which include pre-departure testing prior to entry.
  3. UAE: The UAE announces new law for non-Muslims expatriates covering essential family matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody and went into effect on February 1st, 2023. This is in an effort towards strengthening the country’s position as a destination for tolerance, family stability, and demographic diversity. 
  4. Germany: Strikes in Germany had a big impact on travel last week at 7 airports. Around 295,000 passengers are affected by the cancellation of some 2,340 flights at Bremen, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Munich and Stuttgart airports, according to the ADV airports association. This week will see a second round of negotiations, but more strikes are being threatened if wage increases are not agreed upon.
  5. Portugal: The housing shortage crisis continues to worsen for most workers in Portugal and the country is looking at numerous initiatives to improve it. Portugal will end its golden visa program, which offers EU passports to non-EU nationals in return for investments (including in real estate), which has been criticized for inflating house prices and rents. The "Digital Nomads Visa" introduced in October gives foreigners with high monthly income the opportunity to work remotely from Portugal without paying local taxes. 
  6. Ireland: According to our friends at Newland Chase, Portugal's decision to terminate the Digital Nomad Visa comes after Ireland's termination of their own golden visa option, the (“Immigrant Investor Programme”). Having started 11 years ago, the program has been used by mostly wealthy Russian and Chinese investors and attracted €1.25 billion. 
  7. Spain:Forbes reports that visa controversy is affecting Spain as well, where tension has been growing and a bill was submitted to scrap the country's "Residence by Investment" option. The scheme was introduced in 2013 in Spain, enabling foreigners to obtain a Spanish residence permit by purchasing real estate worth at least €500,000 in the country.
  8. United Kingdom: In the most recent PWC "Emerging Trends in Real Estate: Europe 2023 - In the Eye of the Storm", all 30 cities covered declined since last year's survey are showing more challenging real estate market conditions. However, London retained the top spot in the city rankings with Paris moving into #2. Data shows that real estate across Europe is being challenged by fears of inflation, political instability, and sustainability.
  9. United States: Satisfaction levels with U.S. immigration have reached a low for the last decade. Per Gallup'sMood of the Nation survey, Americans’ satisfaction with the level of immigration into the U.S. has fallen six percentage points over the past year, from 34% in January 2022 to 28% today.  With more wanting to curb immigration into the U.S., what will this mean for mobility programs who are bringing talent into the U.S. for mobility programs? Also, expect weather this week to dramatically impact relocation and mobility activity as a major winter storm blows across the U.S. There could be a 100-degree temperature spread from North Dakota to Florida, according to CNN.
  10. Canada: While many U.S. companies that rely on foreign talent are concerned about where  immigration policy will go, Canada is breaking its own immigration records records. In 2022, Canda welcomed over 550,000 new international students from 184 countries. Check out the top 10 source countries for those students (spoiler: India was #1). There are several reasons why Canada remains a top destination for international students, including the standard of education, lower costs, obtaining work, and immigration opportunities post-graduation. 

We'll close with Grid's report on business travel. While business travel has not returned as quickly as leisure travel, has reached nearly 90% of 2019 levels in the U.S. and Canada. Companies seem to be optimistic that trends are going in the right direction for travel and movement. The head of Delta, Ed Bastian, predicts that “as companies return and employees return to office, you are going to see another step up, in my opinion, of return to more normal trends, including improved business travel.” He continues by noting that “I do think as we progress over the course of the year, you are going to see more and more of business being done like it used to be done than ever before.”

Our own surveys and conversations are also looking up. Nearly 70% of participants in our 2023 Global Mobility Trends Survey expressed that they were much more optimistic about the outlook for the mobility industry over the next 12 months, a 10% increase over last year!

The arrival of Ramadan has always been associated with a certain amount of mystique and contemplation. The exact date of the month’s beginning is traditionally determined by religious scholars/authorities under the cover of night as they seek to observe certain sightings related to the appearance and cycle of the moon.  It’s important to note, however, that due to the cycle of the moon, Ramadan dates vary in different countries albeit typically only by a day. So the answer to the question of when Ramadan 2023 starts would largely depend on where you live. The International Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences in the UAE announced that Ramadan 2023 will be likely to fall on Thursday, March 23, 2023.


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