The Treasury Department has removed the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) from its current list of countries which require or may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott (within the meaning of section 999(b)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code).  Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen remain on the Treasury list.

According to the Treasury Department, the UAE has been removed from the list due to the issuance of Federal Decree-Law No. 4 of 2020, which repealed its law mandating a boycott of Israel, and the subsequent actions that the UAE government has taken to implement the new policy.  The change in law followed the 2020 normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Continue Reading Treasury Removes UAE From Boycott List: Possible Implications

The Presidential Proclamation prohibiting entry to the US by foreign nationals in key temporary, employment-based, immigration categories expired on March 31, 2021. As expected, the Biden administration permitted Presidential Proclamation 10052 to remain effective through to expiration, but did not extend the broad restrictions on certain H-1B (temporary professional), H-2B (temporary non-agricultural worker), J (exchange visitor) and L-1(intra-company transferee) foreign nationals. This reversal of a policy which began on June 22, 2020, is significant for multinational companies and others who rely upon foreign talent within the specified categories.

Economic Travel Suspension Background and Developments

The economic hardships experienced as a result of the COVID pandemic served as the basis for Presidential Proclamations limiting the ability of foreign nationals to enter the US in specific immigrant (permanent) and temporary (non-immigrant) immigration categories.  These broad Presidentially-created restrictions, precluded large numbers of foreign nationals who otherwise met existing legal and regulatory immigration requirements from obtaining visas and/or entering the US. As of March 31, 2021, both restrictions have ended.

We discussed the termination of the economically-based immigrant suspension in our February 25, 2021 Client Alert, Biden Administration Revokes Order Suspending Entry into the United States by New Green Card Holders. As noted in that Alert, the President proactively revoked the immigrant (green card) suspension, but allowed the non-immigrant (H-1B, H-2B, J and L-1) restrictions to remain in place. With the passage of time (and with the absence of an extension) the non-immigrant restrictions are now seemingly safely in the past.

Continue Reading Entry Suspension on Temporary Work Visa Categories Ended

In recent weeks, the EU, UK, and US have adopted sanctions against those allegedly involved in the military coup in Myanmar, along with those responsible for serious violations of human rights in overthrowing the democratically elected government or committing violence against protestors. The actions mark a sharp uptick in sanctions measures targeting Myanmar and suggest close coordination between the three jurisdictions.

Additionally, on March 25, the UK and US took coordinated action, going beyond the measures imposed by the EU, to impose sanctions on certain holding companies controlled by the Myanmar military, a development that may have significant implications for persons doing business in Myanmar.

For more on EU, UK, and US sanctions related to Myanmar, click here to read the full Client Alert or contact a lawyer in Steptoe’s Economic Sanctions practice.

On March 22, 2021, the EU, UK, US and Canada announced a range of coordinated sanctions to crack down on alleged serious human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).  The coordinated announcements comprised measures of various types, including asset freezes and travel bans against individuals and entities alleged to be involved in serious human rights violations against Uyghurs and other minority groups in the XUAR.  The measures elicited the swift imposition of retaliatory sanctions by China against a group of EU individuals and institutions.

Continue Reading EU, UK, US and Canada Announce Coordinated Xinjiang Sanctions

On March 11, 2021, the Home Office launched an online registry for organisations required to publish annual modern slavery statements under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (“MSA”).  The launch of the registry makes good on one of a series of commitments made by the UK government in October 2020 to strengthen the transparency in supply chains provision of the MSA, which we discussed in greater detail in a previous blog post (here).

Commercial organisations that carry on all or part of a business in the United Kingdom and have a total annual turnover of £36 million or more currently are required to publish a modern slavery statement reporting on the steps that they have taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in their business or supply chains.

The UK government’s 2020 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery reported that 17 percent of covered organisations had not published a modern slavery statement and were unlikely to be covered by a group modern slavery statement.  One goal of the new registry is to enable the UK government to more effectively monitor compliance with the reporting obligations imposed by the MSA.

Continue Reading UK Government Acts on Commitment to Tackle Modern Slavery in Supply Chains with Centralised Modern Slavery Statement Registry

Just three days before restrictions under Executive Order (EO) 13959 arising from Xiaomi Corporation’s designation by the US Department of Defense (DoD) as a Communist Chinese military company (CCMC) were to go into effect, on March 15, 2021, the US District Court for the District of Columbia granted Xiaomi’s request for a preliminary injunction order (the Court Order) against enforcement of the restrictions.

Following the Court Order, on March 14, 2021, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published a new Frequently Asked Question (“FAQ”) confirming that, for now, US persons are not prohibited from transacting in publicly traded securities of Xiaomi under EO 13959. OFAC also published a new FAQ concerning the application of EO 13959 to Luokung Technology Corp., which is also designated as a CCMC.

Continue Reading OFAC FAQs Confirm the Suspension of the Restrictions on Xiaomi’s Securities Following District Court Injunction

On March 10, 2021, the UK Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) published a revised version of its Monetary Penalties for Breaches of Financial Sanctions Guidance (Guidance), which will come into force on April 1, 2021. The new Guidance will be used to assess any potential financial sanctions breaches of which OFSI becomes aware on or after that date. The current version of the Guidance will remain applicable in the meantime.

The structure and scope of the revised Guidance is largely unchanged. The majority of the additions and changes focus on the case assessment and penalty calculation processes and seek to clarify OFSI’s position on certain issues as well as reflect some of the lessons OFSI has learned through its monetary penalty cases since May 2018. However, the revised Guidance is not purely an update or restatement. While the overall monetary penalties regime has not materially changed, a number of the changes to the Guidance indicate a stronger enforcement stance from OFSI.

Most notably, the amendments to the Guidance suggest an intention to make use of monetary penalties in concert with other enforcement tools and the possibility of a broader interpretation of OFSI’s jurisdiction to impose penalties. In some cases, the changes are subtle and only time will tell whether certain changes reflect new interpretations or shifts in enforcement stance or are simply the product of drafting.

For detailed analysis of the key amendments, click here to read the full Client Alert from Steptoe.

On March 8, 2021, the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published amendments to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) imposing new export control restrictions on Myanmar (Burma) and adding four entities to the Entity List, in response to a military coup in early February 2021.

The BIS announcements follow the imposition of sanctions on 12 individuals and three entities by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), pursuant to Executive Order 14041 of February 10, 2021.

In addition to designating major military-linked commercial entities to the Entity List, the new EAR amendments make Myanmar ineligible for certain license exceptions and add Myanmar to the list of countries subject to BIS’s military end use / military end user rule (the MEU Rule)—alongside China, Russia, and Venezuela.

For background on the US government’s previous Myanmar-related measures in response to the recent coup, including Executive Order (EO) 14014, see our blog post of February 12, 2021, “Biden Administration Announces Sanctions and Export Controls in Response to Myanmar Coup.”

Continue Reading Commerce Department Issues Significant New Export Controls in Response to Myanmar Coup

On March 2, 2021, the US Departments of Treasury, State, and Commerce announced the coordinated imposition of sanctions and other restrictive measures on Russia and Russian officials and entities for the “poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of Russian opposition figure Aleksey Navalny.” The Department of the Treasury added seven Russian officials and entities to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (the SDN List) pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 13661 and EO 13382, thereby blocking their property or interests in property that come within the possession of US persons or the jurisdiction of the United States. US persons are now prohibited from engaging in transactions with these SDNs. The State Department designated seven entities under its own authority, including four that were already on the SDN List. Treasury further expanded the sanctions applied to Russia in 2018 after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in the UK, and named six entities as operating for the Russian defense sector, triggering sanctions. The Commerce Department announced the addition of fourteen entities to the Entity List, which triggers a licensing requirement for exports, re-exports, and in-country transfers to those entities of all items subject to the US Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

Continue Reading US Applies Wide Range of Sanctions to Russian Officials and Entities

The Biden administration continues to undo the expansive immigration restrictions put in place by the former president. The latest measure to fall: Presidential Proclamation 10014, an economically-based suspension initiated on April 22, 2020, which barred many new permanent residents from entering the United States as permanent residents (“green card holders”). The Presidential Action of February 24, 2021 puts an immediate end to this twice-extended suspension in advance of its slated expiration date of March 31, 2021.

Economic Travel Suspension: Extensions and Impact

As explained in our April 23, 2020 Client Alert, “COVID-19 Immigration Suspension Proclamation Has Limited Scope,” the impact of  Proclamation 10014 was initially muted due to the practical realities of consular closures. However, in time, its broad provisions and the freeze on action on these cases created substantial backlogs, family separation, and notable litigation related to the time-bound immigrant visa lottery category. The impact to visa lottery candidates, who lose visa eligibility if their cases are not processed within set fiscal year time frames, was specifically mentioned in the revocation of Proclamation 10014. The revocation stated that Proclamation 10014 (and subsequent extensions) harmed the United States, rather than advancing national interests. The harm cited was both family separation and economic harm to industries which depend upon global talent.

Continue Reading Biden Administration Revokes Order Suspending Entry into the United States by New Green Card Holders