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Friday, August 19, 2011

Policies toward Highly-skilled Immigrants: Comparing the US, EU and Canada

Selective immigration is a hot topic these days. Even countries that insist that they are not 'countries of immigration' are diving into the global competition for well-educated, highly-skilled immigrants.

However, each country or super-state is designing its programs differently. The EU Blue Card, for example, is not really equivalent to a U.S. Green Card.  The diversity of programs and lack of clear information about what is available make it difficult for a potential migrant to clearly understand the differences:  the advantages and dis-advantages of one program over another.

So I was very pleased to come across the work of Hristina Petrova, an independant Bulgarian researcher, who has done some excellent work in this area. Her comparative approach is exactly what is needed by both potential migrants and policy-makers.  She argues (and she is right) that you can't look at selective immigration programs in isolation; what one country does impacts the others.
Whenever there is a political debate, highly skilled migration alone is rarely the subject of discussion. Despite being a subcategory in migration, it is more closely related to skills accumulation than to general migration since it rhymes with knowledge, (technological) innovation, economic growth and cultural diversity. That is why the competition to attract and retain highly educated (trained) people has become a global issue, with any single policy implementation having a chain effect on competitors’policies.
Her Masters' thesis on Highly-Skilled Migrant policies which compares the EU, Canada and the U.S. is an excellent resource -  a good comparative analysis about the differences among the Canadian points-based system, the U.S. Green card and H1-B visa program, and the European Blue card scheme.  In her paper she also talks about the history of migration in these regions, the difficulty of finding good, reliable data on international migrants, how each country or superstate has crafted its immgration policies according to how it perceives the need for skilled labor, and the trends - what might these countries' policies look like in the future? A summary of her conclusions can be found here and I call your attention to two that I found intriguing:
Finally, some global trends are to be considered. At the time when the EU has finally shown interest in attracting the best and the brightest, somewhat inspired by the systems in the US and Canada, the time of adopting the legislation, changes have occurred in the latter countries. The future of the American immigration system is for the moment uncertain, depending on the lobby groups, while Canada has accepted a hybrid model of skills supply and demand...
The policies towards highly skilled migrants are characterized by exceptional dynamics and influenced by numerous factors, such as geographical, linguistic and cultural proximity; lobbying in favor of migrants; economic specificities; demographic problems; labour shortages. That is why it has to be kept in mind that ‘home’ and ‘host’ country are not static in the case of the highly skilled migrants and that in the imminent war for talents only the countries with fast and efficient political planning will be successful.
If you are interested in migrating to the U.S., EU or Canada and you want a good comparison of all three's selective immigration programs, this is the place to start.

Many thanks to Ms. Petrova for her research and for her permission to link to her site.  She has really done us all an enormous good and I highly recommend her work.

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