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TOP 10 MIGRATION ISSUES OF 2006
Issue #6 Growing Competition for the "Right" Skilled Workers
Scientists are among the world's most sought-after migrants.
It seems the most palatable migrant to the world's developed
nations in 2006 is still the one in the medical, scientific,
IT, or business and finance fields. The question some countries grappled with
this year, though, was how to attract the highly skilled who will actually do well in the labor market.
The UK falls into this category. The government decided to temporarily suspend
its four-year-old, points-based Highly Skilled Migrant Program (HSMP) in November
because of concerns that the existing system was being abused.
In addition to improving verification procedures, the UK Home Office will
now require English-language fluency and a bachelor's degree, criteria
that are supposed to better reflect "the likelihood of a migrant's labor
market success." These modifications bring the program even closer to its Canadian and Australian roots.
France and Hong Kong significantly changed their policies, in each case making
it easier for the highly skilled to enter — but not without requirements
meant to ensure migrants are a good match with labor needs.
Under France's new law, foreigners who possess skill sets of interest
to French employers in areas "characterized by recruitment difficulties" will
be granted "skills and talents" visas, valid for three years.
This means employers who are not on the government-selected list may have
more difficulty (or may face longer waiting periods) obtaining residence permits
for migrant workers they wish to employ. Also, eligible candidates must be
able to demonstrate that they will contribute to the economic or intellectual
and cultural development of both France and their country of origin.
In late June, Hong Kong launched a new, points-based system, the Quality Migrant
Admission Scheme, which allows up to 1,000 highly skilled migrants per year.
However, to protect Hong Kong's own recent college graduates, the program
clearly favors migrants in the 30-to-34 age range who have work experience.
Also, earning enough points doesn't guarantee entry, because a 19-member
panel still decides who gets in.
Designed to attract talented mainland Chinese, the new program seems to have
succeeded on that count: as of November 7, 76 percent of the 86 applications
approved (out of 479) were from mainland China, with 12 percent from Australia
and New Zealand.
New Zealand, meanwhile, simply wants more migrants (see Ones to Watch: Openness to Migrants). Its major change: increasing
the number of new-resident places available in 2006-2007 to 52,000, the highest
level since 2001-2002.
The New Zealand government faced criticism over decreases in migration from Asia due to skilled
migrant program changes made a few years ago. For instance, migrants from China
and India could only claim points for work done for a multinational company.
Immigration Minister David Cunliffe responded by saying in July that restrictions
had been relaxed this year so that migrants could claim points for work experience
in occupations where the country has an absolute skills shortage, such as IT,
plumbing, and engineering.
In an effort to increase the number of H-1B visas available annually to talented
workers, two US research groups decided to investigate the link between immigrant
entrepreneurs and venture capital funding. The results: immigrants founded
nearly 20 percent of the US startups (including Yahoo and Google) that relied
on venture capital before turning to the stock market in the last 35 years.
Maybe the US Congress will get the United States back in the competition in
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