E.g., 10/31/2014
E.g., 10/31/2014

Giving Cities and Regions a Voice in Immigration Policy: Can National Policies Meet Local Demand?

Reports
July 2014

Giving Cities and Regions a Voice in Immigration Policy: Can National Policies Meet Local Demand?

Immigration policies are typically designed and implemented at the national level, even though economic and demographic circumstances may vary widely across cities and regions. Large and fast-growing metropolitan areas are natural magnets for both immigrants and their native-born peers, while rural areas and small towns tend to attract fewer immigrants, even when employers have vacancies to fill.

Some immigration routes, however, channel new arrivals toward particular destinations where their labor is thought to be in high demand. These routes fall into two major categories: (1) employer-sponsored immigration and (2) immigrants selected through regional nomination programs. Employer-sponsored visa policies implicitly direct foreign workers to areas where their skills are in demand. To ensure that this happens, some such programs are further customized to the needs of particular regions. In the cases of Australia and Canada, which have made regional nomination programs the flagship policies in their immigration systems, the national governments have delegated a certain level of authority to subnational jurisdictions to select their own workers. These subnational visa programs allow regions and localities that are not traditional immigration destinations to attract workers who would otherwise have gone elsewhere. 

These types of region-specific immigration policies are not without risk. They add complexity to already complicated immigration systems and disregard immigrants' market-based decisions, which could potentially undermine economic prospects and contributions.

This report from the 11th plenary meeting of the MPI-convened Transatlantic Council on Migration examines how economic-stream immigration has been tailored to meet local employment demand both with and without significant involvement with local or regional governments.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction: Why Do Local Needs Differ?

II. National Policies and Local Demand

A. Supply-Driven Migration

B. National Policies Designed to Respond to Local Circumstances

III. Giving Regions a Voice in Selection

A. Regional Migration Programs in Australia

B. Provincial Nomination in Canada

C. Can Regions Retain and Integrate the Immigrants They Nominate?

IV. Conclusions: Which Programs Best Meet Local Demand?