Sunday, May 23, 2010

U.S and Canadian Immigration Policies

A recent Gallup survey of potential immigrants notes that the less educated tend to favor the United States over Canada. These two countries being, by far, the most favored destinations for people around the world who want to leave their own country permanently.

This tendency is probably more a reflection of immigration policy, or in other words, a type of sample bias. Canada, while often feted as a progressive alternative to the United States, is more conservative when it comes to immigration, or at least so-called legal immigration. (Which is the context of this piece.) Summing up the difference: Canada has a skills-first immigration policy while the United States has a family-first policy. If one has ever looked into immigrating Up North, one of the first things you are asked to do is take a skills self-assessment test; i.e., whether or not you have a needed or scarce job skill. If you can't pass this little 'test', or check-up, then it's very unlikely you will get into Canada.

The U.S. has no such skills mandate. If one can find a sponsor - most typically family, than one can immigrate. Of course, U.S. immigration policy also favors certain skilled labor - historically professions such as nurses, engineers etc. But once one family member gets in, they can bring almost unlimited number of family members along with them over the years as long as they are willing to sponsor. If this sounds like a personal story, it's because it is to a large extent.

What exactly is sponsorship ? It means one vouches for the self-sufficiency of the applicant for a period of years, and promise they won't be on the public dole during that time. In theory, one is liable for the cost if they do, but that rarely happens.

Immigration policy is of course more intricate than outlined above, with many nuances. But in general, less educated potential-immigrants favor the U.S. because they know they have a better chance of getting in. The United States is more open than Canada on matters of immigration.

A large part of 'immigration reform' as favored by Bloomberg or Silicon Valley, is to make the US policy more 'skills-first', like Canada. This is strongly opposed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It's one of those unwritten battles that is worth remembering in the overall debate.

'Young, Less Educated Yearn to Migrate to the U.S.' - 1 - Gallup

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