immigration policies
July 12, 2005 12:09 PM   Subscribe

What are the biggest differences between other developed countries and the United States in terms of their immigration policies? If I remember right, the US lets in about 1 million people or so a year (legally), most through family reunificiation, some through a lottery,business opportunities, refugee programs or other means. Ive often wondered how other developed countries, such as those in the EU or Australia handle their immigration policies - more or less open? Ive never been able to find a solid nonideological guide to different countries policies, so some pointers would be great!
posted by jare2003 to Human Relations (12 answers total)
This doesn't seem to talk too much about policy, but it does have lots of statistics for lots of countries which are well-sourced even if the organization publishing them is not unbiased.

In the EU, in particular, you'll want to distinguish between intra-EU migration (which is very easy) and immigration to the EU from a non-EU country (which isn't).
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:26 PM on July 12, 2005

Wikipedia has some good information about the White Australia policy [non-official name, but official policy from the 1890s-1950s] as a subsection to their Immigration to Australia section. The policy was still on the books in reduced form until the late 1970s when all race-based immigation policies were eliminated. Wikipedia also has a good longish article on immigration to the United Kingdom. Here are some numbers pertaining to Australian immigration.
posted by jessamyn at 12:31 PM on July 12, 2005

The US is somewhat unique (although not alone) in using categories with set quotas to regulate immigrants coming to this country. Essentially, there are two big "sets" of categories, family based and employment based. Each of these sets contains five categories, defined either by the type of family relation the immigrant has with a US citizen or LPR (legal permanent resident), or they type of job they have/will have. People may fit into more than one of these categories. The wait lists for the employment categories are mostly non-existent, but for some of the family-based admissions, the wait times can exceed twenty(!) years. The US also has a supplemental lottery system, but the chances of winning it are very, very low.

Most other western countries have a relatively simpler, "points-based" system. Take Canada for example. Instead of trying to fit into a category, a potential immigrant will take a test, and points are assigned based on education, family connections, language ability and other things the Canuks feel are important. If you score above a certain number, you're in. (Well, not really, you move onto the next step of the immigration process, but the test is the biggest barrier for most potential immigrants.)

Some western countries utilize a mixture of the two systems. Germany, for instance (this might have changed under the EU, I dunno) has both a points-system and a very generous family-based categorical system.

Israel is somewhat unique due to its Law of Return.

Finally, all of this is complicated by the growing number of countries that recognize dual citizenship. People may be forced to commit to mandatory armed service (i.e. Israel, Switzerland, etc...), and this might affect their citizenship.immigration status elsewhere. For example, technically, one cannot be a US citizen and serve in the armed forces of another country, but countries like Israel have special programs that get around this restriction (by limiting dual-citizens to "support" roles, etc...)
posted by thewittyname at 1:20 PM on July 12, 2005

Fascinating article about this and how Scotland is dealing with it. The article can be found here, from The Scotsman:

The Executive's Fresh Talent initiative, which allows students to stay on for two years after completing their course without needing a work permit, is designed to encourage immigration into Scotland against a background of declining population that threatens to cause severe economic problems.

There was a related article in the FT at about the same time, but I can't find a link to it (their site seems to be choking right now). But the short of it is, nations open the doors when it will help them in the long run.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:27 PM on July 12, 2005

In many ways the US is more restrictive than most developed countries, and I think that's because few developed countries have such a huge land border with a less weathy state as the US does with Mexico, thus most countries have fewer illegals straining certain things than the US. But while the US diversity lottery is small, the fact that it is there at all makes a very cool low-barrier immigration system, and the US deserves very high marks for that (though naturally it is targeted and jeopardised in these terrified-of-terrorists days, as well as by the usual anti-immigration crowd that you get in all countries).

There is also state-specific streamlining. Eg I think it's often easier to get into commonwealth countries if you're from another commonwealth country. Likewise, the US presumably has special immigration status for some countries (not sure).
posted by -harlequin- at 2:24 PM on July 12, 2005

I am less impressed than harlequin is by the U.S. Green Card Lottery. It is notable for the peoples it excludes, mostly Asians and Africans. For instance if you're Chinese (mainland or Taiwanese, or even Singaporean), forget it; you're not eligible. This is a continuation of a long history of race discrimination in immigration policy.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:21 PM on July 12, 2005

Sephardic Jews (whose ancestors were kicked out of Spain during the Inquisition) and current citizens of a former Spanish colony (the Phillipines, Portugal, Guinea, etc.) can become Spanish citizens after two years' residency, rather than ten years. You need a very solid paper trail for the former, though.
posted by Asparagirl at 5:01 PM on July 12, 2005

It is notable for the peoples it excludes, mostly Asians and Africans. For instance if you're Chinese (mainland or Taiwanese, or even Singaporean), forget it; you're not eligible.

You're joking, right?

The doors to the country might not be wide open for the Chinese, but they aren't to anyone else, either...
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:03 PM on July 12, 2005

It is notable for the peoples it excludes, mostly Asians and Africans.

Didn't Fredy Adu's family come to the U.S. from Africa via a green card lottery?
posted by gyc at 5:39 PM on July 12, 2005

It is notable for the peoples it excludes, mostly Asians and Africans.

Nope. No African country is ineligible, near as I can tell. The countries that are excluded from the lottery are excluded because they send lots of immigrants through normal family-based or employment-based channels.

For instance if you're Chinese (mainland or Taiwanese, or even Singaporean), forget it; you're not eligible

That will come as a shock to the Singaporeans and Taiwanese who were admitted under the diversity visa last year. The PRC is indeed ineligible; I assume that Taiwan only remains eligible for political reasons.

Official statement: Natives of the following countries were not eligible to participate in DV-2005: Canada, China (mainland-born, excluding Hong Kong S.A.R., and Taiwan), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:55 PM on July 12, 2005

Yeah, but what do you know? You're just a Xenophobe ...

The best overall look is this Net Migration map from NationMaster, which also has a series of (mostly less comprehensive) comparative graphs.

The US is pretty much typical; immigration keeps the US population growing, since otherwise the birthrate would be below replacement, as is happening in Italy and Russia. Our special concerns are indeed Mexico and to a lesser extent other Latin American immigrants entering illegally, but there are also millions of legal entrants from those countries living here today with full citizenship, a point often overlooked. Largely the illegal entrants represent an unskilled labor force that is both feared as a source of welfare-state woes and desperately needed as a bottom-feeding workforce, so US policies are somewhat schizophrenic. Especially during the Cold War, the US operated an aggressive refugee program for emigrants from Communist and allied nations, particularly of course Cuba (which still has unique privileges), but notably refused refugee status for people fleeing obvious dangers in US-allied countries.

Other countries, notably Germany, Holland, and Canada, have aggressively courted political refugees, though I'm not sure how this affected their overall immigration numbers. In the case of fmr. West Germany, those were inflated by East Bloc refugees. Australia, as jessamyn pointed out, had an era of strict racialist immigration policy, but abandoned it and is now very diverse, although infamous episodes with boat-people like the Tampa incident show they're not ready to open the doors any wider than they think the country can absorb, and those numbers are overall in line with the US (for a considerably smaller population), despite Australia being seen as a destination by many Asian emigrants, especially since the handover of Hong Kong.

The UK, France, and Spain are special cases, handling a lot of immigration from their former colonies. The EU has had to write special rules for citizenship in these cases (I think they actually differ for each of these three countries), in the process of harmonizing such policies. Thus the UK has plenty of South Asians, France has North Africans, and Spain has Latin Americans.
posted by dhartung at 10:20 PM on July 12, 2005

I am happy that the Green Card Lottery is open to more people than it used to be. When I checked it out for a Chinese friend ten years ago, the restrictions were as I described. It's still discriminatory toward about 20% of the Earth's population.

You're joking, right?

The doors to the country might not be wide open for the Chinese, but they aren't to anyone else, either...
posted by NotMyselfRightNow

No. It's a relative thing. You might try figuring the concept out sometime.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:21 AM on July 14, 2005

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