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Canadian system for managing highly skilled migration could offer a way forward as the European Union considers legal migration policy changes, MPI Europe report suggests

Press Release
Monday, March 14, 2016

Canadian system for managing highly skilled migration could offer a way forward as the European Union considers legal migration policy changes, MPI Europe report suggests

BRUSSELS – With the European Commission poised to unveil a new legal migration policy package in the coming weeks in support of its overarching goal of boosting growth and competitiveness across the European Union, policymakers have been focused on ways to better attract global talent and improve upon earlier policies, including the flagship Blue Card, that have failed to live up to expectations.

Countries outside of Europe, predominant among them Australia, Canada and the United States, remain the top international destinations for highly skilled workers. European countries, by contrast, do not attract endless queues of highly qualified labour immigrants, either through national systems or the Blue Card.

A new Migration Policy Institute Europe report examines the recent experience of Canada, which has a long tradition of adjusting its skilled migration policies based on their results in fostering the labour market outcomes of immigrants, while also serving domestic demand for skilled workers.

The report, The Canadian Expression of Interest System: A Model to Manage Skilled Migration to the European Union?, examines Canada’s implementation of Express Entry, as well as how elements of the programme could perhaps offer the European Union mechanisms to improve the management of highly skilled migration alongside the national systems operated by EU Member States.

In January 2015, after more than a decade of research and evaluation, Canada implemented its version of the expression of interest (EOI) system, which is designed to fast-track skilled immigrants deemed most likely to achieve economic success and positive integration outcomes while balancing short- and long-term policy goals.

The EOI system, variants of which were adopted earlier by Australia and New Zealand, involves a two-step process for selecting skilled immigrants. In the first stage, candidates file an electronic expression of interest in permanent immigration and are pre-screened for minimum eligibility criteria (including language and education). Those who meet the eligibility requirements then enter a pool where they are ranked according to their human capital and in-demand skills. In the second stage, the pre-screened applicants with the highest rankings are selected in regular draws from the pool, in a dynamic process where candidates can gain points by, for example, securing the sponsorship of an employer or a territory.

The EOI system replaces the first-come, first-served method of processing applications traditionally used by major destination countries. While Canada and Europe have significantly different highly skilled immigration flows and policies, both face similar challenges in matching highly skilled migrants with local demand, and introduction of the pre-selection and matching elements of the EOI system could represent a major advance in the management of skilled immigration in Europe, the report finds.

“By creating a pre-screened pool of high-skilled candidates, the European Commission would offer significant support to Member States, and, critically, employers, and provide additional value to national systems for skilled migration,” write authors Maria Vincenza Desiderio and Kate Hooper. “This would in turn foster trust in the European Union’s role in setting skilled migration policy, and lay the ground for progress toward a common regulatory framework for legal migration in the longer term.”

The report can be read online here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/canadian-expression-interest-system-model-manage-skilled-migration-european-union.

The report follows on earlier work done by MPI Europe and the Migration Policy Institute analysing the various immigrant selection systems that have been tried around the world, and their successes, failures and evolutions. Read earlier research on selection systems here: www.migrationpolicy.org/topics/selection-systems.

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Migration Policy Institute Europe, which is based in Brussels, provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. For more on its work, visit www.mpieurope.org.