1. Recent developments in international migration movements and policies

This chapter offers an overview of the most recent trends in international migration flows and policies. The chapter starts by providing an overview of new issuances of residence permits/visas during the first semester 2020. It then examines flows according to category of entry from 2009 to 2019 : (i) permanent movements broken down into labour, family, humanitarian and free mobility; (ii) the main channels of temporary labour migration: seasonal workers, working holidaymakers, trainees, intracompany transferees and posted workers; (iii) international mobility of foreign students; and (iv) asylum seekers. The chapter also gives an overview of flows by gender and origin, foreign-born populations and naturalisation. The second part of the chapter deals with major recent developments in policies that regulate the entry and stay of foreign nationals in OECD countries.

This section provides a first overview of migration flows during the first semester of 2020 across OECD countries. The shock to migration from COVID-19 related restrictions appears towards the end of the first quarter and is severe in the second quarter, although with a few exceptions. The uneven expansion of the epidemic and the range in policy responses is reflected in the sudden – but not simultaneous – declines in migration flows into different OECD countries. Changes in the number of issuances of new temporary and longer-term visa/permits over the first semester 2019 and 2020 are shown in Figure 1.1.

Overall, in OECD countries, issuances of new visa/permits plummeted by 46% in the first semester of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The decline was even sharper when looking only at the second quarter of 2020: 72% lower than the same period in 2019. On average, the drop was smaller in European OECD countries: a 35% decrease from the first semester 2019 to the same period in 2020 and a 59% decline comparing second quarter 2019 and 2020.

While there is no doubt that migration declined, the exact magnitude of the decline should be weighed with caution due to variations in data coverage and definitions. It should also be noted that these data are largely drawn from administrative processing of visas and permits and do not directly correspond to migration flows to OECD countries. Depending on the source, they reflect decisions, issuances, admissions or arrivals. It should also be noted that data do not include intra-EU and other free mobility movements, except when they show arrivals. The magnitude of entry restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that the impact on free mobility will ultimately be larger than during the 2007-08 economic crisis. At that time, the crisis had severe effects on migration flows in OECD countries. Overall, free mobility decreased by 40% between 2007 and 2009.

In addition, data do not include asylum applicants. First estimates show that asylum requests in Europe declined by 33% over the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 (by 66% when considering only the second quarter). Some countries suspended the processing of asylum applications at least in April while others continued at a slower pace. The rebound generally observed from May is partly due to the processing of requests from persons who entered prior to the lockdown.

What is clear is that the sharp decline in most countries over the first six months of 2020 is largely explained by COVID-19 related restrictions on travel and admission, and by suspension in services or reduced issuance of visas and permits. Many OECD countries introduced COVID-19 related entry bans or travel restrictions between mid February and April 2020 – restrictions which largely remained in place into the third quarter of 2020. By May 2020, much of the population in a number of countries – including Belgium, France, Italy, Spain as well as the United States – was in strict lockdown and foreigners subject to entry restrictions. Many countries also limited or suspended the processing of visa applications. For many countries, consular and residence permit services had not fully resumed even by June 2020, especially for foreigners. Relaxation of admission restrictions in July and August in several countries will only be gradually reflected in third quarter data for 2020. Only a few countries – such as Sweden – did not impose restrictions during this period.

Nonetheless, despite the decline in most OECD countries for which data are reported, flows did not drop to zero. Inflows continued even during the peak of the first wave of COVID-19 – although a mere trickle in some countries. The continuation of inflows of non-nationals is largely due to the patchwork of exceptions to entry restrictions. Many countries drew up exemptions for certain categories, such as family members of nationals and permanent residents; international students following courses requiring their presence (Box 1); and essential workers (especially in health care but also in agriculture (Box 2) and transportation, in many cases). The definition of essential and critical workers or sectors varies among countries, but is rarely broad enough to keep labour inflows at anything resembling pre-COVID-19 levels.

The largest drops in issuances were observed in countries which imposed the strictest and/or the longest entry restrictions. In Chile, Greece, Japan, Korea and the United States, numbers of issuances were less than half in the first semester 2020 compared to 2019. Japan and Korea – which also suspended the validity of previously issued visas to limit new entries – saw issuances of temporary and longer-term visas drop drastically over the first semester 2020, by -64% and -75%, respectively. In Korea, new visas were issued only if the applicant could submit a medical certificate and commit to self-quarantine. Visa-waiver and visa free entry programmes were suspended on a reciprocal basis. The 72% drop in permits issuances in Chile is partly due to the restrictions imposed on the entry of Venezuelans from the end of 2019 but also to the suspension of in-person appointments for issuance of permanence residency applications for selected nationals required to apply in person (notably nationals of Haiti and Peru). In Greece, Immigration and Asylum Services remained closed to the public from 12 March to 15 May 2020, processing only pending residence permit or asylum applications.

The United States reduced consular services and gradually suspended entry for aliens arriving from certain countries, started in February; by mid-March the list of restriction origin countries included China, Iran, the Schengen area in Europe and the United Kingdom and Ireland. Restrictions were placed on a number of visa categories in April, focusing on temporary visas allowing employment. Combined with reduced visa application processing, this produced a sharp drop in the number of visas issued by the US State Department. In the United Kingdom, the Home Office suspended all visa issuances. Visa processing capacity in New Zealand was disrupted and did not start to increase until May 2020, with priority given to residents, and temporary visa applications where the applicant has the capacity to support the government response to COVID-19. In Israel, restrictions on entry for foreigners meant work permit applications remained minimal and new long-term permits were issued only in urgent and exceptional cases.

Even when residence permit and long stay visa applications continued to be processed, residence permits were sometimes still withheld. In Finland, for example, data on applications approved remained stable over the period, since they reflect working through a backlog of applications rather than issuance of new visas. The significant exceptions to entry bans, generally related to essential sectors, such as health, food, energy and IT, explain why permit issuances appear relatively flat comparing 2019 with 2020, or even positive in some countries (Figure 1.1). In particular, Spain did not formally suspend visa processing, but implemented practical limitations on issuing visas. Work permit procedures were prioritised and streamlined for health care workers and agricultural workers. In other cases, the continuity in the data reflect the administration continuing to work through a backlog despite the pandemic.

Other countries where exceptions ensured ongoing flows include Ireland, where entry visa applications were processed only in certain categories (e.g. health care professionals, transport personnel engaged in haulage of goods and other transport staff to the extent necessary and immediate family members of Irish nationals). Migrants with an approved employment permit outside of these categories were not able to travel to Ireland. In Austria, long-term residents and their immediate family, as well as foreign health workers, were exempted from the travel ban. In Switzerland, the issue of new permits to foreigners outside the country mostly ceased, except for specific categories, such as health professionals or researchers working on the coronavirus, and for EU/EEA nationals working in essential sectors such as food, energy and IT sectors. In Canada, new visas for workers were only on the basis of exemptions to travel restrictions. These apply to persons employed in essential services; new temporary foreign workers were allowed to enter Canada. In Australia, there are only individual exemptions to general admission restrictions. The grounds for exemption for workers are determined by the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force and include “critical skills or working in a critical sector” as well as other exemptions.

In Belgium, applications for visas and permits were still accepted. Single permit applications could be submitted via email in all regions and pending applications, including renewals, were still processed. Nonetheless, issuances declined significantly.

Asylum seekers – included in the figures for some countries – continued to arrive, although in most cases in much smaller numbers due to the lockdown-related collapse in traditional transportation networks.

Restrictions and exemptions remain in place in many OECD countries and it is not likely that issuance of new visas will return to pre-COVID scale during 2020. In the United States, for example, restrictions on temporary employment visas remain in place through the end of 2020.

Overall permanent-type migration in 2019 in the OECD (referred to as “permanent migration” in this section) reached around 5.3 million new migrants. This excludes flows to Colombia and Turkey which hosted a large number of humanitarian migrants in the recent years. Excluding these two countries, flows of new permanent immigrants remained stable in 2018 and 2019 (Figure 1.2). In 2019, permanent migration declined to the two main OECD destination countries, United States and Germany for the third year in a row, but flows to most other OECD countries went up.

Permanent migration flows to the United States have been regularly declining since 2017 and stood at 1 million new lawful permanent residents in 2019 (Table 1.1). In Germany, after a 27% and a 3% drop in 2018 and 2019, respectively, migration flows were back to around 600 000, a level comparable to that observed before the refugee crisis. Migration flows to Spain increased sharply, reaching around 400 000 immigrants in 2019, more than in any year since 2008. Over the same year, in Canada, migration flows increased by 6% to reach 340 000, the highest level of the decade. The decade also ends with a record in France where flows from non-EU countries increased every year throughout the 2010s. In the Netherlands and Japan too, the strong increase observed in 2019 put flows at record levels, and Israel, with lower levels of migration flows, also witnessed a 2-digit increase.

Sweden is one of the rare OECD countries that saw a significant reduction in permanent migration flows in 2019 (-14%) although the number of new immigrants remained above 100 000. In New Zealand, migration reached its lowest level in a decade (38 000). The only other OECD countries where immigration declined were Italy (-9%), Denmark (-4%) and Korea (-2%). Migration flows to Australia, Austria and Switzerland were stable in 2019. Small increases were registered in other OECD countries.

Among countries for which standardised migration figures are not available, Lithuania registered a huge increase (+60%), the fourth consecutively since 2015, so that immigration in 2019 is five times higher than in 2015. Estonia also witnessed a rising trend in immigration since 2015, but at a slower pace (+13% in 2019). In Chile, after a 66% increase in 2018 (90% of which is due to flows of Venezuelans and Haitians), the number of visas granted declined by 25% in 2019. In Iceland, the number of new immigrants went back below 10 000 (-17%).

Humanitarian migration to OECD countries has been declining rapidly since 2016 (Figure 1.3). In 2019, humanitarian flows to OECD countries for which data are available displayed an overall 25% drop, with the United States accounting for most of it. The United Kingdom, Sweden and Austria also admitted much fewer humanitarian migrants in 2019 than in 2018. The share of humanitarian migrants in total permanent immigration to OECD countries had gone down from 14% in 2017 to 11% in 2018, and went down further in 2019, under 10% for the countries for which the information is available.

Overall, other categories of migration flows went up slightly in 2019. In fact, non-humanitarian migration to OECD countries increased every year since 2011 but this trend was hidden by the large fluctuations of refugee flows.

In 2019, permanent labour migration to OECD countries rose sharply (+13% in countries with available data). Half of the countries registered double-digit increases, including the United Kingdom (+42%), Finland (+29%), Luxembourg (+29%), Japan (+17%) or France (+12%). Flows of highly skilled workers largely drove this trend, notably in the United Kingdom. Only New Zealand saw a reduction in labour migration (-5%) in the context of a general decline of immigration (Annex Table 1.A.1).

Family migration also increased in 2019, by 2%, and remained the main category. Family migration accounted for 32% in 2018, and partial data show that more than one in three migrant to OECD countries in 2019 was a family migrant. This small rise set family migration (excluding accompanying family) to around 1.7 million new permanent migrants. The United States is by far the main country of destination for family migrants and granted lawful permanent resident status to more than 700 000 of them in 2019 (+2%). Family migration increased in two-thirds of OECD countries for which data on permanent migration are available, notably in the United Kingdom (19%), Luxembourg (+14%), Japan (+13%) and in the Netherlands (+10%). Among the countries where family migration declined, New Zealand stands out (- 31%).

Within the European Union free mobility decreased slightly (-2%) in 2019 but its share remained at 28% of all flows. Migration from the EU to the United Kingdom had almost doubled between 2009 and 2015, but has dropped regularly since. In 2019, the decline reached -10%. Other countries with a notable reduction of inflows of EU citizens are Sweden (-11%), Norway (-9%) and Finland (-4%). On the other hand, the Netherlands and Denmark experienced increases in intra-EU migration.

In 2019, OECD countries received on average eight new migrants per thousand inhabitants (Figure 1.4). This figure is stable since 2017, and slightly above the average for the rest of the decade. In two-thirds of the OECD countries, the 2019 ratio is higher than the one for the 2010-18 period. The difference is particularly strong in many Central and Eastern European countries, as well as in Chile and in Iceland. Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden and Italy are the main countries for which this ratio has declined between 2010-18 and 2019.

This section presents the latest statistics on national programmes for the international recruitment of temporary workers and on posted workers in the European Union.

There is a wide range of national work programmes helping employers to recruit, for a short period, persons in specific occupations or sectors, in particular those with a seasonal activity such as agriculture and tourism. Working holidaymakers programmes target youth and internship programmes new graduates. Many temporary labour migration programmes are governed by bilateral agreements. The international mobility of intra-company transferees is governed by international treaties such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services and a specific EU directive. Annex Table 1.A.3 lists the national temporary labour migration permits presented in this section and their characteristics. Inside the EU-EFTA, temporary labour migration is largely driven by postings inside the area.

Poland, the United States, Germany, Australia and France remain the five main OECD destinations for temporary labour migrants (Figure 1.5). In 2018, more than 5.1 million temporary labour migrants entered OECD countries, a 5% increase over 2017. The number of entries decreased in only five countries out of 34 countries for which statistics are available. The first permit statistics available indicate that the upward trend continued in 2019 (Table 1.2).

In several European OECD countries, the number of entries for seasonal work rebounded in 2017 or 2018 after a decade of decline when the recruitments from the new EU members were enough to meet employers’ labour needs in agriculture or tourism (Table 1.2). In light of the anticipated shortage of agricultural workers following Brexit, the United Kingdom opened a 2-year seasonal programme in 2019 that allowed recruiting 2 500 seasonal workers from outside the EU. In 2020, the programme was expanded to allow farmers to hire up to 10 000 workers. Germany, after delivering not less than 300 000 seasonal worker permits annually prior to the EU enlargement in 2004, now recruits essentially within the EU, with Polish workers filling most seasonal vacancies. In turn, the number of workers Poland receives, mostly from Ukraine, is notable in the OECD. Rapidly after it entered the EU, Poland became the first OECD destination for seasonal workers, before the United States. In 2018, the number of entries for seasonal work in Poland cannot be isolated from other entries for temporary work in general but is likely to exceed half-a-million given the overall increase of 5% for temporary workers in 2019. With the exception of Mexico, the number of permits delivered to perform seasonal work grew continuously in the last decade in non-European OECD countries. In the United States, the number of seasonal workers in the agriculture exceeded 200 000 in 2019, a 4% increase, down from a 22% rise in 2018.

In 2018, more than 475 000 youth received permits to enter OECD countries for holidays with the permission to engage in certain paid activities of a duration between 4 and 12 months (see Annex Table 1.A.3 for the characteristics of the national programmes). Large and well-established programmes in Australia, the United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are partly capped and did not grow in number in the last years. On the contrary, newer programmes as well as the Canadian programme gained importance every year in the last decade.

The international mobility of trainees is not widespread in OECD countries apart for Japan. This country delivered 158 000 new permits for trainees and technical intern trainees in 2018, twice the number of permits delivered in 2010.

The number of temporary permits delivered by OECD countries to the staff of companies with local branches in different countries is marking time since 2017. In 2018, this number is only 10% higher than eight years earlier. In 2019, while it rebounded in the United States, the largest destination country, it decreased for the third year in a row in the United Kingdom.

Inside the EU/EFTA, posted workers are defined as salaried or self-employed workers who generally carry out their activity in another member country while staying affiliated to the social security system in their home country. When workers are posted in one single country, the posting cannot exceed 24 months (EC No 987/2009 Article 12), whereas there is no time limit for workers posted in two or more countries (EC No 987/2009 Article 13)1. In 2018, the average duration of a posting is 91 days for postings falling under Article 12 of the Regulation and 299 days for postings falling under Article 13 of the Regulation. Workers posted to work in a unique country are often employed in the construction sector (40%) while half of the workers posted in multiple countries work in the freight transport sector. The certificate of affiliation (portable document A1) delivered by the country of origin can only be used as an estimate of the number of postings to another country in the case of workers falling under Article 12 of the regulation because in the case of workers falling under Article 13 the country where work is performed is not recorded. Therefore, the number of postings per country of destination in the last decade presented in Table 1.3 is not comprehensive. Still, it can serve for international comparisons and trend observations purposes.

Almost 3 million postings were recorded inside the EU-EFTA in 2018. Among them, 1.7 million fell under Article 12 and were directed to an OECD country. This represents a 5% increase compared to the previous year and a 65% increase since 2010. Germany remains the first destination country for postings in 2018 followed by France. The number of postings grew up in most European OECD countries in 2018. The number of postings to Austria, Finland and Belgium decreased slightly in 2018 but remained higher than the levels observed in 2015. Interestingly some of the countries which traditionally received very few posted workers have registered some of the largest increases in 2018. This is the case notably for Slovenia (+47%), Greece (+38%), Slovak Republic (+34%) and Lithuania and Latvia with respectively +34% and +62%.

Poland was the first issuing country of postings (directed to one or more countries) followed by Germany and Spain. The number of postings originating from Slovenia decreased by a third in 2018 while those originating from Austria and Spain increased respectively by 60% and 30% that same year.

Net postings are challenging to measure due to some data limitation, but it is worth noting that the largest receiving countries such as Germany and France are also amongst the top five largest sending countries.

Most recent stock data show that in 2017 and 2018 the number of international students enrolled in tertiary programmes across the OECD area increased by 5%. This trend confirms the continuous increase in movements of international students observed over the past few decades. In 2018, around 3.9 million and 1.8 million of international students were enrolled in the OECD area and in the European OECD countries, respectively (Table 1.4).

In 2018, more than 60% of international students in tertiary programmes were in the top five receiving countries (United States – 25.1%; the United Kingdom – 11.5%; Australia – 11.3%; Germany – 7.9% and France – 5.8%). The greatest growth in absolute numbers of international students took place in Norway, Portugal and Latvia. Six OECD countries experienced a reduction in their stock of international tertiary students, notably Mexico, Poland and France. Overall, the distribution of international students across OECD countries remained stable: nearly half of the international students went to study in a European OECD country.

International students accounted for an average of 6% of the OECD tertiary-level student population in 2018. In spite of recent increases, the share of international students is still negligible in Latin American countries, and remains low in Central and Eastern European countries (except in the Czech Republic and in Hungary). Conversely, 19.7% and 26.5% of tertiary-level students in New Zealand and Australia are international, and this proportion reaches nearly 50% for Luxembourg.

On average in the OECD, international students account for 13% of all enrolments in master’s programmes and 22% of PhD enrolments. The latter share reaches more than 50% in Luxembourg and Switzerland, and more than 40% in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Around 2.2 million of the total 3.9 million international tertiary-level students across the OECD area come from Asia (Figure 1.6), with Chinese students representing almost a fourth of all enrolments (904 000). Other major Asian source countries of international students are India (317 000) and Korea (96 500). European students represent a fourth of all international students enrolled in OECD countries. Germany, France and Italy are the largest origin countries, with respectively 116 000, 93 000 and 70 000 students in other OECD countries. Although only less than one in ten international students originate from Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, these regions experienced some of the fastest growth rates in emigration of tertiary-level students between 2013 and 2018.

Previous data analysed international students stocks up to 2018. Statistics on new permits granted to international students in 2018 (excluding intra EU movements of students) shades some additional light on the dynamic of the phenomenon.

In 2018, around 1 560 000 visas were granted to tertiary-level students, 3% more than in the previous year (Table 1.5). There has been an almost continuous rise over the past decade, driven most recently by increasing flows to European and Asian destination countries. 2019 data confirm a strong growth in Europe while flows to Korea remained stable and decreased slightly by 2% in Japan.

After a sharp decrease from 644 000 in 2015 to 362 900 in 2018, the number of residence permits issued to international tertiary-level students in the United States slightly rose by 0.4% in 2019. The increase was notable for students from China (+6.9%) and India (+2.4%), the two main origin countries. Permits for all others fell by 4%. The increase for China and India follows several years of decline – between 2015 and 2018, flows from these countries fell by 64% and 43% respectively, although these declines were partly due to introduction of multi-year permits.

Excluding the United States, inflows of tertiary-educated students have been increasing continuously since 2012 in the OECD area. Among the top six destinations in 2019, flows have increased the most in Canada and the United Kingdom (+13%), and decreased only in Japan (-2%).

After two years of decrease, the number of asylum applications to OECD countries has rebounded in 2019. While that number has dropped by one third between 2016 and 2018, new applications has increased by 11% in 2019, compared to the previous year, amounting to 1.2 million (Figure 1.7). Although increasing, the number of asylum applications is still far from the record-high number in 2015 and 2016 (about 1.65 million each year).

Although some important OECD destinations for asylum seekers have witnessed a drop in the number of applications, e.g. Turkey (-27 000), Germany (-19 000) and Italy (-18 000), this decrease has been largely offset by increases in many others. The number of asylum applications has more than doubled in Spain (+62 000) and Mexico (+ 41 000) and has also grown by 47 000 in the United States. Applications in OECD European countries made up about half of the overall OECD number in 2019, while there represented almost three quarters during the 2015-16 period.

As in previous years, statistics on asylum seekers do not fully account for the situation in Turkey, which hosts a large number of Syrian nationals under temporary protection. However, that number has slightly dropped over the last year, from 3.63 million in January 2019 to 3.58 million in December. The same applies to Colombia, which receives relatively few asylum applications but host a large number of humanitarian migrants from Venezuela.

In 2019, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Honduras were the top three countries of origin of asylum seekers, accounting for more than 20% of all applications to OECD countries (Table 1.6). Although the main country of origin, with 91 000 applications, Afghanistan continued its decline, which began in 2015 and has now reached its lowest level since 2014 (-4% compared with 2018). Overall, asylum requests from Middle East countries that used to be among the top three origin countries for the last five years are now at their lowest level since 2013-14. The number of asylum seekers from Syria (-8%) and Iraq (- 22%) decreased sharply in 2019 and flows are four to five times lower than in 2015.

By contrast, the recent surge of asylum applications from South and Central America has intensified in 2019, reflecting the political instability and insecurity in key origin countries. In 2019, with around 400 000 applications, Latin American and Caribbean countries made up more than a third of all asylum applications to OECD countries. The number of applications from Venezuela has increased by 53%, reaching 90 000, the highest level ever registered. Although the numbers are much lower, increases from Colombia (+134%), Honduras (+88%) and Guatemala (+60%) ae also sizeable. The number of applications from El Salvador also increased sharply (+17%) and reached its highest level.

Another noticeable change is the large drop in asylum applications from the main African origin countries, especially driven by the drop to Italy. For instance, the number of asylum seekers from Nigeria fell by 25% in 2019 and those from Eritrea by 39%. Therefore, for the first time in the last decade, there are no African countries in the top ten asylum origin countries.

For the third year in a row, the United States received in 2019 the highest number of asylum applications of all OECD countries, with 300 000 applications, up from 252 000 the previous year (Table 1.7). Almost 60% of asylum applications to the United States originated from five Latin American countries: Guatemala (17%), Honduras (13%), El Salvador (11%), Venezuela (9%) and Mexico (7%). Most of the increase in the number of asylum seekers in the United States came from Guatemala (+56%) and Honduras (+62%).

The second largest destination country of asylum applicants in the OECD in 2019 remained Germany, although the number decreased for the third consecutive year. The country received 140 000 first asylum applications, a 12% drop compared to 2018. This is five times lower than the 2016 peak (722 000 applications). The main origin countries in 2019 remained Syria and Iraq, which made up 37% of all asylum requests. The third country of origin has become Turkey, with 11 000 applications (+6% compared with 2018 level).

The United States and Germany were followed by France (120 000 applications), Spain (115 000), Greece (75 000) and Mexico (70 000). All these countries have received in 2019 a larger number of asylum seekers than in the previous year, in particular Spain and Mexico, where the number of applications has more than doubled. In Spain, this sharp increase was driven by asylum seekers from Venezuela (+111%) and Colombia (+241%). In Mexico, it was mainly due to Honduran applicants (+121%). Over the past five years, Mexico has become an important receiving country of asylum seekers: the current number of applications received is 10 times higher than in 2011 and that number has almost doubled each year since 2014.

Apart from Spain and Mexico, compared with 2018, asylum applications increased the most in Portugal (+40%), Ireland (+30%), Slovenia (+29%), Sweden (+28%) and Belgium (+27%). Conversely, there was a sharp decrease in applications in countries that used to be important destinations of asylum seekers, such as Italy (-34%, especially from African countries and Bangladesh), Turkey (-33%) and Hungary (-27%). The largest fall was in Israel (-42%), mainly because applications from Eritrea virtually stopped; and in Chile (-87%).

In a few European OECD countries, the main origin countries are not necessarily in the list of top countries of origin. In France, for example, the top three countries, representing 21% of all applications, were Afghanistan, Georgia and Albania. Albania and Georgia were the main origin countries in Ireland. Italy also mostly received asylum seekers from Pakistan, El Salvador and Peru. In Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation and Ukraine were among the top origin countries. Finally, in Australia and New Zealand, the main countries of origin were India and China, with Malaysia as the top country in Australia. Indians were in 2019 the largest group of asylum seekers in Canada, followed by Mexicans and Nigerians.

Ratios of first asylum-seeker applications to host country populations reveal that OECD countries registered 892 applications per million inhabitants in 2019. Among OECD countries with more than 1 million inhabitants, Greece was the top receiving country in this respect, with a ratio of 7 000 asylum seekers per million, followed by Spain (2 500), Sweden (2 300) and Belgium (2000). Among other traditional immigration countries, ratios were well above the average for France (1 800), Germany (1 700) and Canada (1 600), but close to or below in the United States (900), the United Kingdome (700) and Italy (600). Compared with the size of their population, New Zealand, Japan, Chile, Central European and Baltic countries (bar Lithuania), received few asylum applications, with ratios fewer than 150 per million inhabitants.

Mirroring the decrease in the number of asylum applications, the number of positive decisions giving an international protection status in OECD countries has regularly dropped since 2016. In 2019, 520 000 humanitarian migrants were admitted, a 15% decline compared to 2018 (Table 1.8), just after a 19% decline between 2017 and 2018. That number was almost twice as low as the one for 2016 (almost 980 000). Countries of destination of humanitarian migrants have diversified since the beginning of the surge. If three quarters of all positive decisions were received by OECD European countries in 2016, this was true for about two thirds in 2019.

While the United States became the main destination country of humanitarian migrants in 2018, with almost 190 000 admissions, numbers significantly dropped by 42% in 2019, to 110 000 entries (22% of the OECD total). Therefore, Germany, which received more than 40% of all humanitarian migrants in 2016-17, was again the main destination country for this category in 2019, with almost 120 000 admissions (22% of the OECD total). Those two countries were followed by Canada (9%), France (8%) and Spain (7%). In the latter, the number of positive decisions on applications for international protection multiplied by 13 in 2019, of which more than 90% were to Venezuelan nationals. Partly driven by the treatment of backlog and the evolution of first asylum applications (both in terms of numbers and in terms of composition by country of origin), other notable increases in the number of positive decisions between 2018 and 2019 among countries with more than 1 000 applications included Mexico (+37%) and the United Kingdom (+35%). By contrast, largest drops occurred in Hungary (-84%), the United States (-42%) and Sweden (-40%).

Beyond the asylum channel, many refugees have been resettled to OECD countries (Figure 1.8). Following the expansion of refugee resettlement quotas during the 2014-15 humanitarian crisis in many OECD countries, the number of resettlements increased sharply between 2015 and 2016. This increase was only temporary, however, and numbers have decreased significantly since then, stabilising around 60 000 resettlements annually between 2017 and 2019. The United States remained the top destination country, followed by Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany and France. However, while non-European OECD countries made up 80% of all UNHCR resettlements in 2016, there made only 48% in 2019. Indeed, compared to the peak in 2016, the largest decrease was observed in the United States (- 75%), Canada (-59%) and Australia (-54%). By contrast, European OECD countries took a larger share of resettlement, with about three times more in 2019 than in 2016 in Sweden, Spain, France and Germany.

Over the past 10 years, the People’s Republic of China has been the top country of origin of new migrants to the OECD area. In 2018, about 430 000 Chinese migrants settled in an OECD country (Figure 1.9), accounting for 6.5% of the total of migration inflows. Compared to 2017, fewer migrants from China chose the United States (-6 300) and Australia (-3 600) as destination countries in 2018, but more went to Japan (+6 000) and to Korea (+3 000). Overall, migration flows from China to OECD countries went down slightly (-4 500).

India took the second place to Romania in 2018, as emigration from India to OECD countries increased sharply (+10%) and reached 330 000 people. Migration from India represents almost 5% of overall migration to OECD countries. The rise is mostly due to the higher number of Indians going to Canada (+18 300), but many other OECD countries witnessed more arrivals from India, such as Germany (+3 900), Italy (+3 300), and also Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden (around +2000 each).

Migration flows from Romania to OECD countries remained stable in 2018 at just over 300 000 people. Declines of flows to traditional destination countries like Italy (-3 400) and Spain (-2 100) have been counterbalanced by increases in the Netherlands (+1900), Belgium (+1 500) and Austria (+1 300). 4.6% of all new migrants in OECD countries in 2018 were Romanian.

Both Viet Nam and Ukraine gained several places in the ranking as they saw almost 200 000 of their nationals emigrate to an OECD country in 2018. Moreover, both had a favourite partner country, Japan for Viet Nam and Poland for Ukraine, although flows from Ukraine are somewhat more diversified and flows increased sharply in Hungary and in the Czech Republic.

Flows from Mexico are even more concentrated as the United States received almost 90% of the 180 000 new migrants in OECD countries in 2018. However, the number of new lawful permanent residents in the United States declined by 5% in 2018 leading to an overall 4% decline for migration from Mexico to OECD countries.

Migration flows from Poland to OECD countries also dropped by 4% in 2018, to 170 000 new migrants. A decline also due to a significant drop in the top destination country, Germany (-10%). On the other hand, flows to the Netherlands increased again and reached a record level (26 000).

Despite a higher number of new Iraqi migrants in Turkey in 2018, migration from Iraq to OECD countries declined slightly (-4 000). The Philippines is still a major origin country for Canada but flows shrunk by 5 800 in 2018, leading to an overall decline in immigration of Filipinos to OECD countries of 7 300.

Migration from Italy increased by 4% in 2018 without it being linked to a specific migration corridor, movements from Italy being fairly well distributed among OECD countries.

Syria was no longer in the top ten countries of origin in 2018, falling from 4th position to 11th as flows dropped from 200 000 migrants to 150 000 in 2018. However, this level is higher than all recorded before 2015.

The most salient evolutions among other countries of origin were the sharp increases of inflows from Brazil, Morocco, Venezuela and Colombia, and to a lesser extent, from Cuba, Turkmenistan, Iran and Russia.

In terms of expatriation rate to OECD countries, the highest ratio is observed every year in Romania. In 2018, as in 2017, Romania saw 16 departures per thousand population (Annex Table 1.A.2). Albania followed with 15 per 1 000, then came Bulgaria and Croatia (13 each). Other countries with ratios above 10 are also European countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina (11), North Macedonia (10) and Lithuania (10). The first non-European countries are Syria (9), Cuba (8) and Eritrea (8).

Migration flows generally include more men than women. In 2018, men represented on average more than 56% of new migrants to OECD countries (Figure 1.10). This is similar to the 2017 figure but slightly higher than over the period 2013-17 (+1.4 percentage points). In 2018, several countries even displayed the highest share of men among the new immigrants since 2000. This is the case of Latvia and Lithuania, where this share was particularly high (76% and 85% respectively), and of Greece (63%), Hungary (62%), or Portugal (53%). Italy had followed this trend until 2017, when the share of men among new immigrants reached a peak at 58% (14 percentage points above the 2010 figure), but this share fell to 55% in 2018.

On the other hand, men have never been so few among migrants to Australia and to the Slovak Republic than in 2018. With under 47% men, Australia has the lowest share of migrant men of all OECD countries. In the Slovak Republic, despite successive declines since 2013, the share of men remains high (60%). Besides Australia, six countries receive fewer immigrant men than immigrant women: the United States (47%), France, Israel, Ireland, Canada and Spain (49% for all of them).

Since 2010, the size of the foreign-born population in OECD countries has increased by around 2% every year on average. In 2019, 135 million people living in OECD countries were born in a country other than their country of residence (Figure 1.11). A third of them live in the United States, and almost half live in a European OECD country. Between 2000 and 2015, the growth rate of the foreign-born population in OECD countries slowed down, from 4% per year between 2000 and 2005, 3% between 2005 and 2010, 2% between 2010 and 2015. It stabilised over the past five years due to the refugee crisis. In EU/EFTA countries, which received the largest number of refugees, the annual growth rate of the foreign-born population even rebounded to over 3%.

Between 2000 and 2019, the foreign-born population has increased in most OECD countries, sometimes rather strongly (Figure 1.12). The rise was above 5 percentage points in 15 countries, and reached 15 points in Luxembourg, 13 points in Iceland and 10 points in New Zealand. Luxembourg is also the OECD country with the largest share of foreign-born population (47%). Switzerland and Australia follow quite far behind, at 30%. Thirteen OECD countries count more than 15% foreign-born in their population, and across OECD countries, the foreign-born population represented more than one in ten inhabitants.

The overall trend in acquisition of citizenship of OECD countries has been very stable since the mid-2000s. The annual global figure for acquisitions of citizenship has fluctuated around 2 million in the past few years. In 2018, 1.95 million people acquired the citizenship of an OECD country (Figure 1.13), which represented a 3% increase compared to 2017. EU countries granted 42% of this total (810 000) and the United States 39% (760 000).

Acquisitions of Canadian citizenship went up by 67% in 2018 to reach 180 000, although levels were still below their 2014-15 peak. In 2018, increases were most noticeable for India, Iran, Philippines and Pakistan. This trend was confirmed in 2019 with a 41% increase, mostly due again to former Indians (+11 800), Syrians (+4 500) and Iranians (+4 000).

The second largest absolute increase was registered in the United States (+55 000 to 760 000), where 132 000 Mexicans became US citizens (+13 000). British nationality was also in high demand in 2018, mainly from EU nationals. Overall, decisions to grant British citizenship rose to 157 000 (+33 000). In Spain, citizenship was granted to 91 000 applicants (+24 000), including 25 000 Moroccan citizens. In Luxembourg, acquisitions of citizenship increased very rapidly between 2015 and 2018 to reach 12 000, more than twice the 2015 figure. Other notable increases in relative terms occurred in Mexico (+26%), in Hungary (+25%), and in Portugal (+18%).

Australia and Italy registered the largest absolute declines in 2018. Only 80 000 foreign citizens obtained the Australian citizenship (-57 000) and 113 000 the Italian citizenship (-34 000). Acquisitions of host country citizenship also declined in all Nordic countries, in particular in Norway where they were divided by two, to just over 10 000.

Looking at acquisitions of citizenship as a percentage of the foreign population, Sweden had long been leading OECD countries but Canada came out first in 2018 with 7.3% foreign residents being granted Canadian citizenship (Figure 1.14). Sweden ranks second with 6.8%, followed by Portugal with 5.4%. Luxembourg climbed to fifth place at 4.2%, while Finland dropped from second to sixth, with a 1.5 percentage point decline to 3.8%. Of the about 80 000 foreign residents in OECD countries, 2.4% became citizens of their host country in 2018.

The number of Mexican citizens who acquired the nationality of an OECD country increased sharply both in 2017 and in 2018 to reach 136 000 in 2018 (Figure 1.15). Almost all of them became US citizens. India is the second main country of origin of naturalised citizens, with about 120 000 naturalisations in 2017 (of whom 52 000 in the United States and 19 000 in Canada). Morocco, the Philippines and China follow as countries of origin, at about 70 000 each. In 2018 only 50 000 Albanian nationals were granted citizenship of an OECD country (-18% compared with 2017).

Probably as a result of the Brexit, in almost all EU countries for which 2019 data are available, there has been an increase of the naturalisations of UK citizens. Their number more than doubled in Germany, from 6 600 in 2018 to 14 600 in 2019. It also almost tripled in Sweden, to 5 000, and increased by more than 50% in Belgium, to 1 630. Finland and Austria too, registered sharp increases, although at lower levels. Only Denmark granted citizenship to fewer UK citizens in 2019 than in 2018.

In 2018-19, many countries have continued adapting or reorganising their migration systems. While attracting and retaining international students, adapting the admission of family members and humanitarian migrants, and fighting against irregular migration remained key areas of policy changes, the bulk of recent measures was focused on labour migration, notably to address emerging skill needs. A large number of countries implemented new measures or legislation to attract specific groups of semi-skilled and highly skilled foreign workers. These include inter alia the introduction of greater flexibility in existing systems, streamlined administrative procedures or more attention to specific occupations and sectors. Conversely, some countries implemented measure to limit or better control migration flows.

Some countries reorganised administrative services in charge of migration policies, to improve administrative procedures and the coordination between actors and ultimately better control migration flows. Many amendments have been driven by the need to better target specific migrant groups while other legal changes tightened residence procedures.

In Luxembourg, the objectives of the 2018 coalition agreement include shorter processing times for migration applications through notably the simplification and digitalisation of administrative procedures. Similarly, in March 2018 the Dutch government launched its Comprehensive Agenda on Migration, meant to prevent irregular migration; to strengthen reception and protection for refugees and displaced persons; to reinforce the asylum system; to improve information system about legal migration; and to strengthen integration and social participation.

In 2018, New Zealand moved away from the historical management of residence through a planning range. The new, equally-weighted, objectives for the programme are: to maximise its contribution to the country’s economic and social wellbeing by attracting skilled workers and business migrants; reunifying the families of New Zealand residents and citizens; and meeting international and humanitarian commitments. Overall residence numbers will be managed by controlling each of the individual components of the programme.

Australia, Japan and Lithuania proceeded to major administrative reorganisations. In Australia, the 2018 law provides for greater information sharing within government by authorising the Department of Home Affairs to obtain and use tax file numbers of skilled visa applicants and visa holders for research and compliance purposes. This includes identifying and taking action against sponsors who underpay overseas workers and sponsored overseas workers who work in employment that is not approved by the Department. To protect the wages and conditions of Australians and overseas workers, the Act requires the Department to publish the register of employers sanctioned for failing to comply with their obligations to sponsored workers.

In light of increasing numbers of foreign nationals visiting Japan and the growing number of foreign nationals residing in Japan, in 2019 the government amended the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and established an Immigration Services Agency as an external organ of the Ministry of Justice. The aim is to achieve both strict immigration control and implement better residence management of foreign nationals.

Lithuania endorsed a major institutional reform of migration management in 2018. Police will no longer perform functions related to migration. The Migration Department (which earlier was subordinated to the Police Department) will now be responsible for legal migration with regional units, whereas the State border guard service will be responsible for border security and irregular migration. In addition, a Strategy for Demography, Migration and Integration for 2018-30 was adopted with a view of having a better balanced population growth. In addition, from March 2019, a new electronic card will replace paper forms and will record biometric data. Greece also reorganised its services. In July 2019, the responsibilities of the former Ministry for Migration Policy were transferred to the Ministry of Citizen Protection. However, following important developments, a separate Ministry of Migration and Asylum was established in January 2020.

Canada launched two pilot projects using computer analytics to help immigration officers triage with online temporary resident visa applications from China and India. The goal is to identify applications that are routine and straightforward, allowing for faster processing, improving service and enhancing system efficiency.

With a view to facilitating access to the Bulgarian labour market for non-EU citizens, legal amendments enable a quicker processing of applications (seven instead of 14 days) and facilitate access to permanent residency for people with Bulgarian origin (e.g. no need to provide proof of available funds and reduced fees).

The Russian Federation has made it easier to gain permanent residence, notably for citizens of the former republics of the Soviet Union and the period of the permanent residence permit became unlimited instead of five years, renewable. Citizens of Ukraine or stateless persons who permanently resided in Ukraine were recognised as refugees or granted temporary asylum in the Russian Federation.

Since February 2018, in Poland immigrants applying for a long-term residence permit are obliged to present a state certificate confirming their knowledge of the Polish language at the intermediate level (B1) or, alternatively, a graduation certificate of a school in Poland or a school abroad with Polish language instruction. Only children under the age of 16 are exempted from this requirement. Such a permit is issued mainly to people of Polish origin, holders of the Card of the Pole, foreigners granted protection in Poland, or victims of human trafficking.

In the United States, in 2020 a final rule on “inadmissibility on public charge grounds” became effective. DHS will look at the factors required under the law by Congress, like age, health, income, education and skills, among others, in order to determine whether the foreign migrant is likely at any time to become a public charge. Temporary migrants (non-immigrants) seeking an extension of stay or change of status must demonstrate that they have not received public benefits over the designated threshold since obtaining the non-immigrant status they seek to extend or change.

In the United Kingdom, a new points-based immigration system will start in 2021. To be eligible, all immigrants will need 70 points, 50 of which must come from having a job offer by an approved sponsor at a medium or high skill-level and meet an English language requirement. Extra points will be awarded for a job offer with a higher wage, a job on the Shortage Occupation List, or for having a PhD.

A few OECD countries have introduced more flexibility for the recruitment of international high skilled or semi-skilled migrant workers. Legislative changes in the Slovak Republic (January 2019) streamlined the system governing the entry and residence of third-country nationals for employment purposes, notably in professions with identified labour shortages. In Finland, the government implemented several legislative amendments to encourage immigration of international specialists. They included a new residence permit for start-up entrepreneurs as well as changes to the duration of residence permits for specialists and labour market testing. Amendments to immigration law in Latvia allowed companies to employ third-country nationals on the basis of a long-term visa, the process being simpler, cheaper and faster than drawing up a residence permit. In Germany, people with vocational training can receive a six-month stay to look for a job. The prerequisite is that the skilled worker has a recognised qualification, the necessary language skills and a secured subsistence sum. During the search period, the migrants may work up to ten hours per week, such as internships with a potential employer (see Box 1.1. in International Migration Outlook 2019).

In France, the 2018 law extended the multi-year “talent passport” residence permit to four years. This permit can now be issued to family members (spouse and children) without going through the family reunification procedure. In Lithuania, from 2018 the requirement for an enterprise to employ three persons has been waived, but the monthly wage paid to employees must be not less than twice average earnings. A foreign worker applying for a job in an enterprise that is on the Approved Entities list will have to submit fewer documents. It has also become easier for applicants for the EU Blue Card to be employed in Latvia. The wage rate offered is now more flexible and a decision on the application must be made within ten working days instead of 30, while the time limit for examining applications for residence permits for family members is now aligned with that of the Blue Card applicant. In addition the rule that only those third-country nationals who had completed higher education in the relevant sector/profession could receive the Blue Card was relaxed.

Austria and Japan introduced new residence statuses as well as other changes to target skills. Austria’s threefold approach in 2018 is designed to facilitate the uptake of the R-W-R-Card by skilled workers. Proof of accommodation before entering Austria is no longer necessary, and the minimum wage required for skilled workers to obtain an R-W-R-Card was reduced in line with collective wage agreements. Japan established (April 2019) two new residence statuses, Specified Skilled Worker (i) and Specified Skilled Worker (ii), for foreign workers with professional and technical skills who could contribute immediately where there were shortages and who would also help to improve the productivity and recruitment of domestic workers.

Some noticeable changes also took place in selected non-OECD countries. The overall quota of foreign workers in Romania doubled in 2019 to 30 000 (20 000 supplemented by an additional 10 000 for the last four months of the year). The conditions for obtaining the work authorisation necessary for employing a permanent or cross-border worker have been simplified. Vacancies may be made public by publishing an advert in any mass media and it is no longer necessary to publish such adverts on three consecutive days. In a further move to attract highly-qualified workers the minimum salary has been reduced from four times to twice gross national average salary. At the same time, the support required for the extension of the right to stay for posted/ICT workers was reduced, from the gross average salary level to the national gross minimum.

Legal amendments in the Russian Federation in July 2019 were also designed to attract more skilled specialists. Access to Russian citizenship for selected groups of skilled workers was simplified by allowing foreigners in some professions to become citizens after only one instead of three years’ work experience in the country. However, the government also limited the number of foreign workers in certain sectors of the economy (e.g. construction).

In several countries, measures have been targeted at occupations in shortage, notably to enlarge recruitment to semi-skilled occupations. Through the launch of its Agri-Food Pilot in May 2020, Canada expanded pathways to permanent residency for workers at the intermediate skill level, already in Canada under temporary permits. This three-year economic pilot particularly aims to address persistent labour shortages in the meat processing, mushroom and greenhouse crop production, and livestock raising industries. In Germany, the ‘Skilled Workers Immigration Act’ that came into force in March 2020 opened the labour market to skilled non-EU migrants with vocational training. Labour migrants with an employment contract or job offer no longer need to undergo a labour market test or work in occupations with labour shortage, notably in the health and care sector and in the so-called STEM occupations (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) (refer to Box 1.1 in 2019 edition of International Migration Outlook). As already the case for university graduates, skilled labour migrants need to prove professional training qualifications equivalent to German standards. As already possible for university graduates, skilled workers with recognised vocational qualifications will be able to come to Germany for up to six months to seek employment. They have to be able to finance their stay and provide proof of at least intermediate German language skills. Because of a shortage of skilled nurses, two special recruitment projects have been developed, one with Viet Nam, the other with Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Philippines and Tunisia. The projects involve knowledge transfer, language training and placements.

In 2018 and 2019, Belgium introduced a list of shortage occupations to attract medium-skilled foreign nationals. For the listed occupations employers no longer need to prove that they could not find a suitable candidate on the labour market within a reasonable period of time. Poland has also made it easier to employ workers with skills likely to improve the Polish economy by issuing work permits to certain occupations without a labour market test: the 289 occupations listed include construction workers, bus and lorry drivers, machine operators, IT specialists and medical personnel. Holders of the permits are given easier access to residence permits after four years rather than five, or ten for less privileged categories. The Slovak 2018 Strategy of Labour Mobility of Foreigners was designed to streamline and make more flexible the system governing the entry and residence of third-country nationals for employment purposes, particularly in professions with identified labour shortages.

The United Kingdom Shortage Occupation List (SOL) was expanded, adding occupations in several fields, including health, IT, and STEM. Jobs on the SOL are, in general, exempt from resident labour market testing and are given top priority when allocating places in the numerical cap. In addition to doctors and nurses, all PhD-level occupations are now removed from the Tier 2 cap thus freeing up space within the cap for other UK sectors seeking to fill skilled worker vacancies. The number of available visas open to third country nationals of ‘exceptional talent’ was doubled. In addition, in February 2020, the Global Talent visa replaced the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa. It is a fast track visa for talented and promising individuals in the fields of science, engineering, medicine, humanities, digital technology and arts and culture, with an accelerated path to settlement for many applicants. A numerical cap no longer applies to this visa. In Ireland, in response to skills needs, changes were made to the occupation lists for employment permit purposes. These provided for the removal from the ineligible categories of employment list of chef grades with a minimum annual remuneration threshold of EUR 30 000 and certain occupations in the agri-food sector with a minimum annual remuneration threshold of EUR 22 000. The labour market needs test was extended from two to four weeks. Requirements for balanced hiring practices were adjusted to meet a broader range of enterprise needs, including relaxation of the ‘50:50 Rule’ (which requires that at least 50% of employees in an enterprise seeking to hire a non-EEA national should be from Ireland or the EEA) in cases of new or early stage companies working with Irish development agencies.

Ireland also changed its Highly Skilled and Ineligible Employment Lists to be more responsive in real time to employer demand. Sectors experiencing severe labour shortages were allowed to submit a business case for consideration as they arose; salary thresholds and other criteria for various employment permit types were able to respond more flexibly to changing skills and labour market needs. The Slovak Republic is updating the job shortage list on a quarterly basis instead of annually. In Denmark the Fast Track Scheme now allows a change of job position internally within the company without applying for a new permit and researchers may be granted a permit for six months of job seeking after their work permit has expired. In 2019, the French government announced that it would implement a professional immigration policy by sector of activity, based on revised regional shortage occupation lists (not updated since 2008).

Bulgaria has reduced the burden on employers by changing procedures and easing its labour market test. First, it increased the quota of third country nationals for an individual employer from 10% to 25% and for small and medium enterprises to 35%. Second, the time to issue a work permit was reduced from 30 to 20 days and labour market test requirements have been lifted for Blue card applicants.

Lithuania in 2018 and 2019 made it easier for highly qualified workers to change job function with the same employer and lesser skilled foreign workers no longer need to provide documentation confirming their qualifications and those who changed job duties at the same employer or changed employer do not require a new temporary residence permit. At the same time, stricter controls were introduced in some cases. In response to a steep increase in labour migrant inflow in Lithuania, an amendment to the law introduced quotas for third country workers coming to work in shortage occupations in July 2019. A first list of occupations will be established in 2021. The Czech Republic limited the opportunity for a foreigner to change employer and place of residence, while Estonia required greater language proficiency for those applying for a temporary residence permit issued for employment purposes.

EU countries continue to transpose EU Directive 2014/66 on intra-company transfers (ICTs) into their law, most recently the Czech Republic, Greece, the Netherlands and Poland. The ways in which this is done tend to bring ICTs into line with other skilled migrants and make it easier for them to enter and work. In October 2018, the Aliens Employment Implementation Decree in the Netherlands was changed to allow ICTs to work on a self-employed basis, parallel to the work for this specific purpose of residence, without having to apply for a work permit for third-country nationals. With these changes the regulations regarding ICTs were brought into alignment with the scheme for highly skilled migrants and students. Following implementation of the Directive, Poland introduced two new types of temporary residence and work permits for intra-company transferees, one valid for up to one year for trainee employees and one valid for up to three years for managers and specialists. These may be granted without a labour market test.

New Zealand and Australia have continued their policies of linking employers and their visa systems in targeting the skills needed by their labour markets. Changes to New Zealand’s employer-assisted temporary work visa from September 2019 include: a requirement that employers apply for accreditation from Immigration New Zealand prior to supporting a migrant’s temporary work visa application; developing regional rather than national skills shortage lists; and sector Agreements to address longer-term structural issues.

Australia tightened its labour market testing regime in August 2018. The test now has to be conducted over four weeks (previously three) and within four months (previously six months) of lodging a nomination, and advertisements should specify skill or experience requirements. For key groups there is more flexibility, including ICTs, key medical occupations, internationally recognised talent and positions with annual salary of at least AUD 250 000. Australia’s talent visa framework has been developed to allow highly skilled, specialised and niche positions to be filled by overseas applicants, where there are no suitable Australians to fill the role. In August 2018, the Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy on all employers sponsoring overseas skilled workers under the temporary and permanent employer sponsored visa programs commenced. Its purpose is to require employers seeking to access skilled overseas workers to contribute to the broader skills development of Australians. In December 2018, the government announced the Global Talent – Independent programme (formerly known as the Global Talent Initiative) with an investment of AUD 12.9 million over three years to strengthen Australia’s ability to identify, attract and invite the best and brightest skilled migrants. The programme will identify high calibre candidates for up to 5 000 permanent migration places annually, on the basis of their potential to be significant economic contributors to Australia.

The trend is towards more control over flows of temporary and seasonal workers while also making it easier for temporary workers to be recruited and under improved conditions. In Spain special measures have been introduced to strengthen the protection of workers’ rights and to increase cooperation with the Moroccan administration and coordination with business associations. Improvements have been made in harvest planning, monitoring and control of working conditions and accommodation of the people who have moved. In 2019 it was decided to expand these programmes to other countries and at the end of June a pilot project for circular migration with Senegal was launched. Australia also broadened the geographical scope of its Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) in July 2018 as employers may recruit workers from all participating countries in the scheme for a maximum of nine months. Previously, only seasonal workers from Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu could be so employed.

In addition to its agricultural seasonal recruitment, Australia’s temporary work system has been developed as part of its ‘step-up’ in the Pacific region. The Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) which commenced in July 2018 helps fill labour shortages in Australia whilst providing opportunities for low and semi-skilled workers from Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste to earn income and develop skills in Australia. Workers may engage in any sector in regional and rural Australia for up to three years, with a focus on non-seasonal agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, accommodation and tourism, health care and social assistance. The PLS is facilitated by the existing Temporary Work (International Relations) visa. In November 2018, the cap of 2 000 places for the PLS was lifted, becoming employer-demand driven to provide more opportunities for Pacific workers.

A few other OECD countries have also recently made important changes regarding seasonal agricultural workers schemes, notably regarding contractual arrangements. From May 2018, employers in Poland were allowed to hire foreigners on the basis of a new type of civil-law contract on help at harvest times. The new contract provides workers with health, accident and maternity insurance but does not guarantee the minimum hourly and monthly wage. The United Kingdom decided to restrict its new migration policy to skilled foreign workers but put in place a two-year pilot scheme that will allow 2 500 non-EU migrant workers to work no more than six months on farms. The scheme, announced in September 2019, will run until the end of the Brexit transition period due at the end of December 2020 and will operate similarly to the former Seasonal Agricultural Worker Scheme.

Following implementation of EU directive 2014/36/UE on seasonal workers in January 2018, Poland simplified the procedure for short-term employment of foreigners. Seasonal work permits are now issued for a period of up to nine months during a calendar year in three sectors of the economy: agriculture, horticulture and tourism. These permits are available to foreigners from all third countries, but in the case of nationals of Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russian Federation and Ukraine they are granted without conducting a labour market test. They are only issued when the remuneration proposed to a foreigner is not lower than the remuneration of other workers performing work of comparable type or in a similar position. It has also become possible to limit the employment of foreigners. The Minister of Labour or the Minister of Agriculture (since January 2018) or the Minister of the Interior (since January 2019) may respectively determine, by means of a regulation, the maximum number of seasonal work permits, work permits, employers’ declarations on hiring a foreigner, temporary residence and work permits.

Austria has amended its policy on short-term seasonal stays: workers receive the right to stay directly from the Labour Ministry, which acts as a one-stop-shop. Similarly, following transposition of Directive 2014/36/EU on seasonal workers in 2019, in Belgium seasonal workers can apply for a single permit at the level of the region. They may obtain a single permit valid for a period of up to 150 days in a period of 365 days.

Israel has reduced the employer’s levy: from 2019 the agriculture sector is exempt and in all other sectors the levy was reduced to 15%. In February 2018, the Israeli government decided that such workers in the construction sector would be allowed to work in infrastructure projects as well as in housing. In June 2018, a new law on seasonal work took effect in Sweden. It applies to people from countries outside the EEA and Switzerland who have been offered temporary seasonal work in Sweden from an employer who is established in the country. In May 2018 the United States increased its cap on H-2B non-immigrant visas by 15 000.

Following public consultations, in September 2019 New Zealand introduced changes to its employer-assisted temporary work visa settings. The changes introduced a new framework, which requires employers to apply for accreditation from Immigration New Zealand prior to supporting a migrant’s temporary work visa application. In addition regional rather than national skills shortage lists were developed, Sector Agreements introduced and alignment of the immigration, welfare and education systems improved.

In January 2019, the accredited sponsor scheme in Australia was expanded to make it easier for large reputable companies who make major investments in Australia to utilise the employer sponsored skilled migration programmes. In the United Kingdom, Start-up and Innovator visas replaced Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Graduate Entrepreneur visas in March 2019. Industry experts rather than immigration officials are now in charge of the selection of visa applicants. In New Zealand, a second evaluation of the new Global Impact Visa (GIV) was released in 2019. GIV provides individual entrepreneurs and investors with a three-year visa to create, support and incubate ventures. After 30 months, migrants may apply for permanent residence.

In the Netherlands, a new residence permit for essential personnel of start-ups was introduced in July 2019, allowing start-ups to hire third country nationals that are essential to their success with a lowered salary criterion (in comparison to regular knowledge migrants), combined with a share in the company.

Lithuania continued to strengthen the business environment for start-ups and help them become stronger and more successful. In 2019, the Ministry of the Interior, the Migration department and the Ministry of the Economy and Innovation signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a Start-up Employee Visa scheme. In the same year, Latvia amended its procedures for issuing a temporary residence permit to start-up company founders from third countries, extending for up to 12 months after the issue of a temporary residence permit the period during which a third-country national has to submit information relating to company progress and innovation.

The general tendency has been for countries to expand and strengthen their working holiday maker (WHM) and youth mobility schemes. More agreements between countries have been signed, age limits, periods of stay increased and freedom of travel eased. Overall the rationale is to encourage young people to work, study and travel.

From November 2018, WHM visa holders in Australia may complete agricultural work from an expanded list of regional locations to qualify for a second visa. They may also stay with the same agricultural employer from six to 12 months and may now work for the same employer for more than six months in plant and animal cultivation anywhere in Australia. In Northern Australia they may also work in certain industries (aged care and disability services, fishing and pearling, tree farming and felling, construction, mining, tourism and hospitality) for up to 12 months. From July 2019, the maximum number of WHM visas an applicant may hold increased from two to three. The option of a third visa is available to applicants who undertake six months’ specified work in a specified regional area whilst on their second visa. The upper age limit for working holiday visas and the number of places available for certain countries have been increased and in July 2019 new WHM arrangements commenced with Greece and Ecuador.

Canada has continued promoting youth mobility by signing a new WHM agreement with Portugal and by amending an existing agreement with Australia to increase the eligible upper age limit from 30 to 35. These initiatives will encourage Canadian, Portuguese and Australian young adults aged 18 to 35 to work and travel through the International Experience Canada (IEC) programme. Findings from the recently completed evaluation of the IEC programme demonstrated that many of the participants find the programme to be valuable to both their personal and professional lives.

Three agreements, with Chile, Chinese Taipei and Canada, were signed by Luxembourg to introduce a working holiday visa for young adults between 18 and 30 years old. The objective of this programme is to promote international youth exchanges and to develop cultural and linguistic exchanges. In addition, participants may engage in a remunerated activity or continue their studies. During their stay, participants are free to travel within their host country according to the terms of the bilateral arrangement. To this end, the working holiday visa allows the holder to re-enter or leave the country several times with the same visa, which is valid for a period of 12 consecutive months. Visa holders will not be granted permission to extend their stay beyond this period.

In 2019, Portugal signed new Working Holiday agreements with the United States and Peru. In June 2018 Poland signed ‘work and travel’ agreements for young people with Korea and Argentina, in addition to the seven current ones. In order to promote cultural exchange and youth mobility, in 2018 Sweden entered into Working Holiday Visa Agreements with Uruguay and in 2019 with Japan to add to similar agreements with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Chile, Hong Kong, China, and Argentina. To ease movement, applicants do not need a job offer when applying for a permit.

On the broader youth mobility theme, Romania and France have introduced the concept of “au pair” worker in their law. In France, au pair young workers are issued a one-year residence permit (renewable once). In Romania, work authorisations for au pair workers may be issued for people aged 18 to 30 years old, who have completed lower secondary education and for whom the employer covers expenses related to subsistence, accommodation and social health insurance.

In 2019 the United Kingdom increased its Immigration Health Surcharge for those on the Youth Mobility Scheme, which includes working holiday makers, from GBP 200 to GBP 300 per year.

In 2019, the Australian Government introduced a series of initiatives to support regional development. These included three new skilled regional visas, namely: Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa; Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional); Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa, accessible to holders of one of the new skilled regional provisional visas. To be eligible for permanent residence, regional provisional visa holders need to demonstrate they have lived and worked in regional Australia as holders of a regional provisional visa for at least three years. At the same time the Skilled Occupation List was reviewed and updated, with an additional 77 occupations available for regional Australia while the skilled migration points test mark was tightened from 60 to 65 points.

Canada launched its Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot in January 2019 in 11 rural and northern communities to help fill chronic labour shortages and enhance retention, combining jobs with career development potential and connections to settlement services. The pilot builds on existing economic initiatives to the regions, such as the Atlantic Immigration Program. Furthermore, in March 2019, IRCC expanded pathways to permanent residency to workers at the intermediate skill level already in Canada temporarily by allocating an additional 2 000 nominations under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

Several OECD countries have sought to increase student numbers by targeting specific groups or improving conditions. In 2018, Canada introduced the Student Direct Stream (SDS), an expedited study permit processing stream open to applicants living in India, China, the Philippines and Viet Nam. The programme is for legal residents from these countries applying for a study permit at a post-secondary designated learning institution and who provide proof indicating that they meet specific language, medical and financial requirements. Eligible applicants may obtain their study permit within 20 days, rather than the standard 60 days.

In Portugal changes in the status of international student allow refugees or victims of crimes of human trafficking to enter higher education. Foreign students who are Portuguese or EU family members have access to higher education under the same conditions as the Portuguese.

New measures in the Netherlands focused on accommodation. In order to attract international students a national action plan on ‘student housing’ has been developed, in response to growing housing concerns among international students. A key aim is to improve the provision of information and to exchange experiences with regard to their accommodation.

In Romania, a new ordinance in 2018 also amended the legal framework to attract international students by granting scholarships offered by universities and accrediting programmes of study for them, including language training.

Several approaches are in use to encourage international graduates to stay on, seek and take up work. They include lengthening the stay period after graduation in order to seek work; allowing international students to work longer hours during their educational course; linking graduation with pathways to residence. Australia announced an extra year of stay for regional Temporary Graduate Visa (TGV) holders, to be implemented in 2021. It allows students, who graduate with a Bachelor’s degree or higher from a regional institution and reside in a regional area on their TGV, to get an extra year of post study work rights. Ireland revised its list of eligible educational programmes for immigration purposes in mid-2018. The revised programme allows new graduates at NFQ Level 8/ISCED 5 or above to live and work full-time for up to 12 months after graduation, albeit with a total limit of seven years overall duration of residence in the country (including studies). Graduates at Level 9/ISCED 6 may work for up to two years post-graduation, subject to a total cap of eight years residence in Ireland.

Since 2018, in Lithuania, international students have the possibility to stay after studies and look for a job for a longer period (up to 12 months). Their residence period during studies is now counted in full when calculating the time the foreign national has resided in Lithuania (previously this time was halved). Family members of PhD candidates will be able to apply for a temporary residence permit with more favourable conditions. Estonia made it easier for students who had been issued with a residence permit for study to return for employment, for research activities or as an intra-company transferee.

Since abandoning its post-study work route, the United Kingdom has gradually relaxed its rules on student entry and work and will finally reintroduce a new Graduate Route in the summer of 2021. Since 2018 students are permitted to switch to the main work route (Tier 2), earlier than they had previously been able to; short-term students are allowed to remain in the United Kingdom for up to 30 days at the end of their course; and work rights of dependants of students have been relaxed. The 2021 Graduate Route will provide students with an opportunity to work or look for work for two or three years at any skill level. Students completing a course at Bachelors or Masters level will be able to apply to remain for two years and Doctorate students will be able to apply to remain for three years. Students who successfully complete a degree course at undergraduate level or above at a Higher Education Provider (HEP) with a track record of compliance will be eligible, provided they hold valid leave as a student when the route is introduced.

Another approach, followed by Belgium, Romania and Luxembourg, is to allow international students to work longer hours during their educational course. In Belgium, they no longer have to obtain a work permit and now have access to the labour market on the basis of their residence permit. They may work without limit during school/college holidays and up to 20 hours a week outside holidays as long as the job does not interfere with their studies. Romania has also relaxed its rules on student work. The applicability of study visas has been extended under certain conditions for students in a professional training programme in Romania. For students attending an EU intra-mobility programme, specific rules have been introduced for granting the right to stay for study purposes in the country.

In Luxembourg permitted hours of work is part of a broader approach. The number of hours that international students may work during their studies has been increased from 10 to 15 hours per week. In addition, they may stay nine months after completing their studies or research activities in order to find a job or start a business; they are allowed to move around the EU more easily during their stay; the category of trainees has been reviewed to broaden the scope in which a student or a young graduate can gain initial professional experience; processing times have been reduced from 90 to 60 days, or in some cases 30 days.

Another strategy is to link post graduation with pathways to residence, as in New Zealand, Spain, Finland, Poland and Latvia. Changes were announced in July 2018, intended to increase the attraction of international students studying at higher levels to New Zealand and to preserve a pathway to residence for those with the skills and qualifications the country needs as well as to minimise the risk of exploitation. Specific changes include: removing employer-assisted post-study work visas at all levels of study (these required an employer to sponsor the former student and were associated with exploitation); making the length of a post-study work visa dependent both on the level of study and on whether or not there is a professional registration requirement; requiring that the subjects studied by international students for a Level 8 qualification be relevant to a skill specified on the Long Term Skills Shortage list.

In Spain a new residence authorisation has been created for participation in an internship programme for foreign persons who have obtained a higher education qualification in the two years prior to the application date, or who are undertaking studies which lead to one. International students who have already completed their studies at a higher education institution may now remain in Spain to seek employment or start a business. Finland will grant a residence permit to students for the full period of their studies. The post-graduation residence permit will additionally be prolonged to two years and will allow the permit holder to take short-term work. An investigation has begun on financial support modes to compensate for the tuition fees of non-EU/EEA students studying in Finland if they stay on to work after graduation.

From February 2018 foreign graduates of Polish universities applying for temporary residence permits issued for the purpose of seeking work in Poland no longer need to possess a source of stable and regular income to cover costs of living; it is enough to possess financial means sufficient to cover the costs of subsistence without recourse to the social assistance system. On the basis of the same amended Act, foreign graduates of Polish universities were given an obligatory right (previously optional) to stay in Poland for a period of nine months (previously one year) on the basis of a temporary residence permit in order to seek employment or set up a business.

Following transposition of EU Directive 2016/801/EU, third-country nationals studying in another EU Member State may enter and stay in Latvia for one year without a Latvian residence permit and as well as receiving a permit to study in Latvia may be employed for up to 20 hours per week. In addition, Masters and PhD students are entitled to work 40 hours per week during the summer break. Amendments to the Immigration Law provide for the possibility of revoking a temporary residence permit if the student has not made sufficient study progress and if this is not based on circumstances beyond the control of the third-country national. Upon successful completion of the studies, third-country nationals have the right to request a temporary residence permit for a period of nine months if they wish to seek employment or start a commercial activity in Latvia.

A number of OECD countries have adapted their resettlement programmes. In September 2018 New Zealand increased its annual Refugee Quota Programme from 1 000 to 1 500 people per year, taking effect in July 2020. To implement the increase, new settlement locations and increased funding for settlement support and housing were announced. Central and South America became a new priority region for Australia’s resettlement programme, with places made available for people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras under the Protection Transfer Arrangement and for people displaced from Venezuela. Conversely, the United States set the annual refugee resettlement cap for FY2020 at 18 000, down from 30 000 in 2019 and continuing a downwards trend since 2016. The actual number of resettlements is below the quota. The Danish Government reduced in 2019 the number of resettled refugees. Residence permits to refugees and family members of refugees are granted for only a temporary stay.

In January 2019, Austria comprehensively restructured the system of asylum and aliens affairs within the Federal Ministry of the Interior. All relevant areas were concentrated in one directorate of the Ministry of the Interior. In Greece in July 2019, in a new approach to migration management the government closed down the Ministry of Migration Policy, which was responsible for managing issues of reception, asylum and integration, and moved its competencies to the Ministry of Citizen Protection. Since 2020, new legislation regarding the asylum process came into force. Among other provisions, Greece may now detain asylum seekers for up to 18 months.

In June 2018, following a review of the Canadian asylum system, measures were introduced for better coordination across the entire asylum process. They included the creation of a Deputy-level Asylum System Management Board and the piloting of an Integrated Claim Analysis Centre to eliminate duplication and prepare hearing-ready cases more quickly. In response to increased demand under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Programme, processing times were reduced from over four years (80% of applications were processed within this period) in 2014 to approximately two years in 2018.

Ireland, Lithuania, Belgium and Switzerland have introduced measures to improve conditions for asylum seekers, including changes to family reunification rules, access to labour markets and faster procedures. Ireland and Lithuania made it easier for asylum seekers to enter the labour market. From June 2018 they are allowed to work from nine months after their application for asylum is lodged if they have not received a decision on their case. The employment permission is valid for a period of six months, renewable if the applicant has not received a decision on their final application. Family reunification is not permitted under the scheme however, so a partner, spouse or dependent child living outside the country may not join the applicant in Ireland.

In spring 2018 a range of new measures was introduced in Belgium, relating to the procedural needs of applicants, a list of criteria for admissibility and a shortening of the time limits to lodge an appeal. The law also defined the criteria to determine the “risk of absconding”, allowing the administration to detain an applicant for international protection in the context of the Dublin procedure. The number of reception places for applicants was reduced in order to return to the capacity before the influx of 2015-16. However, throughout 2018 and 2019, the national reception network came under pressure and several new reception places were created. Since December 2018, applicants for international protection have access to the labour market after four months.

Many other OECD countries, notably in Europe, have adopted further changes to their asylum system, generally to make it more restrictive. Under a temporary act of 2016, prolonged in 2019, refugees and those eligible for subsidiary protection were granted a temporary residence permit in Sweden. Refugees are granted a residence permit for three years and a person who is eligible for subsidiary protection is granted a 13-months permit with the possibility of renewal for another two years. When the temporary act was prolonged, persons with a subsidiary protection status were given the same right to family reunification as persons with conventional refugee status.

In France, the 2018 law on immigration, asylum and integration, which fully entered into force in March 2019, introduced administrative measures to reduce the average processing time for asylum applications from 11 to six months. Foreigners have now 90 days instead of 120 to submit their asylum application. A national reception scheme now specifies the regional share of asylum seekers. Since 2019, asylum seekers are no longer free to move around without the authorisation of the Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII). In the event of non-compliance, the material reception conditions are automatically interrupted and the processing of the asylum request can be stopped. The administrative authority may now reject an asylum request in the event of a conviction for serious transgressions in another EU country. It also makes it possible to detain asylum seekers who pose a threat to public order.

An amendment to the Asylum Act in Switzerland entered into force in March 2019. Asylum applications for which no further clarification is needed are processed under an accelerated procedure which provides for free legal protection for claimants. If further clarification is required, the asylum application is continued in an extended procedure which must result in an enforceable decision within one year, including enforcement of any removal. Applicants are entitled to free advice on the asylum procedure and free legal representation.

Greece and Japan brought in faster determination systems. A legal amendment in Greece in December 2018 shortened the time limit for accelerated procedure to 30 days, while the appeal decision within the accelerated procedure should be taken within 40 days. A new law, entering into force in January 2020 focuses on new reception procedures and seeks to achieve a unified regulation and reform of various aspects of the Greek asylum system. It affects the rules regulating asylum procedures, the rights and obligations of asylum seekers, reception and detention conditions, access to integration processes and the economic and social rights attached to asylum and refugee status. Other legal amendments limit access by asylum seekers to some public services and curtail the appeals system.

In January 2018 Japan revised its refugee recognition system in order to offer protection promptly to those who genuinely require asylum and to curb abuse. A time limit was set for dealing with first-time applications; those whose applicability as a refugee were deemed to be high under the Refugee Convention were quickly granted a status of residence permitting work; those whose applications did not correspond to Refugee Convention conditions were not permitted to stay; even if restrictions on stay were not imposed, some applicants were not permitted to work and the period of stay was reduced to three months.

In Germany, policy changes in asylum and return law allow for the detaining of rejected asylum seekers, the easier return of those found guilty of criminal offences and sanctioning of those who refuse to help clarify their identity. Germany reduced social welfare benefits for asylum seekers with protected status in other EU states and created a new tolerated status prohibiting employment and limiting movement across Germany for individuals whose identity remains unclear.

In the United States, since 2019, people who applied for asylum after crossing the border illegally from Mexico or without proper documentation at border points are required to return to Mexico and await the processing of their cases. In July 2019, a new bar was added to eligibility for asylum for those who enter or attempt to enter the United States across the southern border, but who did not apply for asylum where it was available in at least one third country outside the origin country through which he/she transited. The bar is subject to limited exceptions. In addition, in June 2020 employment eligibility for asylum seekers was changed. The rule prevents foreigners who entered illegally from obtaining employment authorisation based on a pending asylum application. In addition, the rule defines new bars and denials for employment authorisation, such as for certain criminal behaviour; extends the wait time before an asylum applicant can apply for employment authorisation from 150 days to 365 calendar days; limits the employment authorisation validity period to a maximum of two years; and automatically terminates employment authorisation when an applicant’s asylum denial is administratively final.

During 2018 and the first half of 2019 in Italy, legal changes were aimed at preventing humanitarian ships engaged in picking up asylum seekers and other migrants from landing in Italy. The Ministry of Interior was given the power to restrict or prohibit the entry into, transit through or parking in the territorial sea of ships, with the exception of military ships and ships engaged in non-commercial governmental service, for reasons of public order and security. Non-compliance by the ship’s captain with the prohibitions and limitations imposed may be fined from a minimum of 150 000 euros to a maximum of 1 000 000, without prejudice to the applicability of any criminal penalties.

In February 2019, a draft amendment to the Act on granting protection to foreigners in Poland aims to prevent the abuse of the asylum procedure by people not entitled to receive international protection. The most important changes include the introduction of an accelerated asylum procedure and listings of safe countries of origin and of safe third countries. Foreigners entering Poland from a safe country of origin and posting inconsistent, contradictory or improbable claims may be sent to guarded centres. Decision is due to be taken within 20 days from the receipt of the application. If no decision is taken within 28 days, they are allowed to enter the country where their application is examined through normal asylum procedure.

In the Slovak Republic, following transposition of the Directive 213/32/EU on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection, the link between subsidiary protection and family reunification was broken. In addition, if a person who has been granted asylum in the Slovak Republic acquires the nationality of another EU country, he/she will cease to be a refugee in the Slovak Republic.

Austria and the Netherlands have also made important changes in their asylum system. Austria has expanded the conditions under which an asylum status withdrawal procedure may be initiated. It has also introduced an obligation for asylum seekers to cover part of the costs of federal care and established a scheme to seize asylum seekers’ cash. However, an application for international protection has been extended also to cover an asylum seeker’s child born in Austria. A further legal change, effective from September 2018, allows detention of asylum seekers pending removal if they represent a potential threat to public order. In 2018 and 2019 the Netherlands reduced the validity of the temporary asylum permit from five to three years: after three years a new application may be made for another temporary permit for another two years. For recurrent asylum applications with no/limited chance of success a hearing was abolished.

Contrasted policy responses have been put in place in Colombia and Chile in reaction to the large influx of Venezuelans. In June 2019, Chile requested Venezuelans to obtain a visa prior to their entry. A 90-day work authorisation is generally obtained rapidly when providing a valid passport, a proof of economic solvency and an invitation letter from a Chilean company or person. Colombia has responded to the large influx of Venezuelans by introducing a special residence permit for those entered prior to November 2019. An estimated 200 000 Venezuelans are expected to benefit from this measure. Special work authorisations are granted on the basis of a job offer.

In March 2018, Belgium introduced new procedures for identifying unaccompanied minors more systematically and as early as possible in the procedure. They include a detailed questionnaire in the registration phase at the Immigration Office and a separate assessment in the reception centres. Following a ruling by the EU Court of Justice, Belgium changed its practice to allow an unaccompanied minor who reaches the age of majority during the procedure for international protection to retain his or her right to family reunification as a minor.

In Sweden, from July 2018 unaccompanied minor applicants who turned 18 before receiving a decision on their application for asylum may, under certain conditions, be granted a temporary residence permit for studies at upper secondary school level. In France, a decree passed on November 2019 strengthens the measures to evaluate persons who claim to be minors and temporarily or permanently deprived of the protection of their family as well as identifying any exploitation they may be suffering.

In 2019, Greece made additional steps to implement its new guardianship system for unaccompanied minors, with guardians to represent them in legal matters and ensure their best interest. In addition, a scheme for the relocation of a total of 1 600 unaccompanied minors from Greece to other EU Member States, started being implemented on 15 April 2020.

Australia and Canada have adopted comprehensive measures designed to streamline and broaden the family visa class, including improved access for grandparents and those with disabilities. Australia’s Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018 came into force in April 2019. It establishes an assessable sponsorship framework for family sponsored visas where a sponsorship must be approved before a visa application can be made. The framework allows character check results to be shared with all parties to an application, but a sponsorship application may be refused if adverse information is detected. The intention is to apply progressively the framework to other family visas through regulation and system changes, with timeframes yet to be determined. The framework currently applies to the Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visa, which opened to visa applications in July 2019. The visa provides parents with a new pathway to reunite temporarily with their children and grandchildren in Australia for up to five years, without the need to depart. It imposes obligations on sponsors, including the requirement to provide financial support and accommodation, and to repay any outstanding public health debts incurred by sponsored parents in Australia. In order to recognise the contribution retirees have made to Australia, with most having lived in the community for many years, in November 2018 a pathway to permanent residence for holders of Retirement and Investor Retirement visas was set out by applying for a Parent or Contributory Parent visa.

In 2019 Canada increased the annual cap on applications for parents and grandparents to 20 000. In order to encourage inclusiveness and diversity it adjusted its policies on the selection and sponsorship of newcomers, including persons with disabilities. Under the new policy fewer applicants with disabilities will be deemed inadmissible on health grounds. In addition, Canada has renewed the cost-sharing agreement with the Rainbow Refugee Society until March 2020. This agreement is aimed at increasing awareness of the unique needs of LGBTQ2 refugees among Canadian sponsors and at strengthening overall sponsorship of them.

In Romania and the United Kingdom policies to deter family migrants have been adopted. The extension of the temporary right to stay for family reunification purposes in Romania is now conditioned by the primary migrant providing proof of support means for each family member, amounting to at least the level of the national minimum gross salary. Since July 2018 in the United Kingdom, adopted children aged 18 or above and with limited leave under the family Immigration Rules, must meet a Knowledge of Language and Life requirement before being eligible to apply for settlement in the country.

Several countries have brought in measures, mainly aimed at employers, to deal with irregular migration, employment and worker exploitation. In the United States, since January 2019 foreign citizens attempting to enter illegally or without documentation through the Southern border, including those who claim asylum, may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the United States for the duration of their immigration proceedings. This rule is subject to limited exceptions. In July 2019, expedited removal applied to anyone encountered anywhere in the United States within two years of illegal entry. In June 2020, the United States Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration and reversed a lower court decision that challenged expedited removal.

Changes in Estonia are intended to reduce the abuse of employment regulations there, putting more onus on employers to prove that the actual work being done by a foreigner corresponds with the content and purpose of the legal basis for working in the country. Poland also introduced measures to protect foreign workers from exploitation. From January 2018, all employers hiring foreign workers are obliged to conclude a written contract. In addition, fines were increased for illegal employment of foreigners or requesting a financial benefit from a foreigner for a work permit or other document entitling foreigners to work in Poland. A further amendment was aimed at preventing people who entered Poland for tourism or family visiting from obtaining temporary residence or work permits.

In an attempt to prevent unsound employers from exploiting irregular migrants, the Police Authority in Sweden was given extended rights to conduct workplace inspections in sectors where there was an elevated risk of individuals working without the necessary work or residence permits.

In 2018, France introduced measures to securing the obligations to leave the French territory after the rejection of an asylum application and increasing control over undocumented foreigners. The detention period has been extended from 45 to 90 days to give more time to the administration to organise the expulsion.

Luxembourg strengthened its fight against the exploitation of prostitution and the procurement and traffic of human beings for sexual purposes. From February 2018 a new law penalised clients in cases involving minors, vulnerable persons, or victims of sexual exploitation. It prohibited modifications or destruction of any travel or identity documents of other persons and also prevented victims of sexual exploitation from being criminally responsible for a solicitation offence.

Ireland, Portugal and the Russian Federation introduced measures to regularise certain migrants who were in an irregular situation. In October 2018 Ireland announced a limited temporary regularisation programme for immigrants from outside the European Economic Area, who held a valid student permission but had subsequently become undocumented, allowing them to apply for permission to remain in the country. Successful applicants are permitted to live and work in Ireland for two years without an employment permit. Family reunification is not permitted under the scheme, so a spouse or partner and dependent children living outside the country cannot seek to join the applicant in Ireland. However, the family circumstances of persons present in the country is taken into consideration, meaning that where a person qualifies under this scheme, the family unit which has been residing with them may be given permission to remain. A legal change in Portugal in 2019 allows foreigners who have entered the country irregularly and have fulfilled their obligations towards social security for more than 12 months to be presumed legal if they are working (or have a contract for service delivery). In 2019 the Russian Federation announced a short-term migration amnesty for the nationals of Kyrgyzstan who stayed in Russia irregularly. They were allowed to leave Russia and subsequently re-enter. They may also legalise their stay in Russia without leaving the country.

In the United States since 2019, expedited removal which allows an immigration officer to deem aliens eligible to be removed without further administrative review, was expanded to cover the entire country and apply to any alien presumed to have unlawfully entered within the previous two years. A court ruling suspending this expansion was overturned in 2020.

In 2018, Belgium concluded agreements with Tunisia and Mauritania on cooperation with regard to the identification and return of undocumented migrants. A temporary measure was adopted to allow Georgian and Ukrainian nationals returning voluntarily to their countries to benefit from return and reintegration support. In addition, foreign nationals who have received an order to leave may now submit information related to their fear or risk in case of return to the Immigration Office and which may be considered as an implicit application for international protection.

In September 2019 Denmark transferred administrative responsibilities relating to migrant return from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice to that of the Ministry of Immigration and Integration and cooperated with other European countries to establish reintegration programmes for rejected asylum seekers in a number of countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. A specific and temporary subsidy scheme in 2018 allowed Iranians who left Denmark voluntarily to receive a cash subsidy. The support for voluntary return includes counselling services as well as information on the return procedure, reintegration and reestablishment in his or her country of origin and on the financial support schemes. Legal changes in Lithuania are designed to encourage foreigners who unlawfully entered Lithuania or are irregularly staying in it to leave voluntarily, with voluntary returns prioritised over deportations.

A major policy development in Poland in July 2019 was the introduction of the Card of the Pole, which may be obtained by foreigners with Polish origin from all over the world. It is granted to people who can demonstrate at least basic knowledge of the Polish language as well as of Polish traditions and customs and can prove that they or at least one of their parents or grandparents or two great-grandparents were of Polish nationality (ethnicity). The Card provides numerous privileges to its holders and members of their immediate families. Holders may obtain a permanent residence permit free of charge from the very beginning of their stay in Poland and Polish citizenship only after one year of residence in Poland. They are entitled to a financial allowance for partial coverage of their and their immediate families’ living costs for up to nine months and are exempted from administrative fees for a permanent residence permit and the grant of Polish citizenship.

The Polish Returns Programme, implemented since 2018 by the National Academic Exchange Agency (NAWA), is addressed to prominent Polish scientists working in foreign scientific institutions interested in returning to Poland and taking up employment in Polish higher education or research institutions. It provides for the payment of remuneration for the returning scientist and members of his/her research team, as well as resettlement expenses and costs of adapting the workplace.

In March 2019 the Spanish government approved a Plan for Return to Spain with the objective of promoting the return of Spanish people by facilitating the return process. A pilot project was developed, due to run into 2020, to encourage people of Spanish origin in Argentina to come to Spain. The project is aimed at children or grandchildren of Spanish people who do not have Spanish nationality and who have the qualifications and experience necessary for working in medium and high qualification sectors, particularly those related with technology, computing, research, marketing and finance. They may obtain a job in Spain without any restrictions and, as being children and grandchildren of Spanish people, immigration regulations exempt them from the application of national employment market testing.

Romanian concern with its emigrant citizens is with their treatment while away. Legal amendments in 2018 aim to protect Romanians living and working abroad and the role of agencies which orchestrate movement. The main changes relate to: the registration procedure; control of commissions, tariffs or taxes by the employment agents while performing mediation services relating to the employment of Romanian citizens abroad; strengthening the coercive framework in case of violation by employment agents.

In May 2018, Bulgaria extended the scope of its Labour Migration and Labour Mobility Law to cover the employment of Bulgarians abroad and the free movement of people in the European Economic Area.

In October 2018 the Russian Federation adopted a new Concept of the State Migration policy for the period 2019-25. It simplifies the rules of entry and naturalisation and encourages the resettlement of Russian nationals abroad.


← 1. For a detailed review of the data limitations, see De Wispelaere and Pacolet – HIVA-KU Leuven (2019).

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