EU's visa policy

In an internationalised world, it is easy to see than men have much more difficulties to travel than goods and capitals. The Mediterranean is no exception, in spite of an increasingly multiform mobility combining professional, family and leisure motives. And yet the region is far from the kind of circulation it would need in order to implement the deep integration IPEMED is working on.

A greater mobility could make easier the adjustments on the very fragmented labour markets on both sides of the Mediterranean. This could solve the problem of structural workforce shortages especially in the North of the Mediterranean and reduce high unemployment rates in the South, especially for youngsters and qualified people. Another motive calls for more mobility. A political one. Talking of deep integration is not relevant if people’s mobility in the region is not made easier.

This report provides an analysis of economic migration in various regions of the world (EU/Schengen Space, United States, Canada) and contributes to the objectives of IPEMED’s reflection on this topic, which are the following:
   - informing on the reality of the situation and encouraging a greater mobility;
   - analysing and better understanding the mobility and migration phenomenon in the region;
   - shifting from an administrative vision of migrations towards an economic one.

It provides an assessment of the visa measures implemented by different countries and regions in the world to make easier the economic mobility of (skilled and unskilled) North African people. Nevertheless, since analysing only visa policies (access to a territory) was too reductive, we chose to broaden the subject of the study to admission policies on a territory (entry and stay).

The report answers the following questions:
   - what kind of mobility is encouraged (short, long stay)?
   - who is the target (everyone, business managers, researchers, others?)
   - what admission policies are implemented, what kind of documents are required (multiple entry visa, visa exemption, tourist visa, residence permit, etc.)?
   - are there other measures encouraging populations’ mobility (via bilateral or cooperation agreements, etc.)?

The notion of economic mobility or migration is considered as any movement between two countries driven by either the search for employment or similar motive or economic activities (investments, business trips, independent work). This notion includes migrations for studies and professional training (including interns and volunteers), for they can lead to the search for employment. This report does not analyse mobility for non-economic motives, that is for asylum and family reunification motives.

In order to answer the different questions, the European context was taken as a reference. It is compared with the policies implemented in the United States and in Canada. 

The issue of economic mobility is a complex topic involving various policies regarding visas, free movement, internal security, immigration, employment, social policy, etc. This report is not intended to be a deep analysis of the subject. Instead, it offers an exploratory vision of economic mobility in the Euromed region and of admission policies implemented in different regions of the world. 

In order to foster deep regional integration, raising the issue of economic mobility in the Mediterranean is necessary. It is also a challenge, for the subject is complex and triggers passionate debates.

Based on the case of North African migrants, this report aims at understanding this phenomena by analysing visa policies implemented in different countries and regions of the world (EU/Schengen Space, United States, Canada) and at identifying elements that could facilitate a greater economic mobility in the region.

At the European level, the progressive achievement of the single market raises the question of the migratory and visa policies to be developed. And yet it is only from the 2000’s that institutions started elaborating measures (specific directives) to attract and facilitate the admission of certain categories of citizens from third countries that the EU needs. These measures, developed for students, researchers, high-skilled workers and seasonal workers, are the object of much debate between the European Commission and Member States. The former defends the vision of a common policy based on a common legal framework ensuring rights to all economic migrants (”horizontal approach”) while the latter advocates a more selective approach based on security, with the implementation of different measures according to the migrant’s status.

At the end of this reflection process, the European Union finds itself without a common policy on economic immigration. Instead, it developed a series of measures characterised by:

   - facilitation of mobility in the Schengen space for short stays if the title is delivered by a member country belonging to the Schengen space;
   - facilitation of mobility in the Schengen space for stays of more than three months but still in relation with the reason why the title was delivered;
   - more favourable conditions and exemptions to bring the citizen’s family over (researchers, EU Blue Card holders), however further procedures remain in case of settlement in a second Member State;
   - effort of administrative simplification even though procedures remain complex and often require the employer’s close collaboration;
   - minimal standardisation due to Member States stranglehold;
   - acquisition of these titles is meant to facilitate visa acquisition when necessary, however it is not a legally-binding provision for Member States.

In spite of a certain standardisation and as shown in several reports of the Commission on the application of directives and in Eurostat figures, the EU does not manage to attract a sufficient number of migrants from third countries belonging to categories it wants to favour (researchers, high-skilled workers). It keeps attracting migrants coming for other paid activities (any activity that does not fall into specific categories), students and seasonal workers.

The United States chose an ambitious economic migration policy based on employers’ demand, who lead the procedure. The goal is to attract, permanently or temporarily, foreign skilled workers or with specific profiles, able to work in strategic sectors or in sectors facing workforce shortages. The country drew up a long list of measures (there are more than 80 types of temporary visas, Green card, etc.). It established quotas.

Nevertheless, the system implemented by the United States is:
   - complex, the procedures implemented are complex and obscure - they are not accessible either for migrants or for employers;
   - expensive, because of the fees linked to the procedure, but also because very often, migrants and employers must seek the help of specialist lawyers;
   - obscure and little adapted to the market needs. The delay to get a visa can take up to several years.

All concerned actors express the need for a global reform of the system but diverging visions, particularly between the Senate, in favour of a policy prone to work immigration, and the House of Representatives, encouraging a restrictive policy, have been holding up this reform until now. It is mostly employers, and especially those wishing to make skilled workers enter the United States and those working in ICT sectors, who are pressuring the government to encourage economic migration and increase the number of visas issued to foreign workers.

Although the system is complex, it does not prevent the United States from attracting a great number of students coming for graduate studies, high-skilled workers who become permanent residents after having been temporary migrants, but also seasonal workers mostly coming from Mexico.

Canada has always resorted to immigration in a permanent settlement perspective. However, the system is increasingly trying to meet the needs of the labour market and workforce shortages in order to support the economic growth of the country.

The various governments developed a hybrid system combining selection through supply (as part of permanent economic migration, migrants can enter the country without having a binding job offer) and through demand (employers lead the procedure for temporary economic migration). The goal is to attract skilled migrants having the skills and professional experience allowing them to have a profession and to succeed in their economic integration.

Only two titles (permanent resident card and temporary resident visa) can be issued, however there are several programmes to facilitate the coming of foreign workers. The period of issue, especially of the permanent resident card, can take up to several years.

Permanent economic migration, with the programme for skilled workers and a points system, is the main door to the Canadian market. For several years though, temporary economic migration has been gaining ground, compelling the government to globally think the country’s migratory policy. 

This report on the legal measures the EU, the United States and Canada implement for economic migrants also enables to open the debate on the broad issue of economic mobility and migration.

Defining the most “adapted” economic immigration policy for a given country is a complex topic. Countries with old economic migration measures, like the United States (INA act of 1952) and Canada (immigration law of 1967) as well as the UE, with much more recent measures (early 2000), regularly question the current system.

Shall we favour a horizontal approach regarding all economic migrants or, on the contrary, select candidates according to different criteria? Shall we have a great choice of specific measures, like in the Unites States, or a more condensed system like that of Canada, offering only two titles, one for permanent residents and the other for temporary ones? Shall we favour temporary economic migration, even though it implies long stays on the national territory (in Canada, it can go from six months to five years) or permanent economic migration? Shall we grant citizenship to migrants? Shall we favour multiple entry and plurennial visas?

The analysis carried out in this report highlights common points to the different policies developed for economic migrants:

- with population ageing and workforce shortage, economic migration is necessary;
- there is a real global race to attract the higher-skilled workers, hence the importance of implementing an attractive migratory policy, at least for this category of migrants;
- countries are willing to better master, and even reduce, non-economic migrations, especially regarding family reunification;
- countries show an increasing interest for a chosen economic migration adapted to the needs of the national, and even local, labour market, even if it is difficult to assess those needs quickly;
- growing connection between open borders and security reinforcement, often doubled with external control in migrants’ countries of origin, with no real impact on the reduction of illegal immigration.

In view of a highly integrated Euro-Mediterranean region, especially at the economic level, several ideas can be open to debate in order to implement a Euro-Mediterranean space of economic mobility:

- developing measures to facilitate geographic mobility (multiple entry titles, going beyond circular mobility) as well as economic mobility (possibility to change employer, status, to go from student to young worker, from temporary to permanent migrant, etc.): the less flexible the measures, the more they settle populations on a given space, and even destabilise them;
- making migrants’ journeys safe so that they can exploit their skills and be involved in the region’s economic development while having “one foot in the North and one foot in the South”. This could be done by ensuring them, for instance, equal rights to those of national workers, the possibility to be entitled to certain rights (unemployment benefit, pension, etc.) when they leave, the possibility to come with certain family members, easier access to citizenship and dual nationality, access to plurennial titles, etc.;
- separating, especially at the level of European policies, the question of mobility from that of immigration and border control in order to rethink the Euro-Mediterranean mobility space without political instrumentalisation.
- reinforcing the EU action by relying on the most active policies on the subject, implemented by some Member States;
- elaborating this space in collaboration with all the stakeholders (public and economic actors - companies and unions, civil society, diasporas representatives, Euro-Mediterranean professional networks, etc.).

Migrants are not only economic actors, they also carry a multiple identity that can potentially lead to a North/South rapprochement. This multiple identity can be a powerful leverage for regional integration providing that it is more recognised, valued and supported. Public authorities, both in the North and in the South, must play a major role in order to create the conditions of a new trust encouraging the active involvement of migrants, especially of economic ones, in the rapprochement of the two shores. This sends us back to the question of the (Euro-Mediterranean) society we want to live in.