In late 2007, Intel Chairman Craig Barrett wrote an angry op-ed piece in which he lambasted the U.S. government for its inaction on immigration reform and lauded the European Union for its proposed Blue Card, a renewable two-year visa that would in theory make it easier for foreign workers to seek work in EU countries.
The key words are "in theory." The card is still just a proposal -- and one that many experts feel has little chance of adoption. Granted, most U.S. lawmakers seem more interested in avoiding the issue than addressing it. But that doesn't mean, as Barrett implies, that other countries are ahead of the United States in their efforts to craft immigration policies that protect the rights of native-born workers while attracting the right mix of skilled workers. Other countries are grappling with immigration policies as well.
The United Kingdom just introduced a point-based system designed to attract a higher caliber of immigrants, reports BBC News.
Though the government says that the number of skilled workers from outside the 30-country European Economic Area (EEA) would have been reduced by 12 percent in 2007, some folks have doubts and object to the fact that the plan includes no specific caps on immigrant numbers. Says Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK:
The government's claim that their new points-based system will result in lower levels of immigration is pure spin. The scheme has no limits and, in fact, will probably result in even higher levels of immigration.Before entering the U.K., immigrants will be required to meet criteria such as possessing certain employment qualifications, according to Reuters UK. All non-EEA residents seeking to enter the country must first demonstrate proficiency in English.
British companies seeking to employ skilled workers such as engineers must prove they cannot find employees with the appropriate skills in the U.K. before expanding their recruitment efforts overseas. (A similar requirement for employers was part of the H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, introduced last year by U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin.)
Although the U.K.'s point-based system was reportedly modeled on Australia's, that country is trying to streamline its immigration process because of a backlog in applications for skilled-immigration visas, reports The Australian. Immigration Minister Chris Evans recently signed off on establishing dedicated centers of excellence in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth -- top destinations for many visa holders -- aimed at expediting skilled visa applications.
Australia is also considering creating an accreditation system for companies that regularly employ workers holding 457 visas, which sound similar to H-1B visas in the United States. According to the story, about 20 percent of Australian companies employ some 75 percent of foreign workers.
Meanwhile, Canada also is considering a proposal to fast-track visa applications. It would allow immigration officials to prioritize visa applications based on desired job skills rather than following the current policy of processing them on a first-come, first-served basis, as detailed in this Canada.com story. Some Canadian lawmakers suggest the new proposal would be used to curtail the number of immigrants admitted under the "family class," which new immigrants often use to bring family members to Canada. At least two of Canada's political parties, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, oppose the proposal.
Immigration Minister Diane Finley says Australia and New Zealand process immigration applications in as little as six months, compared to a waiting period of more than six years in Canada. She predicts the waiting time could increase to 10 years by 2012 if legislative action isn't taken. She says:
We're facing real and serious international competition for the talents and skills that we need to fill the jobs that are waiting to be filled here in Canada.Sound familiar?