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First published online August 5, 2014

Attracting Skilled Immigrants: An Overview of Recent Policy Developments in Advanced Countries


In this paper we review the policies put in place by the main Western destination countries to attract highly skilled migrants. Two main systems can be identified. On the one hand, employer-driven schemes typically call for the migrant to meet a set of minimum skill requirements and to have a job offer before a work visa can be issued. On the other, migrant-driven schemes typically do not require a job offer, and instead select the migrant based on a set of characteristics chosen by the policymaker. Employer-driven schemes are the dominant policy tool in the sample of countries we consider in the analysis, and only Australia, Canada and New Zealand have made migrant-driven schemes the mainstay of their skill selective immigration policy. The preliminary evidence we review suggests that the latter are more effective in increasing the skill level of the immigrant population, and casts doubts on the usefulness of new initiatives like the EU blue card that are still based on an employer-driven system.

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Published In

Article first published online: August 5, 2014
Issue published: August 2014


  1. Skilled immigration
  2. immigration policy


  1. F22
  2. J61

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© 2014 National Institute of Economic and Social Research.


Issue published: August 2014
Published online: August 5, 2014



Giovanni Facchini
Elisabetta Lodigiani


The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support provided by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

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