U.S. Surpasses European Union as Top Destination for Skilled Immigrants

For the first time in over a decade, more immigrants are choosing the United States over the European Union as their destination for a better life. This was the finding of the International Migration Outlook 2014 report released on December 1, 2014 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The report details some startling changes in immigration patterns within the 28 countries that comprise the EU. According to the OECD, in 2012, the U.S. gained 1.03 million permanent migrants, compared to the 948,200 who arrived in the EU. This is the first time since at least 2000 that the EU has drawn fewer immigrants than the United States, which caps legal entry of permanent migrants to about one million per year. Available data has indicated that the trend continued into 2013, with immigrants from outside the EU choosing to live and work elsewhere. [See EU Falls Behind U.S. as Top Destination for Skilled Migrants, by Shawn Donnan, The Financial Times, 01.Dec.2014.]

The main culprit for the migration reversal appears to be the EU’s stubbornly stagnant economy. Compared to the U.S. economy, which has begun to rebound in recent years following the 2008 global financial crisis, many European countries continue to struggle. A major factor in the EU’s lackluster growth has been the ongoing Eurozone crisis, which was precipitated in 2009 when banks in several major European countries were unable to repay government loans, resulting in a fragile economy throughout the union. An aging population, weak consumer demand, and rigid labor regulations have compounded the problem, and skilled and educated immigrants have begun to seek a healthier job market where their talents will be better utilized. [See European Jobs Market Still Stagnant, March Data Show, by David Jolly, The New York Times, 02.May.2014.]

A secondary factor in the trend is the widening gap in the way that immigrants are perceived in the United States versus the European Union. Whereas the U.S. has slowly started to accept the need for immigrants who possess diverse skills and talents needed by American businesses, many countries in the EU have succumbed to anti-immigration political sentiments. This attitude is illustrated in a recent article in the Washington Times, which details the cultural barriers of immigrants living and working in Switzerland. Though not technically part of the EU, Switzerland is centrally located in Europe, and her economy is highly dependent on skilled foreigners from the EU, the U.S., and India. However, recently mandated quotas that limit the number of foreign workers from the EU, combined with a cultural atmosphere hostile to outsiders, have led many migrants working in Switzerland to feel as though they are viewed as “inferior.” [See Switzerland Seeks Skilled Foreign Workers Amid Anti Immigration Push, by Meritxell Mir, Washington Times, 01.Dec.2014.]

Although Europe has long been a world leader in attracting skilled and educated immigrants, a stagnating economy, combined with an increasingly hostile culture, has caused migrants to look elsewhere in their search for a better life. The United States has much to gain from this shift in the form of diverse talent that can only boost our economy and amplify our presence on the world stage. It is the right time to doff the anti-immigrant rhetoric, and return to our place as a beacon of hope to immigrants everywhere.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.