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Immigration: Who The U.S. Lets In, And Why

by Lam Thuy Vo
Aug 27, 2012

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Lam Thuy Vo

America's economy would be better off if the U.S. admitted more highly skilled workers, James Surowiecki recently argued in the New Yorker. That got us thinking: How does the U.S. compare to the rest of the developed world when it comes to immigration policy?

The short answer: The U.S. mostly lets in family members of people who are already in this country. Other developed countries focus much more on letting in workers.

A few notes on the data:

The data are for immigrants who are admitted for permanent residence (in the U.S., this corresponds to immigrants who are issued Greencards) or, in the case of some countries, on visas that are renewable indefinitely.

"Open Borders" refers to people who don't need a visa to move from one country to another. A German citizen, for example, is able to relocate to Britain for work without a visa because both countries are in the EU.

According to a spokesperson from the OECD, most people who move from one "Open Border" country to another for work, though a number of Europeans move to the Southern regions permanently to retire.

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