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Immigration law includes the national statutes, regulations, and legal precedents governing immigration into and deportation from a country. Strictly speaking, it is distinct from other matters such as naturalization and citizenship, although they are sometimes conflated. Countries frequently maintain laws that regulate both the rights of entry and exit as well as internal rights, such as the duration of stay, freedom of movement, and the right to participate in commerce or government.
Immigration laws vary around the world and throughout history, according to the social and political climate of the place and time, as the acceptance of immigrants sways from the widely inclusive to the deeply nationalist and isolationist. National laws regarding the immigration of citizens of that country are regulated by international law. The United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights mandates that all countries allow entry to their own citizens. this principle is not always respected in practice. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia adopted a policy of denying entry to all individuals in particularly affected jurisdictions, including Australian citizens and permanent residents. Similarly, while states within the Schengen Area typically permit freedom of movement across borders, many states within the area implemented ad hoc border controls during the pandemic.
Immigration policy is the aspect of border control concerning the transit of people into a country, especially those that intend to stay and work in the country. Taxation, tariff and trade rules set out what goods immigrants may bring with them, and what services they may perform while temporarily in the country. Agricultural policy may make exemptions for migrant farm workers, who typically enter a country only for the harvest season and then return home to a country or region in the Global South (such as Mexico or Jamaica from where U.S. and Canada, respectively, often import temporary agricultural labour). An important aspect of immigration policy is the treatment of refugees, more or less helpless or stateless people who throw themselves on the mercy of the state they try to enter, seeking refuge from actual or purported poor treatment in their country of origin. Asylum is sometimes granted to those who face persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
As a result of investment-oriented immigration policies, states sometimes implement border control measures known as immigrant investor programmes that offer permanent residence or citizenship in return for investment. Immigrant investor programmes originated in the 1980s when tax havens in the Pacific and Caribbean began "cash-for-passport" programmes that facilitated visa-free travel and tax avoidance. Such programmes have sparked controversy in several countries. A lack of demonstrable economic benefits, and security concerns, have been among the most common criticisms. In 2014 the Canadian government suspended their golden visa programme (although, as of 2017, Quebec maintains its own golden visa programme). The implementation of such programmes in Europe has been criticised by the European Parliament, which approved a non-binding resolution that in 2014 declaring that an EU passport, which by definition provides its bearer the right to reside in any EU or EEA jurisdiction, should not have a "price tag".
To control immigration, many countries set up customs at entry points. Some common locations for entry points are airports and roads near the border. At the customs department, travel documents are inspected. Some required documents are a passport, an international certificate of vaccination, and an onward ticket. Sometimes travelers are also required to declare or register the amount of money they are carrying.
By country or territory
Immigration visa categories by country or territory
This section is an attempt to classify and bring together information about immigration legislation on a number of countries with high immigration.
|Country / territory||Employer-Sponsored Work Visa||Independent Work Visa||Businessperson, Self-employed or Entrepreneur||Investor||Ph.D. or Scientist||Spouse||By birth (foreign national parents)||Studying as a migration route|
|US||Through H1B lottery, many applicants failed to receive a settlement after 6 years and had to leave the country.||EB-1 Extraordinary Ability – for internationally recognized scientists, sportsman etc.||EB-5: minimum investment of $800,000.||PhDs are generally allowed to apply for an employer-independent EB2 visa||Automatic citizenship|
|United Kingdom||Tier 2 – settlement (ILR) after 5 years. A limit on number of Tier 2 migrants per year coming from outside the country was introduced by new government which makes it more difficult to find an employer willing to sponsor the visa if applying from outside the UK.||(Practically not available since April 2011)
Tier 1 General – settlement (ILR) after 5 years. A limit on 1000 Tier 1 migrants per year introduced by new government. Besides that the migration legislation changes on average every six months which makes Britain not attractive for skilled migrants looking for a second nationality.
|Tier 1 Entrepreneur||Tier 1 Investor||There is no specific category here but it is easier for universities (as opposed to businesses) to acquire a Tier 2 sponsorship licence.||ILR is provided after 5 years in marriage or partnership and living in the country.||British citizenship can be obtained as a right for anybody who was born in the UK before 1983. After 1983, it can only be obtained by birth if at least one parent was settled there. It is also available as of right for people of whom one parent is a British citizen otherwise than by descent." All other classes of British Nationality do not confer right of abode in the UK to the holder.||Tier4 Full-time students at university education are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week. Others are allowed to work up to 10 hours per week. After 10 years of continuous presence in the country on residential visas ILR is provided. There is a cap on the duration of staying in the country on a student visa.|
|Canada||Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW)[i]||Available. The Federal Skilled Trades Program is for skilled workers who want to become permanent residents based on their qualification in a skilled trade. Skilled trades for the Program are organized under these NOC groups:||Business people[ii] can enter and work in Canada if they qualify under one of the following:||To work in Canada as an investor, one must: meet any other rules of CUSMA; have a work permit; and be involved in planning either a) a large amount of trade in goods or services, mainly between Canada and their home country; or b) a large investment in Canada by that person or their company.||Federal Skilled Worker Program.||
Eligible persons can sponsor their spouse or partner to become permanent residents, but must be able to:
|One does not automatically have Canadian citizenship if they were born outside Canada to Canadian parent(s) on or after 17 April 2009, but neither were born or naturalized in Canada||International students may be able to fall under several categories of permanent residence, including the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker Program, and the Provincial Nominee Program.|
|Australia||Available||Skilled Independent visa (Subclass 189)and Skilled Nominated visa (subclass 190)|
|South Africa||Corporate worker permit.||General work permit, Quota work permit, exceptional skills work permit and Intra-company transfer work permit.||Business permit. Minimum foreign capital investment ZAR 2,5 Million into book value of business which may be reduced on application. Minimum of 5 South African citizens/residents to be employed.||See Business permit.||No specific category. May fall under Exceptional Skills or Quota work permit.||Spousal visa. Proof of cohabitation and shared finances.||Not applicable. Children born in South Africa to foreign nationals will obtain the same status as their parents.||Study is viewed in isolation in relation to the course of study. No benefits obtained promoting continued stay.|
|Isle of Man||Similar to British Tier1 General, but does not lead to EU nationality||Similar to British Tier1 Entrepreneur, but does not lead to EU nationality|
|South Korea||If you have lived more than 5 years under a D-7, D-8, D-9, E-1, E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, E-7 or F-2 visa.||If you have internationally recognized extraordinary ability in science, business, culture, sports or education.||If you are over 60 and receive income via pension from overseas.||If you invest $2 million. If you invested only $500,000, you need to stay more than 3 years on a D-8 visa. If you invest $500,000 in real estate of Jeju, Incheon Free Economic Zone, Busan's Haeundae, Pyeongchang or Yeosu, you are given a F-2 residence visa and 5 years later, F-5 permanent residence.||If you have a PhD in a high-tech field and are employed by a Korean firm, earning 4 times the average GNI in Korea. If you only have a bachelor's in a high-tech field or a recognized technical certificate issued in Korea, you need to have stayed for at least 3 years and earn 4 times the average GNI in Korea.||If you have stayed in Korea for more than 2 years under a F-2 visa and are the spouse of a Korean or foreigner with a F-5 permanent residence visa.||If you were born to parents who are stateless or were found abandoned within the territory of South Korea as a child, you will automatically get Korean citizenship.|
|Hong Kong||General Employment Policy (GEP); will receive Right of Abode (ROA) in Hong Kong, after 7 years continuous ordinary residence in Hong Kong.||General Points Test (GPT)
Top Talent Pass Scheme (TTPS)
|Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES); you need to invest HK$10 million except on real estate; will receive ROA in Hong Kong, after 7 years continuous ordinary residence in Hong Kong.||Passing GPT within Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS)||Person under 21 years of age born in Hong Kong of foreigner with HK Permanent ID Card, will receive ROA in Hong Kong, but not Chinese nationality.|
|European Union||Varies by member state||Blue Card (European Union)|
|Austria||May be available in the future, called Rot-Weiß-Rot-Card|
|Cyprus||It is considered to be very unlikely to get nationality through work route||Not available|
|Czech Republic||Not available|
|Denmark||Available: Danish Green Card|
|Netherlands||Highly-skilled migrant' visa: available only for employers to apply on employee's behalf. Employer must be recognized as a sponsor by IND. Specific salary requirements apply.||Zoekjaar ('search year') visa: a one-year visa available to all students who recently graduated from a university or a college. No other requirements (e.g. sponsor/employer).||A visa is available for self-employed people. Granting of such is determined based on innovative nature of your business, which must be assessed by a certain agency (RVO).||Citizenship or permanent residency can be applied for after 3 years in marriage or partnership with a Dutch national and living in the country.||No provision to grant citizenship based on country of birth is available. At least one parent must be a Dutch national. Prior to January 1, 1985, child's father must have been Dutch for the child to get Dutch citizenship.|
|Norway||Min 4 years|
|Country or Area||Employer Sponsored Work Visa||Independent Work Visa||Businessperson, Self-employed or Entrepreneur||Investor||Ph.D. or Scientist||Spouse||By birth while both of parents are foreign nationals||Studying as a migration route|
|Country or Area||Illegal Migrant||Special arrangements|
|US||Green Card Lottery|
|United Kingdom||After 20 years of continuous illegal but proven presence in the country ILR is provided.||Treaty nationals may enter the UK to work, provide services or self-employment or study or reside there as self-sufficient migrant.|
|South Africa||Arrest, detention, court to decide on outcome.|
|Isle of Man|
|South Korea||If you previously had Korean nationality or either of your parents or grandparents had Korean nationality in the past, you are immediately eligible for a F-4 visa, a practically permanent residence visa that is renewable every 2 years. If the Korean government recognizes that you made an important contribution to the nation, you are eligible for F-5 permanent residence.|
|Hong Kong||Mainland China issued a daily quota of 150 One Way Permits to mainland Chinese for Hong Kong settlement; will receive Right of Abode (ROA) in Hong Kong, after 7 years continuous ordinary residence in Hong Kong; plus the right to apply for a HKSAR Passport.|
|Israel||Law of Return|
|Germany||There are programs for Continental Refugees and Repatriates but the rules are severely tightened to prevent as little new migrants as possible to benefit from them.|
|Netherlands||After 5 years of continuous residence and sufficient integration.|
|Romania||Special arrangements for citizens of Moldova|
|Norway||Citizens of other Nordic Council countries may naturalise after a two-year residence|
General guidelines by country or territory
|Country / territory||Requirements and restrictions||Employed dependants||Social benefits||Deprivation of nationality||Forgoing other nationalities required for naturalization?||Deprivation of original nationality for those who naturalise in foreign countries?|
|US||The dependant of a resident visa holder may not work.||No||No, but foreign earnings are liable to taxation.|
|United Kingdom||Before settlement: No more than 180 days spent overseas within 5 years, no more than 90 days per trip.
After settlement: Settlement would be cancelled after a certain number of days spent abroad. A single parent may immigrate if one is the sole supporter.
|The dependant of a resident visa holder is allowed to work.||Before settlement: No access to public funds.
After settlement: Accessible.
|Dual nationals may be deprived of their nationality for engaging in terrorism.||No||No|
|Israel||||Yes, unless citizenship obtained by Law of Return|
|Germany||Yes, unless the prior nationality held was one of the European Union, Norway, or Switzerland; or if the applicant cannot approach the authorities of their previous country for reasons of personal safety.||Yes, unless the nationality acquired is one of the EU, Switzerland, or Norway; or if the applicant obtained permission from the German government prior to submitting an application for naturalisation.|
|Norway||Legitimately naturalised persons can be deprived of their nationality.||Yes, unless the applicant cannot approach the authorities of their previous country for reasons of personal safety, or if the authorities demand a fee considered too high.||Yes|
- Asylum shopping
- Refugee identity certificate
- Migrant worker
- Immigration policy
- Impediment to expulsion
- Economic citizenship
- Points-based immigration system
- Immigrant investor programs
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- To hire a Temporary Foreign Worker, employers must first find out if they need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which verifies that there is a need for the job that is being offered and that there is no Canadian worker available to do it. If an LMIA is not needed, the employer must submit an offer of employment and pay the employer compliance fee. The employer must then have the worker apply for a work permit.
- Defined by the Government of Canada as those who "come to do business under a free trade agreement."
- Such as the Canada–Chile FTA, the Canada–Peru FTA, the Canada–Colombia FTA, or the Canada–Korea FTA