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How does devolved immigration work across the world?

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Author: Kathleen Nutt

THE case for a separate immigration policy for Scotland is a key focus for Nicola Sturgeonand her government.

Some critics have attacked the concept, saying only a single policy would be workable across the UK.

However, differentiated immigration policies work successfully across a range of nations in the world – including Spain, Switzerland, Canada, Australia and Finland.

A recent report by Dr Eve Hepburn, a public policy consultant, for the Scottish Parliament’s culture, tourism, Europe and external affairs committee, gave a detailed outline of some of those.

Australia, for instance, she stated: “Operates a migration programme that has a regional dispersal mechanism, whereby States and Territories can attract skilled and business migrants through their participation in a regional migration visa scheme.”

Hepburn also cited the provinces of Quebec and Prince Edward Island (PEI) in Canada which operate separate immigration systems in response to addressing concerns about declining populations. In 1991 Quebec received exclusive competency from the federal government in three areas of permanent immigration: total volume of immigrants for Quebec, the selection of candidates and the management of sponsorship arrangements. It also received exclusive powers over authorising work permits for permanent migrants, and enhanced shared powers over temporary immigration, where Quebec must consent before international students and temporary workers can come to the province.

PEI is the smallest of Canada’s ten provinces, with a population of only 145,855 people as of 2011.

Its economy is resource-based and highly seasonal, with agriculture, tourism and fishing constituting the main industries.

The government of PEI signed a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) agreement with the federal government in 2001 for a five year term (which was made open-ended in 2008).

The goal of the PEI PNP is to attract immigrants with the skills, experience and economic means to successfully establish themselves on PEI. The PEI PNP allows applicants to apply directly to the Province of PEI which reviews the application and accompanying documents. According to the PEI Immigration website: “Individuals are chosen based on their ability to economically establish and their intent to live and work in PEI. Current key needs that are being met by the PEI PNP are filling gaps in our labour market and attracting entrepreneurs”. If the individual meets these criteria and the application is approved, the Province of PEI nominates the candidate for permanent residency by submitting the paperwork to the federal government for final approval. Processing times for PNP applications tend to be eight months, compared to three years for general applications. The scheme requires applicants to live and work on PEI for at least one year, after which time they have the right to move elsewhere in Canada.

Parts of Finland, Switzerland and Spain have differentiated immigration policies. These include the Aland Islands in Finland and the Basque country and Catalonia in Spain. Catalan governments have welcomed immigration as beneficial, defining Catalonia as a land of hospitality “whose culture has been enriched by a constant influx of people throughout its history”.

It has helped the nation become the most prosperous area in Spain.

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Parts of Finland, Switzerland and Spain have differentiated immigration policies. These include the Aland Islands in Finland and the Basque country and Catalonia in Spain. Catalan governments have welcomed immigration as beneficial, defining Catalonia as a land of hospitality “whose culture has been enriched by a constant influx of people throughout its history”.

It has helped the nation become the most prosperous area in Spain.

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