NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
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Volume 81, Number 1

April 2006

The Race for Talent: Highly Skilled Migrants and Competitive Immigration Regimes

Ayelet Shachar

The United States has long been the ultimate “IQ magnet” for highly skilled migrants. But this trend has changed dramatically in recent years. Today, the United States is no longer the sole—nor the most sophisticated—national player engaged in recruiting the “best and brightest” worldwide. Other attractive immigration destinations, such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, have created selective immigration programs designed to attract these highly skilled migrants. Professor Shachar analyzes this growing competition among nations, referring to it
as the “race for talent.” Whereas standard accounts of immigration policymaking focus on domestic politics and global economic pressures, Professor Shachar highlights the significance of interjurisdictional competition. This new perspective explains how and why immigration policymakers in leading destination countries try to emulate—or, if possible, exceed—the skilled-stream recruitment efforts of their international counterparts. These targeted migration programs increasingly serve as a tool to retain or gain an advantage in the new global economy. Indeed, countries are willing to go so far as to offer a “talent for citizenship” exchange in order to gain the net positive effects associated with skilled migration. Such programs are clearly successful, as evidenced by the increase in the inflow of highly skilled migrants to those countries. Simultaneously, emigrants’ home nations have engaged in efforts to reap a share of the welfare-enhancing contributions generated by their highly skilled emigrants, including redefinition of the nation’s membership boundaries. This consequence of the race for talent raises significant questions about the relations between citizenship and justice, as well as mobility and distribution, on a global scale. For the United States, which has traditionally enjoyed an unparalleled advantage in recruiting global talent, these new global challenges come at a difficult time. They compound long-standing problems in America’s immigration system, which have only become more pronounced in the post-9/11 era.