(Im)migration issues among the transatlantic partners


Unmeasurable consequences were left by the COVID-19 virus for the global society. Even the biggest and major economic and political actors have failed in this fight against an invisible enemy. Both the EU and the United States have done their best to cope with the new challenge, while at the same time, another one was gradually rising, the migrants who were arriving at the external borders of the Union. This analysis briefly presents the migrants issue as well as immigration between the EU and the USA as a parallel process ongoing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EU and its Member States share the competence in the area of immigration. There are certain common immigration rules valid across the EU, while other aspects are determined by each EU country. This means that immigration rules are not identical in different EU countries and national authorities are best placed to reply to your detailed questions. Residence permit applications must always be made to the authorities of the EU country an immigrant intends to move to. There is no European institution handling applications or issuing residence permits on behalf of individual countries.

EU-wide rules that allow citizens of countries outside the EU to work or study in an EU country. They cover specifically individuals who are: Highly skilled workers, researchers, students, trainees, school pupils or volunteers, intra-corporate transferees and seasonal workers. The EU-wide rules that allow citizens of countries outside the EU who are staying legally in an EU country to bring their non-EU family members to live with them and to become long-term residents.

Besides, the EU offers a so-called “Blue Card”, which gives highly skilled workers from outside the EU the right to live and work in an EU country, provided they have higher professional qualifications, such as a university degree, and an employment contract or a binding job offer with a high salary compared to the average in the EU country where the job is. The EU Blue Card applies in 25 of the 27 EU countries.  In parallel, if anyone intends to move within the USA, there is a system called “The Green Card”. One can obtain it through Family issues, through employment status, as a Special Immigrant, through Refugee or Asylee Status, as a victim of Human Trafficking and Crime, as victims of abuse, and through the Registry.

But what’s in stake with the transatlantic migration? Of the 61.2 million European migrants worldwide in 2017, the majority (67%) lived in other European countries, followed by the United States (8%), Kazakhstan (5%), and Australia and Canada (4% each), according to United Nations Population Division estimates. In 2016, most Europeans who obtained lawful permanent residence in the United States (also known as getting a green card) did so as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through employment channels. Compared to the overall foreign- and native-born populations, European immigrants on average are significantly older and more educated and have higher household incomes, though they are less likely to participate in the labor force.

In 2018, a web portal “Migration Policy” (authored by Alperin & Batalova) announced a stunning report on the immigration statistics from Europe to the USA. According to the Report, the sociodemographic and economic characteristics vary considerably by European country of birth, however. In the 2012–16 period, 45% of immigrants from Europe lived in one of four states: New York (15%), California (14%), and Florida and Illinois (8% each). The top four counties by European population were Cook County in Illinois, Kings County in New York, Los Angeles County in California, and Queens County in New York. Together, these counties accounted for about 15 percent of Europeans in the United States. As of 2012–16, the U.S. cities with the largest number of Europeans were the greater New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles metropolitan areas, which together accounted for about 31 percent of Europeans in the United States. European immigrants are significantly older than the overall foreign- and native-born populations. The median age of European immigrants in 2016 was 53 years, compared to 44 for all immigrants and 36 for the U.S. born. European immigrants were more than twice as likely to be seniors (ages 65 and over) compared to the foreign- and U.S.-born populations.

This Report concludes that Europeans ages 25 and over have much higher educational attainment compared to the native- and overall foreign-born populations. In 2016, approximately 42% of European immigrants had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to about 32% of the U.S. born and 30% of all immigrants. The top European immigrant groups by share with a college degree were Belarus (67%), Bulgaria and Russia (65 %), and Finland (60%). More than half of immigrants from France, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, Slovakia, Latvia, Spain, and Ukraine were also college graduates. Meanwhile less than one-quarter of those from Italy (23 %), Bosnia (22 %), Montenegro (17%), and Portugal (13%) held college degrees. In 2016, less than 13% of European immigrants had not finished high school, compared to 29% of all immigrants and 9 % of US-born adults.

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