By: Vivian Balkaron

OECD data shows that the US admits around four times the number of immigrants than Australia and Canada, though because this number represents a smaller percentage of the overall population (0.3% to Australia and Canada’s 1.1% and 0.7% respectively) the US is ultimately more ‘closed’ to immigration.

Figures show that immigration policy in the USA far favours family-based allowances, with around two thirds of migrants being successfully admitted into the country based on their relation to a current citizen. This number is twice that of neighbouring Canada, where roughly the same percentage have gained entry to the country based on their skills and achievements – the so called ‘merit-based’ immigration system. Australia has even less, with only 24% of migrants qualifying for citizenship based on their family ties. Generally speaking, family-based migrants tend to be of the immediate family in Australia and Canada, while in the USA, many more citizens’ adult children and siblings are admitted.

Australia and Canada actively encourage migrant workers, were respectively 12 and 7.5 times as many immigrants relocate as working immigrants than in the US. Indeed, Canada have recently employed an ‘express entry’ system, which only requires potential permanent residents to have work experience and a basic grasp of English or French to apply. So how can they afford to be more open? Geographical location could have a part to play. Neither Australia nor Canada share a border with a country with much lower wages, nor are they situated next to unstable regions. As a result, they have experienced much less immigration through history.

Though American policy admits fewer immigrants overall, Canada and Australia’s more selective policy ultimately leads to more jobs for migrants, and fewer social problems as a result of immigration. Canada was the first country to employ a points-based admission system in 1967, and many other countries have followed suit.  If the US wants to increase its relative population of skilled migrant workers, it may look to its northern neighbour for ideas.