Assorted Examples of Overseas Immigration Practices

By David North on August 8, 2013

American policymakers rarely look at the practices of other nations in the field of immigration. That is a shame because much can be learned there.

Today we have two examples, one from Britain and one from Canada, both mixes of useful and non-useful precedents for the United States.

The Brits on Marriage Fraud. The British government is much more sensitive to the problems caused by immigration-related marriage fraud than ours is. Further, there seems to be much better cooperation in the U.K. between the people who issue marriage licenses and the immigration enforcers than is the case in the United States.

According to Edinburgh's The Scotsman five would-be grooms from Pakistan, all illegal aliens, were to be married to five "brides" who were variously from the U.K., Romania, and the Czech Republic, when Home Office officials prevented the "weddings" from taking place in Gretna, Scotland.

The news article did not mention payments made to the "brides", but that can be assumed. The marriage license people must have alerted the Home Office to the time and the place of the impending weddings, although that is not stated.

The five grooms brought along three Pakistani friends, all illegals; six of the eight are to be deported and the other two (presumably among the friends) were told to report to immigration authorities. The women were interviewed and released. Had the marriages gone through, the five from Pakistan would have secured legal status.

There are several interesting aspects of the case, none of which were picked up in the news articles.

First, and foremost, there must be a good working relationship between the immigration and marriage-license authorities. This is not the first time I have read about sham marriages being prevented in the U.K. In the United States the authorities routinely find out about these arrangements — often when the citizen is no longer getting paid — long after the event. I have been reading all the immigration marriage fraud articles that I can obtain for three years now, and have never heard of a sham marriage being prevented in the United States.

Second, and not so encouraging, the U.K., as part of its participation in the European Community, has given residents of non-U.K. European nations, such as Romanians and Czechs, the right to marry aliens in the U.K., and make the new spouses legal residents. Fortunately, in the United States, only American citizens and green card holders have this right.

Third, there must be some difference in the marriage laws between Scotland and England, as the news articles said that all the males were from various places in Northern England and the planned weddings were to take place just over the border in Scotland.

The Brits, in short, handle the enforcement efforts admirably, but (in my eyes) made a major mistake years ago in letting non-British Europeans live and work in their country without controls, and also by giving these aliens immigration marriage benefits.

Canada and Immigrant Investors. Often I find Canada more rational than the United States on public policy matters, but in this case they are showing us that it is not a good idea for a nation to subcontract its immigration decisions to some other body, a subject covered a couple of years ago in a CIS Backgrounder entitled "Beware of Indirect Immigration Policy Making".

Canada, sadly, has an immigrant investor program as we do, but it has some features that are preferable to ours. For the particular program under discussion, it demands an investment of C$800,000 or, at the moment, US$768,000, while we ask only $500,000. And the minister in charge wants to double that price! Canada wins that comparison.

In the American EB-5 program, the investments (often of pretty low quality) routinely go into real estate ventures like condos or office buildings and thus provide capital to usually small-scale operators, where the element of fraud is often present, as we have reported in various blogs. The financial beneficiaries of EB-5 are in the private sector, and sometimes in grubby parts of it. And the aliens often run a very real risk with their investments.

In Canada, however, the investments are made in five-year, no-interest loans to the provincial government. In other words, the investment benefits the taxpayers, generally, not private middlemen. The aliens get their money back and need not fear fraud. Again, advantage Canada.

Ah, but in Canada, there are special deals for Quebec, even in the immigration law. (Ottawa really does not want that province to secede.) Apparently the Quebec program works more quickly than those of other provinces, but no matter where the alien invests, he can settle anywhere in Canada he wants. A lot of the Chinese wind up investing in Quebec and settling in British Columbia. So Quebec gets the money and BC (notably Vancouver) gets the people.

As a headline in the Vancouver Sun puts it "Quebec immigration program stiffs BC [British Columbia]; Quebec gets the investment from investor immigrants, but most promptly settle in Vancouver".

The whole tone of the news report was that British Columbia felt it was getting a raw deal, receiving none of the interest-free loans, and nearly all of the people. Quebec on the other hand, which is paying 4.22 percent on its average debt, over a five-year period secures a boost of about C$169,000 from each alien investor, and sees next to none of the migrants.

So Quebec scores over British Columbia, province-wise, but on the national level, the United States has a slightly better program on this variable since there are no significant state government complications in the EB-5 program.

However, the actual cost to the immigrant to Canada, foregone interest on the C$800,000 over five years, is pretty minimal.

The Vancouver paper, unlike much of the U.S. media under similar circumstance, did not rhapsodize about all those prosperous migrants and what wonders they were doing, even without their C$800,000 investments, to British Columbia's economy. Nor did the paper notice that this geographical shift of money — from a rich province to a struggling one — might be in the nation's interest.

Transnational immigration practice and policy examples cut both ways; sometimes the United States is doing better than other nations, often times we are doing less well, but it is always helpful to look at the experiences of others.