People migrate for various reasons, including for work, to carry out a business contract, to get married, to accompany a relative who moves to work or study in another country, to escape persecution, etc. At the same time, destination countries grant, with more or less flexibility or freedom, visas and permits that allow people to enter a country to carry out their intended activities. In some cases the entry may not be authorized, in which case the migrant could try to specify another reason for migrating that would allow him or her to enter the country more easily. It is well known, for example, that in recent decades the asylum option has often been used by people seeking to escape poverty, find employment, or flee war zones, reasons that, strictly speaking, they do not meet the definition of persecution specified in the Geneva Convention. Likewise, people can enter as tourists or business visitors or temporary workers, and change to another status after their arrival or even stay longer than the stay allowed in their permits or visas.
Although the reason specified in the visa or permit may not necessarily correspond to the true intention of the immigrant, it is the one that is generally used in the statistics and constitutes the object of national migration policies that seek to influence the nature and composition of migration.
Statistics collected by destination countries in the Americas sometimes include information on the type of visa or permit granted to international migrants. Graph 4 summarizes the distribution of the most common reasons for which permits or visas were issued, for those countries that it was possible to categorize for a recent year (2013).
The first thing to take into account is the growing importance in some countries of permits granted on the basis of international agreements, particularly Mercosur. The lack of such permits for other countries in the graph does not necessarily mean that there were no entries under international agreements, but rather that the data has not been categorized primarily in this way. It is obvious, for example, that there have been movements between Canada, Mexico and the United States under NAFTA, but such movements appear as reasons of migration for “work” and those of accompanying family members as reasons of migration for “family” instead of migration. in the context of international agreements.
Graph 4. International migration by type, permanent and temporary, 2013
Similarly, in some countries that have signed integration agreements allowing the right of free settlement, international students may not appear as migrants with a “study” permit but as subject to an international agreement. Eventually, as migration regimes move more and more toward free movement or settlement, visas or permits could disappear altogether, making the statistical task of measuring the scale and type of movements even more difficult. This has happened, for example, in certain countries of the European Union, where visas and permits are often not required for citizens of member countries In some countries in Figure 4, levels of family migration appear to be too low, probably because accompanying family migrants are receiving the same type of visa or permit as the main applicant and are not being identified as separate family members. Other countries may not follow this type of practice; for these, the levels of family migration seem to be more significant.
For all these reasons, and no doubt others as well, it is difficult to interpret the statistics presented in Figure 4 from a comparative point of view.
In Argentina and Bolivia, the majority of international migrants enter under international agreements, most of them undoubtedly for work-related reasons. In Brazil, relatively few Mercosur migrants receive permits in the formal work permit system, although many appear on the federal police registry as Mercosur migrants. It should be remembered that in many Latin American countries that have carried out regularization programs, the vast majority of regularized migrants come from other countries in the Americas. The creation of formal Mercosur residence permits is a concrete manifestation of the more liberal migration regimes that are emerging under this integration agreement. At the same time, however, some information is lost,
The distribution of observed migration motives for the countries on the right-hand side of Figure 4, especially Canada and the United States, provides a useful benchmark for what to expect from countries without free settlement or free movement regimes. The permanent migration regime of the United States, as is well known, emphasizes the migration of people with families in the United States and is the most strongly family-oriented migration regime in the OECD. Canada’s permanent regime is in some respects more “typical” and also much larger in scale, admitting about two and a half times more permanent immigrants per person than the United States. Much of the rest of Canada’s migration consists of labor migrants and their families. Indeed,
When both temporary and permanent migration are taken into account, the Canadian regime consists of 27% family migration, 19% study migration, and 47% labor migration. Migration to Brazil, by contrast, consists of 6% family migration, 30% under international agreements, 9% for studies and 50% direct labor migration. Relative to other types of migration, the levels of family migration in Brazil appear to be quite low. However, a higher proportion of labor migration in Brazil is temporary (97%) compared to Canada (77%), and temporary migrants tend to enter with their families less frequently than permanent migrants.
The situation in Argentina may well reflect what can be expected in more and more Latin American countries with the liberalization of movements in the region, since three quarters of all migration, both permanent and temporary, occurs under international agreements.