The importance of labor migration in permanent movements varies considerably among the countries of the Americas for which data is available by category (Figure 2). Chile and Uruguay stand out in particular, with almost 60% of migration in these countries attributable to migrant workers in 2010. However, this may reflect the fact that permanent and temporary migration are merged in the statistics for these countries, and that temporary migration generally includes a significant proportion of labor migrants. In Barbados, Ecuador, and Mexico, labor migrants made up about a third of permanent immigration in 2010.
Argentina had virtually no permanent labor migration in 2010, with most of the labor migration of skilled workers being of a temporary nature. However, a considerable percentage of immigrants to Argentina did so under international agreements, in particular those that regulate movements between member and associate countries of Mercosur. Many of these immigrants undoubtedly went to look for work, but they are not specifically identified as labor migrants in the statistics. This was also the case in Brazil, Chile and Bolivia but on a smaller scale.
Labor immigration to Brazil represented 3% of permanent migration in that country, while Bolivia and the United States had comparable proportions of labor migrants, of
approximately 6%. Canada’s labor immigration accounted for 27% of total permanent migration in 2010. The latter figure excludes accompanying families of such migrants, whose inclusion would increase the proportion to more than 60%. Indeed, due to the presence of family members, in most destination countries where family members may accompany labor migrants, it is rare for migrants who were directly selected or recruited to represent more than 40% of total permanent migration. . Accompanying family members may also work upon arrival but are not selected or admitted with that specific goal in mind.
Labor migration is also generally the most important part of permanent migration over which governments have discretionary authority. There are almost never restrictions on the immigration of immediate relatives of citizens or permanent residents, because the right to live with the family is recognized in most countries as a human right. Likewise, the countries that are part of the Geneva Convention have agreed to accept as immigrants those people who request asylum and meet the criteria defined in the Convention to be considered refugees. Governments cannot reject immediate family members of permanent immigrants or recognized refugees without violating signed treaties or questioning their respect for certain human rights.
Other forms of discretionary migration include retired people, those with income, and refugees who are generally relocated from camps in bordering countries, fleeing persecution or civil conflict.
Family migration, including the accompanying family of labor migrants, explains a significant proportion of the total permanent migration of Bolivia, Canada, Ecuador and especially the United States in 2010. The latter country has one of the most more liberal liaisons, allowing migration not only of immediate family members but of adult brothers and sisters and adult children of foreign national residents, subject to numerical limits. Usually the number of applications in these latter categories exceeds the number of available places. In the United States, opening up family migration in this way is the counterpart of the low limits on permanent labor migration, set at 140,000 people, including accompanying family members.
Permanent migrants for humanitarian reasons were relevant only in permanent migration from Canada and the United States and to a lesser extent in Brazil. In a certain number of countries .
Recognized refugees receive a temporary permit and may or may not proceed to permanent status depending on the evolution of the situation in their countries of origin.
Finally, for 2010, the “Others” category incorporates different types of movements that include retired people (Barbados, Ecuador and Mexico), regularizations (Brazil) and others with indefinite status.