Immigration policy is a crucial element of a country’s policy making. In each country it developed throughout the history of the respective country and, thus, reflects a nation’s historical development. However, immigration policy does not only reflect the past or historical development of a country or nation, it is also continuously adjusted to contemporary economic, cultural and political events and developments (Finley 27). Thus, it suggests itself that this element of policy making is a very vivid one, since it does not discontinue changing. Moreover, it is a well-known fact that the distinct historical pasts of different countries led to varying approaches to and systems of immigration policy.
Throughout the past decades countries all over the world have witnessed skyrocketing numbers of migrants. While in 1960 there were 76 million migrants worldwide, their number had more than doubled by 2000 with 175 million and further increased drastically to 200 million migrants in 2005 worldwide. Thus, international migrants, including more than nine million refugees, are now said to account for 3% of the world’s population (Finley 27). It goes without saying that it is primarily the rich western countries such as Canada and Germany that attract immigrants due to the fact they are able to provide sophisticated standards of living. Thus, it suggests itself that the ever-increasing number of migrants into western countries call for well-functioning laws and systems governing the influx and the integration of these migrants. Thus, as already indicated by its topic, this essay will shed some light on how the two countries try to govern the influx of immigrants and compare their policies and policy systems.
In order to be able to compare both policies with each other, the essay will begin by providing a brief historical background of Canadian and German immigration and afterwards describe the contemporary immigration policies of both countries briefly. Thereafter, the following distinct elements of these policies in both countries respectively the factors influencing them will be compared: growth of population and economic implications, restrictions, and integration vs. xenophobia.
The aim of this essay is to find out whether the two systems are rather similar to each other or completely different.
The Contemporary Canadian Immigration System and Historical Background
Canada, as a former colony of the British Empire, has a long history of immigration. Hence, it has already witnessed a shift from a theoretical laissez-faire policy at the end of the 19th century to a selective policy introduced in the beginning of the 20th century (Timlin 517). While there was an overall consensus that immigrants were urgently needed for the settlement and farming of the prairies in the West in order to increase the country’s wealth by increasing the wheat production (Timlin 518, 520), there was no consensus as to which group of immigrants were the most desirable or should even be admitted at all (Timlin 518/19; Cavell 345/46). Thus, xenophobic attitudes could already be witnessed back then. However, this topic will be explored in greater detail at a later point of this essay. Moreover, Canada had to come to grips with the problem of emigration from Canada exceeding immigration to Canada for an extended period of time from the mid-19th century until the beginning of the 20th century (Timlin 518).
Since 1967, Canada employs the points system as a means of its immigration policy (Hawkins 77). Canada’s points system puts up several criteria for which it attaches numerical weights. These criteria and their weighting may vary over time according to the intention the government pursues with its immigration policy. I will shed some light on these possible intentions of and approaches to immigration policy at a later point of this essay. At the moment, the Canadian immigration policy emphasizes the following criteria for skilled workers and professionals: education, ability in English and/or French, experience, age, arranged employment in Canada and adaptability. In order to immigrate to Canada as a skilled worker or professional, the applicant has to obtain at least 67 points. The most points are given for the criteria education and ability in English and/or French (CIC 2007). The possibility of the government to adjust these criteria to contemporary economical, political or cultural circumstances allows for a certain flexibility.
In addition to the group of skilled workers and professionals, there are other groups of immigrants such as investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed persons, family members or provincial nominees whom the Canadian immigration policy makes allowances for. The points system is not applied for these groups, but there are also different criteria the applicants have to fulfil. However, for the purpose of this essay, we will concentrate on the points system as the prevailing system of Canadian immigration policy.
Canadian immigration policy is, however, not only concerned with the regulation of the different groups of immigrants and their influx, but also with their integration (The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in the House of Commons Canada 9; The Canadian Chamber of Commerce 1).
The Contemporary German Immigration System and Historical Background
Just as Canada, Germany has a long history of immigration. However, Germany is moving only slowly from a country that views itself as a non-immigrant society (Sachsenmaier, par. 2) towards a multi-ethnic society (Dettke 2). The first well-known wake of immigrants took place in the 1950s and 1960s after World War II. In 1955, for example, the first recruitment agreement was concluded with Italy (Die Bundesregierung, par. 1). More so-called Gastarbeiter (guest-workers) were recruited mainly from Turkey and other Southern European countries. Those guest workers were needed urgently during the time of the Wirtschaftswunder (economic boom in Germany in the 1950s and early 1960s) in order to help rebuild the economy. However, while Canada attracted immigrants with the intention to keep them in the country for good in order to foster the growth of its population, Germany expected its guest workers to leave again once their task was fulfilled (Dettke 2, Sachsenmaier, par. 2). However, more than half of those workers stayed in Germany along with their families (Sachsenmaier, par. 2). In 1973, at the time of the so-called oil crisis, the German government ordered a ban on recruitment. By that time, 2.6 million foreign workforces had already entered the country. However, it was not until January 1st 2005 that the Migration Act came into effect. As it is the case with the Canadian immigration policy, the German Migration Act does not only govern the influx of immigrants, but it also makes allowances for the integration of those immigrants (Die Bundesregierung, par. 4/5).
With Germany’s new Migration Act, the five former kinds of permits of residence are now reduced to two: the limited residence permit and the permanent permit of settlement. As opposed to the times before the enactment of the new Migration Act when the right of residence oriented itself by a certain kind of permit of residence, the right of residence now orients itself by the purpose of the residence. Those purposes are roughly in line with the groups the Canadian government has defined for immigrants: gainful employment, education or training, family reunion and humanitarian reasons. However, as opposed to the Canadian points system, when it comes to the immigration of skilled workers and professionals, Germany employs a different system. In general, there is a ban on recruitment for unqualified and low-qualified workers as well as for professionals. Citizens from EU states are subject to a priority principle; i.e. they gain access to the German labour market, if there is no German available for this particular position. In contrast, the Act allows for a residence permit from the outset for highly qualified workers (BMI 2005, par. 7).