Most of us do not have an option of moving to another country – yet being “international” and globalized is a key attribute in today’s job market.

  • Six of my LinkedIn colleagues have dual citizenship in the U.S. and EU countries – enabling them to work in either the EU or North America, with no need to obtain a visa. That makes them more valuable in the job market.
  • A few of my colleagues have combinations of citizenship or residency in more than one country (often Canada and the United States).

Today, I saw a post from a Twitter employee who was just laid off today in San Francisco. He noted he also has citizenship in another country (probably Belgium) and thus, still has health insurance through his native country. Lucky him:

I am very lucky: I have citizenship of another country with good health insurance, I have a green card, I am fine financially (that may have allowed me to speak up more than others).

That’s immigration privilege.

Many U.S. CEO positions are filled with immigrants – in fact, it is common for U.S. CEOs and executives to come from abroad. They are international and international skills are critical in today’s business world. It is not typical for U.S. citizens to become CEOs of companies in other countries.

An estimated 40% of U.S. residents are entitled to EU citizenship by virtue of “right of descent” ancestry connections. Recent family immigrant history (sometimes as far back as the late 19th century) qualifies many Americans for citizenship in their ancestral native country – which shockingly works out to an estimated 40% of the U.S. population.

Others may have “right of descent” citizenship in other countries. For example, my wife would be eligible for a right of descent citizenship in Canada, since her Dad was born in and grew up in Canada.

Could as much as 50% of the U.S. population have residency or citizenship rights in other countries? That is staggering.

For the remaining 50%, however, extended stay residency and work visas can be difficult to obtain unless:

  • You are young (under 30 to 55 depending on country)
  • You have an in demand, high-skilled background, notably in health care or some tech jobs, or you are an “elite” which can include academics, some executives, and celebrities. Some celebrities who were born in and grew up in the U.S. have dual citizenship including: Scarlett Johansson (Denmark), Tom Hanks (Greece), Angelina Jolie (Cambodia), Sandra Bullock (Germany), Olivia Wilde (Ireland), Nicole Kidman (born in Hawaii but is dual Australian/U.S.), Kirsten Dunst (Germany), Uma Thurman (Sweden?) – and many more. This list does not include those who were born elsewhere (big list) and now also have U.S. citizenship (Jim Carrey, William Shatner, Bruce Willis, etc). Surprisingly, former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was a dual U.S./U.K. citizen. [See Footnote 1]

If you are older, there may be no options to live in other countries. For example, if you are over 50, you are not eligible for residency in Australia – unless an immediate family member is a citizen, or you are a “world class”, globally recognized expert (the elite academic exemption).

Due to demographics and low fertility rates, dozens of countries have announced plans to address their labor shortages by importing skilled immigrants. But not everyone will have opportunities to immigrate – in fact, many people will have it easy while others will find it is difficult or impossible to immigrate. Yet the 21st century is going to become the century of immigration – likely bigger than any time in history. Those who have immigration options will do better than those who do not.

This Means – Immigration Privilege

  • We have the “haves” who can immigrate by virtue of family history, specific skills, and youth
  • And the “have nots”, who lack the right family history, do not work in health care, are past middle age and are not wealthy.
  • Some countries have easy to obtain work visas for those under age 30 or 35. Young people are encouraged to visit the country and work for, typically, up to 2 years. These programs encourage young people to consider moving to those countries.
  • Wealthy – the wealthy can purchase residency in some countries, even citizenship by making an investment ranging from (typically) US$100,000 up to US$10M depending on the country.

Immigration programs are oriented to the young (except for wealthy investor visas). In addition to the above, some countries allow students from abroad who earn a degree in the country, to stay for work and to apply for residency. Some countries have marriage visa programs (but marriage is not a guarantee that a spouse will receive a visa), which are mostly used by younger people.

Those over about age 40, or lacking the right skilled job, or lacking the right family ancestry – cannot immigrate elsewhere.

  • This creates societies of those with “immigration privilege” and those not having such privileges.
  • This privilege becomes ever more important as the world population declines, and a huge number of countries plan to expand their inbound immigration programs for those who have immigration privilege.
  • This will eventually become a major issue in the 21st century.

Footnote [1]

Many of those with immigration privilege are, not surprisingly, strongly in support of immigration – but are oblivious that most people do not have the same privilege as they do. Academic economists continuously push for inbound migration, unaware of the effects such actions have on others – because academic economists are protected by tenure and do not suffer job or salary impacts due to immigration. This disparity leads to many people in the U.S. being opposed to immigration – their experiences are very different than the experiences of those with immigration privilege and global elite status. It is important for both sides to recognize these valid perspectives – and work towards seeking a resolution that meets everyone’s interests and needs.

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