Researcher mobility starts with a button on the form

The Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Oslo, my new departmental home for the next few months.
The Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Oslo, my new departmental home for the next few months.

Greetings from Norway! I will be spending the fall semester at the University of Oslo as a guest researcher in the Department of Sociology and Human Geography. My stay here is supported by a generous Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide grant from the US National Science Foundation and the Research Council of Norway. I’m very excited to join Oslo’s vibrant community of migration scholars as I develop my dissertation proposal.

My plan is to study how international students become skilled labor migrants in the countries where they were trained. As a domestic student in the US, I don’t have any first-hand experience with the complex immigration bureaucracy there and how it shapes international students’ lives. In preparing to come to Norway for the semester, though, I got a small taste of migration management for myself. Continue reading “Researcher mobility starts with a button on the form”

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Residency for sale

Photo: ebolavir.
Photo: ebolavir.

The investor visa has been a popular way for Western countries to attract foreign capital. In exchange for a substantial chunk of change, individual investors can obtain permanent residency and a path to citizenship for themselves and their family members. North American, Australian, or European permanent residency can be highly valuable for wealthy citizens of developing countries. For example, Chinese passport holders with US permanent residency enjoy the privilege of visa free entry to a number of countries that otherwise require visas for Chinese citizens. US permanent residents and citizens also have preference in admission to many US universities.

The amount of capital required to “buy” permanent residency in the West is generally quite high. Under the US EB-5 visa scheme, a foreign investor may get permanent residency in exchange for a $1 million investment, or a $500,000 investment in a rural or high-unemployment area. This is significantly more generous than equivalent schemes in other English-speaking countries of immigration. New Zealand requires a NZD 1.5 million (USD 1.28 million) minimum investment, while the United Kingdom wants GBP 1 million (USD 1.68 million) and Australia a whopping AUD 5 million (USD 4.62 million). None of these schemes grant permanent residency automatically.

I became aware of Portugal’s unique investor visa scheme through my Tumblr, migrantography. User ebolavir posted a photo of a storefront in Lisbon with signage in Chinese and English advertising the Golden Residence Permit. In exchange for a EUR 500,000 (USD 682,000) real estate investment, the investor gets a Portuguese residence permit that can be converted to permanent residency and citizenship. As Portugal is part of the Schengen Zone, permit holders could travel, live, and work freely in much of continental Europe.

While the doors to the US, Australia, and Europe are open to wealthy foreigners, they are ever more firmly shut for foreigners without means. Deportations, border fences, and militarized intimidation of land crossers and boat people keep out the needy, while investor schemes and student migration pathways draw in the wealthy. Give me not your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses, but your talented and your moneyed elite.