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This report discusses guest worker programs in thirteen countries--Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Norway, the Russian Federation, South Korea, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. It also provides information on the European Union’s Proposal for a Directive on Seasonal Employment, the Association Agreement between the European Union and Turkey regarding migrants of Turkish origin, and the Multilateral Framework of the International Labour Organization on the admission of guest workers. The country surveys address eligibility criteria for the admission of guest workers and their families, guest worker recruitment and sponsorship, visa conditions and quotas, and the availability of a path to permanent status. A bibliography of selected English-language materials on immigration policies is also included.

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Comparative Analysis

This analysis compares and contrasts guest worker programs available in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Norway, the Russian Federation, South Korea, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom with respect to eligibility criteria for the admission of guest workers and their families, guest worker recruitment and sponsorship, visa conditions and quotas, and the availability of a path to permanent status. It also discusses the European Union’s Proposal for a Directive on Seasonal Employment, the Association Agreement between the European Union and Turkey regarding migrants of Turkish origin, and the Multilateral Framework of the International Labour Organization on the admission of guest workers.

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Australia

Work visas available in Australia are largely targeted at skilled workers, although some programs enable employers in particular sectors and parts of the country to sponsor overseas workers to offset labor shortages in lower-skilled positions, particularly in the areas of horticultural, tourism, and mining. Working holiday programs allow young people from certain countries to work in Australia for limited periods without sponsorship. New Zealand citizens can live and work in any occupation in Australia indefinitely without sponsorship or skill requirements.

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Brazil

Law No. 6,815 of August 19, 1980, defines the legal situation of aliens in Brazil. A federal agency subordinate to the Ministry of Labor regulates the issuance of work permits for the purpose of obtaining temporary visas. The duration of the contract between the alien worker and the Brazilian employer usually serves as the term for the temporary visa. Currently, Brazil does not have any program for low-skilled workers.

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Canada

Immigration to Canada is predominantly regulated by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and its regulations. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is administered and serviced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Service Canada, and the Canada Border Services Agency. Programs for the hiring of foreign low-skilled workers at the federal level include the Low Skilled Worker Pilot (C & D) project (general and agricultural stream), Live-in Caregiver Program, and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

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China

To enter and work in China, aliens must obtain a work visa, an employment permit, and a residence permit, and must work for the employer indicated on the employment permit. Changes in employment circumstances may require amending the permit or obtaining a new one. The country’s immigration rules allow corporate executives, professors, researchers, foreigners having made great and outstanding contributions to China, and those who are specially needed by the country to apply for permanent residency.

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European Union

Immigration is a shared competence between the European Union (EU) and its twenty-seven Member States. The EU has enacted legislation in the areas of visas, residence permits, family reunification, and illegal immigration, among others, but EU Member States have the right to determine the number of admissions of third-country nationals in their territory for employment purposes, including temporary workers. The European Commission has adopted a proposal that would establish a fast-track procedure and a single residence/work permit for seasonal workers, including a multiseasonal permit.

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EU-Turkey Association Agreement

Immigration is a shared competence between the European Union (EU) and its twenty-seven Member States. The EU has enacted legislation in the areas of visas, residence permits, family reunification, and illegal immigration, among others, but EU Member States have the right to determine the number of admissions of third-country nationals in their territory for employment purposes, including temporary workers. The European Commission has adopted a proposal that would establish a fast-track procedure and a single residence/work permit for seasonal workers, including a multiseasonal permit.

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Germany

Until 2011, German programs for the temporary, strictly time-limited admittance of workers applied to seasonal workers and a few other specified categories of workers (mostly unskilled and from Eastern Europe), who could work in Germany for periods of no longer than six or nine months. Today these programs have become largely obsolete because, with the exception of Croatia, all the East European countries that formerly participated in the programs have become European Union Member States, and their citizens now have the right to move to Germany and work there.

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International Labour Organization

The International Labour Organization’s labor standards are often used by member countries as models in formulating labor policies. The ILO has adopted general conventions and recommendations that apply to all workers, as well as conventions and recommendations specifically focused on migrant workers. The ILO’s most recent instrument addressing labor migration, the ILO Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration, sets forth nonbinding principles, guidelines, and best practices for policymaking in this area.

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Israel

Israel permits the employment of foreign nationals and residents in accordance with special guest workers programs. To enter Israel, guest workers use a temporary/visitor visa that is initially limited to three months but can be extended periodically. The employment of a visa holder is restricted to the employment sector rather than to a specific employer. A worker visa will not be issued, however, unless the employer has a permit that allows the employment of the worker. Employment permits are restricted to certain labor sectors and quotas. Children of guest workers are generally not allowed to stay in Israel after the expiration of their tourist visas.

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Japan

Japan does not accept low-skilled foreign workers in principle, although a trainee system has been employed by companies to use low-skilled foreign workers. The trainee system was reformed recently so that it would operate in accordance with its original purpose. In addition, descendants of Japanese emigrants to South American countries, such as Brazil and Peru, have been accepted as long-term residents without employment restrictions.

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Mexico

Mexico’s Law of Migration provides for a number of immigration statuses that include permission to work in Mexico temporarily, though none of them appear to be specifically limited to low-skilled workers. The Visitor Border Worker status is currently limited to Belizean and primarily Guatemalan nationals who are allowed to work for up to a year in certain Mexican states in agriculture, construction, and services.

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Norway

Foreign skilled workers may stay in Norway without a work permit for up to six months to seek employment. Unskilled or seasonal workers may be granted a work permit for up to six months in a twelve-month period for two years at a time, provided they are at least eighteen years of age and have a concrete offer of employment (most typically in the agricultural or forestry sector). To be granted a new seasonal worker permit after six months, the worker must have remained outside Norway for six months.

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Russian Federation

The Russian guest worker program is based on an employers’ authorization to hire migrant workers according to annual quotas determined by the federal government. Guest workers are prohibited from changing their employer and place of residence, and are also subject to mandatory residence registration procedures with local police. Employers are responsible for monitoring foreign employees and their departure from the country upon the expiration of their labor agreement. Guest workers can change their legal status under limited circumstances only, and their path to Russian citizenship is complicated. Special provisions apply to guest workers from selected former Soviet republics as well as those from Vietnam and China.

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South Korea

South Korea has two types of visa for temporary foreign workers: Visit and Employment (H-2) and Non-professional Employment (E-9). H-2 visas are for ethnic Koreans who are nationals of China or former Soviet Union countries. E-9 visas are for nationals of foreign countries with which the Korean government has entered agreements for employing temporary workers.

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Spain

Spain has experienced a tremendous amount of immigration in the last decade, with most immigrants coming from Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Many of these are low-skilled migrants entering Spain on a temporary or seasonal work visa. Seasonal and temporary foreign workers may be hired through a process of collective recruitment in the country of origin, which is preferably implemented with countries that have signed bilateral migration agreements with Spain.

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United Arab Emirates

According to the National Bureau of Statistics of the United Arab Emirates, more than 80% the country’s eight million people in 2010 were foreigners. The admission and stay of foreigners in the country, including migrant workers, are regulated by federal rather than local law.

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United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has established an immigration system for temporary workers under Tier 5 of its points-based immigration system. Tier 3 of the points-based system, which would allow for low-skilled workers to fill temporary labor shortages, has never been brought into operation. Applicants under Tier 5 must have a job before they enter the UK and be sponsored by a licensed, UK-based employer. They must also show proof that they have a certain amount of funds that will help maintain them once they get arrive in the UK. Family members may travel with Tier 5 workers, provided they can show they also have enough funding to support themselves. There is no ability to obtain permanent residence or citizenship by entering the UK through this program.

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Bibliography

The Bibliography for this report contains selected, recent, English-language materials on the immigration law of foreign jurisdictions. The works included fall under the categories of multiple jurisdictions and international law, African jurisdictions, American jurisdictions, Asian and Pacific jurisdictions, and European jurisdictions.

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Last Updated: 02/28/2014