These countries are encouraging their overseas talent to return

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Published on 2023-01-30 at 10:00 by Ameerah Arjanee
The pandemic has accentuated labor shortages in many countries. In addition to trying to attract new immigrants, countries are also encouraging their citizens who are abroad to return home. Some of them, which have historically suffered from a brain drain, have been doing that since before the pandemic. They created favorable policies, such as tax breaks and entrepreneurship loans, to encourage returnees to use their skills and experience gained abroad in their home country.

The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador is offering a financial incentive to returning health professionals 

The Canadian coastal province of Newfoundland and Labrador isn't relying only on federal policies to attract foreign workers – it's also encouraging those who left the province to return. The provincial government is offering a substantial financial incentive of 50,000-100,000 Canadian dollars (38,000-75,000 US dollars) to health professionals who left the province after previously being born, raised, educated, or having worked there if they choose to return. Doctors, nurses and paramedics are all eligible for this “Come Home” program launched last year. 

What determines how much each money each professional gets? It depends on their level of expertise and experience, as well as how many years they pledge to practice in Newfoundland and Labrador. A doctor who signs a 5-year return-in-service agreement gets $100,000, for instance, while a nurse practitioner can only sign a 3-year agreement, for which they get $60,000. A registered nurse, meanwhile, gets 10K less than a nurse practitioner for the same agreement.

As reported by the recruitment enterprise Skilled Worker, physicians (especially specialist physicians) and nurses top the list of jobs in demand in Newfoundland and Labrador. CTV News Atlantic reports that emergency rooms in rural areas of the province have had to be intermittently closed because of the severe shortage of medical personnel. Around 60% of the province's residents (i.e., patients) live in these rural regions.

The Irish government created the Back for Business program to help returnees become entrepreneurs

In January 2022, the Irish Minister for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, Colm Brophy, launched the new state-funded Back for Business program. Ireland has been suffering from a brain drain for years, which was only intensified by the pandemic and post-pandemic cost-of-living crisis. Young people are the ones who tend to leave, and they are often the ones who end up starting innovative businesses in other countries.

Back for Business aims to encourage talented Irish expats to return to their home country and become entrepreneurs. The program has been renewed this year, and it is likely to run in 2024 too. It is open to the Irish who have lived abroad for at least 1 year and returned to their home country no longer than 3 years ago. They must have also moved beyond the concept stage of their entrepreneurship plan. For now, the number of spaces available on the program is 50 per year, but it will likely increase in the future.

The program gives participants 6 months of training and support for their early-stage businesses. This includes interactive sessions with seasoned entrepreneurs, information sessions about how the system for entrepreneurs (e.g., laws) works, training for project management and achieving realistic goals, and peer-to-peer support. Business Plus reports that early-stage entrepreneurs who participated in the program in 2022 managed to increase their turnover by 107% and increase their workforce by 76% through the knowledge, skills and network they gained.

The Mauritian Diaspora Scheme offers attractive tax breaks to returnees

The Mauritian Diaspora Scheme was created in 2015 by the Economic Development Board (EDB) of Mauritius. It aims to encourage highly-skilled Mauritian expats abroad, especially those who are high earners, to return to the country and contribute to the economy. It's open to expats who have Mauritian citizenship, to those who renounced their citizenship upon adopting a new foreign one, as well as to the children and grandchildren of these expats (i.e., second- and third-generation immigrants who may never have had Mauritian citizenship).

The scheme grants them permanent residency as well as various attractive tax breaks. The applicant's spouse, children under 24 and other relatives they are responsible for (e.g., elderly parents) also get permanent residency. Participants do not have to pay income tax for 10 years, even on income that comes from abroad. They also don't pay taxes on the purchase of a new car, and neither do they pay registration fees for the purchase of a first home under the Smart City Scheme or Property Development Scheme.

Unfortunately, applications are screened for the skill and income level of the expats. Only those who are high earners, especially from wealthier countries like Australia and Canada, tend to get accepted. In late 2021, the Mauritian newspaper Le Défi published an article about how the program fared in the six years between 2015-2021. The program has had only mild success: it attracted only 389 returnees. They were mostly mid-career professionals in their 40s, and many were specialist physicians, architects and chartered accountants.

Since the pandemic, the brain drain from Mauritius has intensified, especially in sectors like finance and IT. No amendments have, however, been made to the Mauritian Diaspora Scheme since then, nor has any new program to encourage Mauritians abroad to return been created. 

The Overseas Korean Act aims to attract people of Korean descent to live in the country

The Act on the Immigration and Legal Status of Overseas Koreans was first passed by the constitutional court of South Korea in 1999. It was last revised in 2019. It allows anyone who's once held Korean citizenship and anyone who's a descendant of Koreans to get the F-4 Overseas Korean Visa.

Those with this visa can stay in the country for 2-3 years and later apply for a renewal or even permanent residency. While they can't vote, they can work in most jobs and make long-term agreements (e.g., rental agreements) in the country. South Korea doesn't accept dual citizenship, but by becoming Overseas Koreans, those who had previously renounced their birth citizenship to become naturalized abroad can still work in South Korea and contribute to its economy. 

The booklet “Customized Guide for Foreign National Koreans to Support Their Settlement in Korea”, published by the country's Immigration Service, says that the number of Overseas Koreans residing there has increased by around 100,000 in 2000 to around 700,000 in 2021. The commissioner of the Immigration Service says that they are “contributing to the nation's development by actively engaging in various fields as part of Korean society.”