AI's growing role in shaping economic immigration policies

Expat news
  • utilisation de l'IA
Published on 2023-11-29 at 10:00 by Asaël Häzaq
Artificial intelligence is making a remarkable entry within governments. It's impossible to ignore or do without it. Governments are passing laws and trying to regulate it. AI is even used in migration policies and strategies to fight labor shortages. How does this affect immigration in the US and around the world?

United States: A decree to regulate the use of AI

"Artificial intelligence has great potential, but this technology must be regulated to control the risks. There is no other way," declared Joe Biden on 30 October. Aware of the great opportunities but also the great risks that artificial intelligence (AI) represents, the US President has signed an executive order to regulate AI. According to Biden, AI must be better controlled as it is used in many areas, including sensitive sectors such as immigration or assessing labor shortages depending on the industry. The decree will have an influence on US migration policy concerning economic immigration.

This is because many professions use or are linked to AI, particularly in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). These sectors are regularly on the lookout for foreign talent. The White House has assigned the US Department of Labor to identify these occupations "related to AI and STEM". The Department must also consider updating the "Schedule A" occupation list. Established in the 1960s, the list of Schedule A occupations makes it easier for the government to attract foreign talent to sectors experiencing significant labor shortages. Managed by the Department of Labour, Schedule A is an integral part of US economic immigration policy. A job listed on Schedule A allows the employer to hire a foreign worker more quickly, bypassing certain steps in the immigration process.

Innovative tools to assess labor shortages 

However, the current list is outdated because it hasn't been revised since 1991. It actually consists of only 2 groups: one reserved for physiotherapists and nurses and another dedicated to certain workers in the sciences and the arts.

According to the White House, job listings should reflect the current economic climate so that labor supply and demand can be matched and labor shortages can be tackled effectively. This is where new technologies come in. The Department of Labor intends to analyze labor market data (job growth, sectors concerned, unemployment rate, vacancy rate, wage trends, etc.) to identify precisely which sectors are experiencing critical shortages and, therefore, urgently need labor. Updating Appendix A For the US government will have immediate and long-term effects. It will make it possible to attract foreign talent to meet current labor shortages and also to attract qualified foreigners in the long term, particularly in STEM and healthcare. The data compiled could also provide a greater and more predictive economic vision. It would promote flexibility, targeted training, and the involvement of the education system and businesses to target needs more precisely and to train an adequate national and international workforce.

It would be a "win-win" operation at all levels, at least according to the executive's wishes. However, visa regulations must also change for that to occur. Currently, it takes a long time to obtain employment-based immigrant visas, which have short expiration dates. These difficulties can discourage foreign workers and encourage them to look elsewhere. So, updating the lists of shortage occupations will also necessitate upgrading the economic immigration process.

Rationalizing economic immigration in New Zealand and the UK

In other countries, AI is developing at an exponential rate and is having an impact on almost every sector. Regarding immigration, an increasing number of countries are using artificial intelligence to monitor, rationalize or study the profiles of expatriates coming to the country, labor requirements, sectors in short supply, etc. Since 2015, the United Kingdom has used AI to filter the profiles of foreign applicants. However, following a high failure rate and, above all, reports of racial discrimination, the project was questioned.

However, the UK has continued implementing new strategies to adapt its immigration system to the economic climate. This is also the path chosen by the United States. The point-based visa, introduced after Brexit, is part of this new immigration system, which prioritizes economic immigration and expatriates who meet the country's labor needs. The British government has also drawn up a list of occupation shortages by region and industry. There is a great demand for STEM and health professions. 

New Zealand also wants to attract more foreign talent. In light of this, in July, the government announced that its immigration policy would be reviewed. Certain visas would be modernized as part of this review. Since November, the "accredited employer work visa" has been extended to 5 years instead of 3 previously. This visa allows foreigners to settle in New Zealand if they have a job offer and to spend 3 months studying during the year. Since October 2023, the point visa policy has been streamlined to allow skilled immigrants to become permanent residents.

What if AI influenced immigration laws in the future?

Itflows, the European Union's AI tool for "predicting migratory flows", is questionable. The project's ethics committee itself acknowledges the risks to human rights. This is because AI could easily deviate from its primary objective and instead help to exclude specific expat groups.

Japan is also using AI to counter labor shortages, but in a different way. The Japanese Ministry of Labour has allocated a budget of 100 billion yen (around 660 million dollars) to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) replace jobs in short supply with artificial intelligence. In brief: to speed up the integration of AI into SMEs so that they require less labor. AI would particularly be used in production lines, quality control, cleaning and customer service. Labor shortages are hampering Japan's economic activity and encouraging immigration. Despite reforms, notably on visa categories and the creation of new visas, businesses are urging the government to make a more significant effort to welcome more skilled and unskilled immigrants.

Other countries, such as Australia and Singapore, are also modifying their strategies to address labor shortages and attract foreign workers. According to its proponents, AI is an indispensable tool for analyzing large volumes of data on immigration and labor markets. It can identify trends and predict the behavior of candidates for expatriation at a lower cost. But what impact artificial intelligence will have on the immigration process remains to be seen. The British example is far from isolated. Critics of AI point out the flaws in the system. They recommend caution and the absolute necessity of human control.

Useful links: 

UK government: Skilled Worker visa, shortage occupations 

New Zealand government: Green List roles