Selecting Foreigners for the Labour Market

Author(s) : Laure Sandoz

Source :


« The second chapter addresses the issue of admission by analysing how state and cantonal administrations in Switzerland select and authorise highly qualified immigrants for residence and employment. The Swiss dual admission system constitutes a compromise between opposing political tendencies towards openness and closure. It communicates an impression of state control over immigration to the electorate while staying flexible enough to adapt to the needs of major economic actors. Moreover, this system relies on an ambiguous definition of “highly skilled migrants” as foreign individuals who are economically profitable, socially independent, and culturally close. The implementation of Swiss admission policies involves complex interactions between public sector employees and a vast network of private sector institutions – employers, consultants, relocation agents, lawyers, economic promotion agencies – for which the mobility of highly educated workers is an economic driver. These actors facilitate access to residence and work permits for foreigners who are expected to generate profit. However, they can also force migrants into situations of dependency and immobility, as restrictive admission systems make them reliant on the administrative support of a sponsor. In practice, a migrant’s successful admission is based on factors that have little to do with their actual skills and more to do with the type of support received from employers or experts in admission processes. The authorities’ perception of the economic interests and legitimacy of a candidate’s application for admission is crucial for defining their value in the Swiss labour market. »

Keywords : Selective migration regimes, Policy implementation, Highly skilled migration, Migration industries, Labour market access 


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