Home » Which Countries Attract The Most Highly Skilled Expats?

Which Countries Attract The Most Highly Skilled Expats?

“Knowledge is power” they say, but did you know that sometimes it can also be a ticket to the career and life you may have always dreamed of, not just in your home country but also in a different nation?

Companies, and even the governments of various states, are keen to attract knowledge workers from all over the world. These professionals, often referred to as highly skilled migrants, are sought after because they can make contributions as well as enhancements to the economy.There is a huge demand for knowledge workers across the globe and many countries have therefore made it a lot easier for them to acquire labor contracts, residence permits and work visas. Research has shown a significant surge in the number of skilled women moving from one place to another. In 2010, for the first time, the world saw a greater number of highly skilled female expats than men. Most of them were from Asia or Africa and were headed towards the English-speaking nations in North America and Europe.

In order to be a highly skilled expat, there are a number of criteria that you will need to meet. Apart from those related to education and work experience, you must also have a gross monthly income of around US$ 3,275 (€ 3,108) if you are below the age of 30 and about US$ 4465 (€ 4,240) if you are 40 or above. Moreover, you should be employed by a recognized sponsor. Also keep in mind that in most places, you cannot apply for this status if you have been employed by an educational or research institution.

There are a few important benefits of living in a foreign country as a knowledge worker. First, your paperwork is easier and gets processed faster, as long as you submit all the required documents. Moreover, some nations will also speed up the immigration process for your family members and dependents.

If you would like to settle down in a place that is home to other like-minded professionals and their families, read on to find out which countries attract the most highly skilled expats.

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Probably the most popular expat magnet, the US has been the number one destination for expats from all around the world. Around 40% of highly skilled expats are moving to this superpower. There are several reasons for this, like its high standard of living, infrastructure, quality of education, and career opportunities, to name a few.

Immigration has been a challenging issue in the US for more than 150 years now and the situation is likely to continue. Fortunately, the Administration is making an attempt to promote the type of high-skilled migration that has fueled the nation’s economic engine to a great extent. Some of the key actions that have been taken in the last two years are:

• Empowering a highly skilled immigrant’s spouse so that they can utilize their own education and talent to build their career.
• Retaining the immigrant engineers and scientists, trained on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) who were educated in the local universities.
• Unlocking the talents of the highly skilled Americans-in-waiting, as immigrants can get promoted, change jobs, switch employees or even start their own companies, even while waiting for their green cards.
• Bringing the immigration system into the digital age, by shifting the paper-based visa application process to a more efficient, user-friendly and sustainable system.
• Clearing a pathway for budding entrepreneurs to innovate, set up shop, and create job opportunities across the US, which will eventually improve the economy.
• Clarifying which work visa and permit options are available to the foreign students that were educated and employed in America.

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Even though the US may be the most popular choice for knowledge workers from overseas, the World Bank has named Canada the top destination for these professionals, taking into consideration the migration patterns of the last decade.

New systems have been put in place to streamline the visa application process and manage how professionals with skilled work experience can migrate to this country. Express Entry has paved the way for thousands of qualified people into Canada.

Expats who move to this country often find it easy to get well-paying jobs, since the local population is sparse. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that foreign skill is highly needed across this nation. Many territories have created skilled-worker programs to attract talent from overseas. Some of the provinces offer additional points to outsiders with specific skills, which makes it easier for them to obtain a work permit as well as a job.

For more information on visas and paperwork, click here or here.

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According to statistics published by the Australian Government, knowledge workers represent 39% of all employees in the country. The demand for these professionals is only expected to increase as more local employers make an effort to add value to the economy and adapt to the dynamic global work environment.

The Hays Quarterly Report, which covers skills in demand from October to December 2016, states that almost all recruiters require knowledge workers. Those who are technologically savvy are in even higher demand. The supply of educated, suitably skilled and experienced candidates is relatively limited. A representative from the agency states that today, the roles for analysts, teachers, nurses and lawyers require highly skilled professionals who have the ability to perform non-routine tasks.

When they layer in the need for digital and technical skills through a broad spectrum of industries, the talent pool is expectedly tight. The gap in employers’ requirements and the skills that most candidates come with is getting wider across Australia. The need for suitable people from overseas is therefore at its peak and knowledge workers should definitely consider this place when choosing a destination to settle down.

You can find a lot of information about the procedure of becoming a highly skilled expat in Australia on the government’s website.

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The Brexit vote has altered the economic scenario in the UK to a great extent. The country has already seen a noticeable decline in immigration, which was one of the main reasons why the majority of the population chose to leave the European Union. Even before that, in 2008, the UK discontinued its Highly Skilled Migrant Program (HSMP) and replaced it with Tier 1 (General) visas.

There is no certainty on how things will pan out in the future but it is believed that immigration laws are going to get even more stringent than before. According to speculation, only highly skilled workers with offers of well-paying jobs will be able to obtain the required visas and work permits, once Britain leaves the bloc.

To know more about the Tier 1 General Visas, which are usually applicable to knowledge workers, check the UK government’s website.

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Russia is home to a relatively high number of knowledge workers from all across the globe, especially citizens of places like Turkey, China and Vietnam. The country is therefore in the midst of developing a brand new approach to its immigration policy, where the focus will be on creating conditions to attract skilled specialists.

According to the nation’s Federal Migration Service (FMS) there are around 800,000 expat residents in Russia, which is far lower than most European countries. However, the number of illegal foreign workers is around 3.5 million. This shows that the immigration structure needs to undergo a significant change, especially in terms of quota and hiring rules. The agency has already drafted a few bills that have passed examinations. Learn more at RBTH.

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Germany is home to 11 million immigrants. If you look at its workforce, one in seven people will originally be from another nation. Europe accounts for the major percentage of Germany’s expat population.

There is a shortage of highly skilled professionals in Germany, which needs to be filled with the help of foreign workforce. In 2012, more than 155,000 positions for knowledge workers like computer scientists, engineers and technicians were vacant. The Institute for Employee Research, based in Nuremberg, estimated that by 2025, Germany’s workforce will decline by around 6.5 million people. The country will be able to maintain its economic power if at least 400,000 professionals immigrate annually. Unfortunately, the specialists who want to move to this country have to battle a series of obstacles, including daunting bureaucracy.

In truth, this European nation has just begun transforming itself into an expat destination. The official authorities have been lowering red tape for newcomers, but the process has been slow. The Jobseeker Visa enables foreign graduates to seek employment for up to 6 months. Those who find a position that pays a gross annual salary of US$ 63,000 (€ 46,000) per year are allowed to stay on.

For more information, visit the EU’s website.

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France is known for the high quality of its workforce. The people are skilled, well qualified and able to maximize productivity. Experts say that unlike the UK and many other European nations, France is a country of engineers. As a result, more foreign investors are attracted to this country and the demand for knowledge workers is increasing at a rapid pace.

By 2020, France is likely to see a shortage of 2.2 million highly skilled workers. Authorities are therefore doing their best to fill this shortfall with the help of foreign talent. The government is ensuring that visa application procedures are viable for 4 years in the case of knowledge workers. In order to become a highly skilled expat in this country, you need to:

• Obtain an EU Blue Card
• Have a degree attesting to 3 years of higher studies or 5 years of professional experience in a specific field
• Find a work contract of no less than a year (12 months)
• Earn 1.5 times the minimum wage

Visit the EU’s website for more information.


Knowledge workers can come from any part of the world but the biggest sources continue to be India, the Middle East and Russia.

The places listed above are just a few of the countries that attract the largest number of highly skilled expats from all around the world. Some of these are a lot more popular than the others, mainly because of the lifestyle that they offer.

Other nations that you may also want to look at include Hong Kong, Japan, The United Arab Emirates Saudi Arabia, Singapore, India, the Netherlands, Brazil, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Kuwait, Belgium, China, Austria, Qatar and Oman. However, not all the places offer better immigration conditions to knowledge workers. It is therefore best to seek more information and if possible, consult an expert in the country that you would like to move to.

Check all the criteria, find out which documents are required, and check timelines carefully before you make the decision to relocate. It may also be a good idea to spend a few months in the country that you would like to consider your next home, just so that you get a glimpse of what your lifestyle will be once you settle down there.

References: [1], [2]

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