JULY 16, 2012   

Policy-related research and information about immigrant issues in New Jersey and around the country. Click on headlines below for abstracts and links.

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Model practices in immigrant integration:
Removing barriers to the re-certification of
immigrant professionals

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Model Immigrant Integration Practices

Removing Barriers to the Re-certification of Immigrant Professionals


Skilled ImmigrantIs the United States allowing its skilled immigrants to reach their full potential? Nationally, there are 1.3 million college-educated immigrants 25 years of age or older who are either unemployed or underemployed, i.e. working in unskilled jobs such as dishwashers, security guards, and housemaids. However, rates of "brain waste," as this problem is sometimes called, are much higher among immigrants who attended colleges in their home countries. National data shows that 43.5 percent of Latin Americans and 32.9 percent of Africans educated abroad were working in unskilled occupations; unemployment rates for these populations were also twice as high as the native-born college-educated population (Batalova & Fix, 2008, 13-18).


One reason for this performance gap is the difficulty that immigrants face in trying to get recertified in their former fields of training and practice. Fortunately, there are groups that are searching for solutions. Canada seems to be leading the way in addressing the problem. In 2006, the Province of Ontario enacted the "Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act." Similar statutes were later passed by the provinces of Manitoba and Nova Scotia. The Ontario law created a new position called the Fairness Commissioner to ensure that the licensing procedures of regulatory bodies are "transparent, objective, impartial and fair." The goal of the 13-person office created under the Act is quite straightforward: to ensure that every qualified person who wants to practice a profession in Ontario can get a license to do so.

The Office completes assessment reports examining the strengths and weaknesses of each licensing body. As of May 31, 2012, the office had completed 34 assessments in fields as varied as dental technology, pharmacy, social work, engineering, land surveying, and teaching. Each report points out commendable practices, but also makes recommendations for improvement. Many recommendations address the lack of user-friendly information for potential applicants, e.g. the length of the application process, criteria used in assessments, and appeal procedures. The Commissioner has the authority to issue compliance orders for non-health regulatory bodies, and to report to the Minister of Health about non-compliance in a health-related occupation.


In the United States, more modest efforts are being spearheaded by several nonprofit organizations. Upwardly Global (UpGlo) has worked with state officials in California, Illinois, and New York to establish a website to help skilled immigrants navigate licensing procedures in those states. Licensing information is now available for 10 popular careers. UpGlo is looking for partners in other states to expand its website coverage.

The Welcome Back Initiative has developed simple licensure maps and guidelines for health professions in a number of states, and the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians has published career and licensure guides for four high growth industries in Pennsylvania. 


All these organizations also provide counseling and mentoring services to individual immigrants to help them achieve their career goals. In 2011, these organizations and others formed a national coalition called IMPRINT to expand resources and collaboration in the emerging field of immigrant professional integration. One of the coalition's goals is to develop generic recommendations for state officials interested in the review and reform of state licensing procedures. In 2010, the Migration Policy Institute presented its prestigious E Pluribus Unum Award to Upwardly Global, and in 2011, the Institute selected the Welcome Back Initiative for the same award. 

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