WAGE TRENDS FOR HIGHLY-SKILLED FOREIGN WORKERS The EU’s Blue Card vs. U.S.’s H-1B vs. Japan’s Highly Skilled Foreign Professional

©LHA Travel 2021

Wage trend for highly-skilled work visas appears to be going up. The governments of some of the top major economies are increasing placing greater value on wages than any other one criterium for visa decisions.  In this blog we are comparing the wage requirements for highly-skilled work visas across these economies. The three visa categories we are assessing are the European Union’s Blue Card Scheme, the USA’s H-1B program, and Japan’s Highly Skilled Professionals.

European Union (EU):  The EU Blue Card scheme was created in 2009 to attract highly-qualified workers from non-EU countries to reside and work in an EU country. The program encompasses 24 of 26 EU countries (excluding Denmark and Ireland). Qualified workers typically have a university degree, a binding employment contract, and a salary that is typically one and a half times the average national salary.  Specifically excluded from the Blue Card scheme are self-employed workers and entrepreneurs.

Starting on January 1st, 2021, at least two EU countries have increased their salary threshold for obtaining a Blue Card.  If applicants work in the Netherlands, their minimum monthly salary requirement has increased from €5,403 ($6,408) to €5,567 ($6,602). In Germany, which is a leading employer for non-EU country citizens, the minimum annual salary requirement for non-shortage occupations has increased from €55,200 ($65,468) to €56,800 ($67,365). These wage requirements affect all applications submitted from January 1st, 2021.

United States (US):  The US’s H-1B specialty occupation program is reserved for foreign workers in occupations that require a bachelor’s degree or higher in specific specialty or its equivalent. Such fields include architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, medicine, health, education, business, accounting, law, theology, and the arts. Additionally, the foreign employee must be paid a wage higher of the prevailing wage for the occupation as set out by the Department of Labor or the in-house wage of the employer.  For the H-1B visa, which is limited to 65,000 per year, there is typically a lottery because the number of applicants routinely exceed the number of visas available.  Consequently, the US uses a lottery system to select cases.

On January 7th, 2021 the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new rules for selection that is wage-based.  The “Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking to File Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions” essentially replaces the lottery system with a wage-level selection system. Under this new system, foreign employees with the top pay-grade in their category will be selected for visas over those with lesser wages. However, by February 2021, USCIS announced that it will postpone the implementation of this new rule until December 31st, 2021.

Japan: Japan’s Highly Skilled Professional point-based system was envisioned in 2009, to bring talent from abroad into Japan to promote development and efficiency of the local market through friendly competition with local Japanese people.  The new point-based system was first implemented in 2012, with the category for Highly Skilled Professionals defined and instituted in 2014. Highly Skilled Professionals are those that fall into three categories: 1) Research, research guidance, or education based on a contract entered into with a public or private organization; 2) Work requiring specialized knowledge or skills in the field of natural sciences or humanities based on a contract entered into with a public or private organization; and 3) The operation or management of a public or private organization in Japan. These categories are reminiscent of the EU’s Blue Card and US’s H-1B visa qualifications.

Applicants to the Japanese program must have at least 70 points to qualify for selection.  Over half of these points may be earned from commanding a high salary.  For the Highly Skilled Professional selection process in Japan, wage (40 points max) is the single largest number of points anyone can earn towards their visa, a full 10 points over having a Doctor’s degree, and 20 points over holding a patent, having been funded at least three times, publishing three papers, and research achievements recognized by the Minister of Justice. Below is a breakdown of the points allocation categories. 

While these three economies do not necessarily represent the entire global market, it does represent approximately $40 trillion in nominal gross domestic product, which represents nearly 50% share of the world’s total nominal gross domestic product. The take-away appears to be that wage speaks volumes when it comes to work visa issuance.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *