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Settlement or return

In many emigration countries of the Americas, there is considerable attention given to the fate of nationals who have migrated to other countries, whether permanently or temporarily.  This is both because origin countries wish to ensure that their emigrants are well treated in destination countries, but also because emigrants, through the remittances which they transfer back to origin countries or the skills and knowledge acquired abroad, can contribute to improving the lives of their families left behind and to  the economic development of their countries of origin. (See the chapter on remittances in OAS/OECD 2012). In addition, origin country governments wish to ensure a smooth and productive integration into the society of the country of those who do return, often with new skills and financial resources which can be put to productive use in the origin country.

But how many emigrants return or can be expected to return?

Before we consider direct measures of returns, we will first examine a number of basic indicators of settlement in the destination country. The first of these relates to the duration of residence in the destination country, the second to the acquisition of the nationality of the country of residence.

The longer an immigrant stays in a country not his/her own, the less likely he/she is to return to the country of origin. In economic terms, the immigrant will have invested a considerable amount of time, effort and indeed financial resources in the destination country, in learning the language (if necessary), work practices, social institutions and norms, not all of which will be lost upon a return to the country of origin, but are likely to be of less value and pertinence. In addition, there may be assets to dispose of and indeed considerable costs involved in the return. Finally, if migrants have families and children of school age, a return will often mean the disruption of school, the loss of friends and settlement in a new and unfamiliar environment, especially for children who may never have lived in the country of origin or who left it at a young age.

As returns begin to look more difficult and as the stay in the destination country lengthens, the issue of naturalization inevitably arises. The act of acquiring the nationality of the country of residence is generally viewed as a commitment to the destination country, while conveying additional rights on immigrants, among them access to all jobs in the civil service and to full voting rights in elections. Our interest here in the rate of naturalization, however, is its value as an indicator of the intention of long-term settlement. Paradoxically, acquiring the nationality of a country is the surest way for an immigrant to guarantee the right to leave without jeopardizing the right to come back. In practice, however, the difficulties associated with a return to the country of origin after an extended stay in the country of destination may mean that the acquisition is more often viewed by the immigrants as ensuring definitive settlement rather than a possibility of return.

Many countries of Latin America and the Caribbean saw considerable out-migration around the turn of the 21st century and thereafter. What has been the stay experience of migrants in the wake of this migration?

Table 6 provides an overview of indicators in this regard, covering separately immigrants from the Americas in the European Union (6a) and in the United States (6b). We examine the situation of immigrants to the European Union first.

Table 6a. Residency and naturalization of immigrants from the Americas in European Union countries, 2008-2013

  Immigrants resident for 10 years or more Immigrants with the nationality of country of residence (2010-2013)
Country/region of origin 2008-2009 2012-2013 2012-2013 Percent increase in number from 2008-2009 to 2012-2013 5 to 10 years of residence 10+ years of residence
  (percent of all immigrants)   (average number)      
Canada 70.871769432686 72.647988571116 179100 1.4455977605783 39.278843578496 77.999701504497
United States of America 53.704003480099 57.721378887501 335800 26.206276012724 21.294828240937 61.599366356651
Canada and the United States 59.447278711249 62.163583376347 514900 16.330990085986 25.996811746265 67.413079074793
Cuba 22.487603699098 43.834327349918 87900 106.77582409764 20.985047436871 73.692681580856
Dominican Republic 39.892247236775 46.701546274114 96300 13.684953382239 27.111384073253 77.924189806145
Haiti 59.484579580799 78.979865927103 65000 175.21795116242 16.892956521475 55.215705512342
Jamaica 83.575108443426 96.881800119204 161100 31.508449824191 nr 75.460150504905
Suriname 92.569232199209 97.77566725061 280100 -1.3327988945853 nr 100
Caribbean 63.532581413688 74.336807184674 728200 22.685512483228 28.339503468454 84.368842555444
El Salvador 95.126256957734 92.941241103779 22000 85.537267238296 nr 47.514281309882
Mexico 47.079221285024 59.568393985462 47200 78.30134890338 45.2723186777 81.217874426557
Central America 42.937753363202 52.401343140072 87600 110.6777104827 18.20989454701 75.270206166379
Bolivia 1.9351964616608 17.010597077706 66000 630.67413761362 nr 55.002060353831
Colombia 18.33575076041 62.532392450646 535300 222.37526430986 20.9356641465 53.817921414376
Ecuador 7.6477085044703 71.57693567877 843400 626.7095078524 16.924073163228 37.268839843317
Peru 27.219821744774 48.294442729318 277200 115.3162569816 15.714239955469 51.301582116898
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 62.562313985802 70.329633382999 232100 35.607421390879 39.992339631593 93.452455571658
Andean Region 16.253045911464 58.744326382548 1954000 230.61284371069 15.409301335568 52.059469126719
Argentina 27.656360394978 64.023372633432 387800 114.35346271299 24.484514170937 65.352996460521
Brazil 27.563989497223 40.911871795647 288100 46.891036847121 12.673429273066 67.591700090543
Chile 37.361414669115 73.288108037748 131400 65.810355173703 6.8170911793167 82.528325002265
Uruguay 21.29857903666 48.726756915343 59100 114.11255706226 7.32319740599 84.519199023246
Southern Cone 26.48291050804 50.433552705442 866900 79.165874480838 14.565074363942 70.132936017329
All countries of the Americas 29.736016466874 59.137443222567 4151500 92.863443372868 16.512961960562 64.408215775841
All other countries of origin 55.128358729026 60.437127490354 30178200 27.275462646321 15.520553857666 56.182842669768

Table 6b. Residency and naturalization of immigrants from the Americas in the United States, 2008-2013

  Immigrants resident for 10 years or more Immigrants with the nationality of country of residence (2010nr2013)
Country/region of origin 2008-2009 2012-2013 2012-2013 Percent increase in number from 2008-2009 to 2012-2013 5 to 10 years of residence 10+ years of residence
  (percent of all immigrants)   (average number)      
Canada 79.802675881969 79.763897243128 940100 4.8532265822502 24.383396831763 63.388862149189
Antigua and Barbuda 84.450855827115 85.448510429046 24400 36.994941199658 39.236111111111 75.578953001458
Bahamas 78.580286642701 74.821514960491 34100 1.9577290343202 27.975848188614 57.071185157137
Barbados 90.367433998712 94.29586255002 54500 14.387984591062 36.090877558099 75.086228695696
Bermuda 91.155854865311 90.415574691127 14700 0.13192612137203 27.37259139204 85.152620180294
Cuba 76.524771670401 74.219296619841 1127700 12.24769522522 24.122477795999 73.490528425629
Dominica 72.290672923043 77.175974336707 28200 -6.4091817654265 32.051358614512 69.404070599824
Dominican Republic 76.474167621201 72.386882578276 991900 21.034562687806 29.551665531789 63.354777822736
Grenada 84.415792424121 84.640296730977 36100 16.0345318281 19.540145449203 74.207057723767
Guyana 79.614789024625 82.897171354234 260800 9.927817568375 45.114647570862 81.264045746281
Haiti 72.740152065252 73.547700967614 611700 18.803387203049 27.967685939378 65.805024576117
Jamaica 79.218182405715 80.074047432972 699300 11.419247644536 32.830542240527 73.698933297527
Saint Kitts and Nevis 83.964275656757 na na na 24.796274738068 73.458521783935
Saint Lucia 69.223123623274 75.236328297553 22600 32.189840506034 23.503986884269 64.453452812744
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 79.921226374996 83.559619079795 23700 40.304910476866 29.503272181096 66.270336360914
Trinidad and Tobago 80.848677931531 86.999277259894 244200 18.584700566801 24.546946551744 67.701400554704
Caribbean 77.262716673968 76.514610167717 4173800 14.821688051301 28.837346264348 70.191699967052
Belize 83.993765958152 87.968517174187 52300 21.194894065009 24.365946168258 65.806603081438
Costa Rica 71.468462360525 82.396518363583 82900 9.8940412258417 27.761660849463 60.29289178539
El Salvador 70.584994047513 75.516479419626 1250000 22.605389116556 7.1819076645755 39.072154587952
Guatemala 57.631630453351 63.787331415412 883400 35.246589200405 13.225477486821 35.975174014466
Honduras 58.494560795064 63.475248897279 537400 31.633548845169 7.2202346562375 35.240572874976
Mexico 69.40024488764 80.927330146546 11516400 22.88057361991 7.4930856999125 31.320055282538
Nicaragua 83.045666228137 83.862996105314 251500 2.4914291823282 16.483254466087 61.118487452305
Panama 88.116211789999 88.76596330591 145300 5.5675184424048 40.112349688405 83.134366654946
Central America 69.018462512569 78.962766269132 14719200 22.883401477808 8.3163756455567 33.729443727333
Bolivia 66.157279845294 80.213364134263 78800 38.893406593407 26.909364313259 58.929399384749
Colombia 67.291430119412 77.942237781355 706000 36.739879451755 25.470089892 65.450471324015
Ecuador 64.695305117096 76.636331959356 429000 26.226009109772 17.955961031702 54.30351009954
Peru 63.308594678992 78.105005753082 437200 39.417652931437 20.541424667731 61.19801599478
Venezuela 57.305563515164 68.579104958381 204900 47.920394972314 17.879797740669 58.998301241459
Andean Group 64.628503418996 76.741357803504 1855900 35.859517380751 21.335417708854 60.879511376847
Brazil 48.185822040492 64.71092564601 347000 36.053053322952 19.694802648273 61.989727292618
Chile 75.163252038133 80.802187495032 94400 16.716676107224 15.481612962806 53.394600630782
Paraguay 69.963357300885 75.475612086142 18300 36.62730372054 23.434035476718 63.43445940877
Uruguay 50.47105251152 88.019898302025 49900 98.327721407426 36.430575035063 71.303190532715
Argentina 64.555002590389 85.473961168044 171800 42.838938121966 9.3971170234278 46.056264935964
Southern Cone 56.480496104476 74.16974711348 681300 38.292148607099 16.971032745592 57.379972756333
All countries of the Americas 70.196350798197 78.209399081535 22370400 21.764028115161 13.011370546029 42.677925022185
All other countries 73.278656536982 73.329720665381 14808000 14.07609914004 34.433121403919 78.288767482653

 

First of all, the percentage of all immigrants from the Americas who have been resident for more than 10 years in Europe has more than doubled over the relatively short period from 2008-2009 to 2012-2013. It stood at 30% in 2008-2009 and rose to 59% of all emigrants from the Americas over the following four years, essentially the same as that of emigrants from the rest of the world, which has also risen over the period, but from an already high level of 55%. Note that this increase has occurred precisely in the period when economic conditions in many European countries, especially Spain where many of the emigrants were resident, were deteriorating.  This increase, moreover, is not simply an artifact of a decline in immigration inflows as a result of the economic crisis, which would have mechanically increased the percent of long-term residents.  The absolute number of immigrants resident for more than 10 years has also almost doubled over the same period, increasing by 93% from its 2008-2009 level. The increase has been spectacular for immigrants from the Andean Region, where the increase has been over 230%, due in large part to the tremendous increases observed for Bolivia and Ecuador, at over 600 percent. Indeed, only Haiti and Suriname among the countries figuring in Table 6 show rates of increase in 10-year residency rates In European countries of less than 25% from 2008-2009 to 2012-2013.

The large increases in long-term residency In Europe of immigrants from the Americas in recent years reflect the establishment, likely definitive, of the large waves of immigrants from the Americas which arrived around the turn of the 21st century and thereafter.

At the same time as these waves of immigrants have settled, they have also begun to acquire the nationality of their adopted countries of residence. Fully 64% of those resident for over 10 years on average in Europe over 2010-2013 possess the nationality of their countries of residence, a somewhat higher percentage than that for migrants from the rest of the world. For those with only 5 to 10 years of residence, the percentage is much lower at 17%. This evidently reflects the impact of residency requirements for the acquisition of nationality but also the time lag between arrival and the decision to naturalize, which may not be made if there are expectations of a return. 

For a number of countries of origin, the acquisition rates for long-term residents are exceptionally high, such as Chile (83%), Uruguay (85%), Venezuela (93%) and Suriname (100%, rounded). For immigrants from the Andean Region, for whom the settlement in European countries is more recent, the naturalization rates are closer to 50% and in the case of Ecuador, a mere 37%. All of these are likely to increase over the next decade as more immigrants become settled and as the logic of naturalization becomes more compelling.

In the United States, the percentage of all immigrants from the Americas who have been resident for more than 10 years also increased from 2008-2009 to 2012-2013, but less spectacularly, from an already high level of 70% to 78% for the latter two years (Table 6b). The former figure evidently reflects the fact that large-scale immigration from the Americas is a more long-standing phenomenon in the United States than in the European Union, which saw the massive movements to Spain over the last fifteen years. The percentage nonetheless did increase significantly, in contrast to what was observed for immigrants from the rest of the world, where the prevalence of long-term immigrants was stable over the period at 73%.

The largest increase in the percentage of long-term residents in the United States was seen for immigrants from the Southern Cone, especially in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, where the percentage increased by close to 20 percentage points or more. Their proportion was stable in Canada and the Caribbean and rose by 10 percentage points in Central America and by 12 in the Andean Region.  All regions of origin show a percentage of immigrants with more than 10 years of residence of between 75 and 80 percent.

As was the case for the European Union, the number of long-term immigrants has increased as well, although not to the same extent, with 22% being recorded in the United States over the period, compared to 93% in Europe. All origin countries (with only one exception – Dominica) have seen a rise in settlement, with more modest increases than those observed in the European OECD countries.   

A more direct measurement of settlement, or rather of return, is shown in Table 7 in the case of emigration to Spain over the period 2002-2013.[1] The estimate shown is actually of departure rates and is calculated by counting, for each country, the total number of immigrants who left Spain over the period from 2002-2013 and dividing this by the population at the beginning of the period plus entries over the same period. This gives the percentage of immigrants present in the country at any time over the period who eventually left. It is not a true departure rate, in that it does not measure the number of persons who arrived in a given year and who left after a specified period, but it does provide a reasonable approximation.[2] Note that a departure here does not necessarily imply a return to the country of birth, but may involve migration to another country or indeed a death.

Table 7. Estimates of departure rates from Spain of immigrants from the Americas, 2002-2013

  Population resident in Spain on 1 January 2002 Entries into Spain (2002-2013) Departures from Spain (2002-2013) Annual departure rates Departures 2002-2013 as a percent of those resident at any time 2002-2013
  2005 2009 2013
  (A) (B) (C)       C/(A+B)
Canada 4400 6300 3200 1.5100037750094 6.9580119965724 7.8627145085803 29.470043929339
United States of America 25300 50400 24900 1.3636503871903 8.8317809448996 10.587346829399 32.931886010089
Canada and the United States 29700 56700 28100 1.3842115032749 8.5681911328624 10.219347226027 32.503326583743
Cuba 57700 83000 23500 0.62724599803986 3.0303331972803 2.8405458961902 16.680058306965
Dominica 700 1200 200 0.75282308657465 2.3121387283237 3.448275862069 8.2371458551941
Dominican Republic 49900 135000 33400 1.0073307017994 3.16189682962 3.5224406814556 18.047271685115
Caribbean 108300 219200 57000 0.81879626649501 3.1015000974089 3.2189984864312 17.403014608883
Costa Rica 1500 4300 2100 1.153504880213 8.4524944391484 9.9127006477049 35.539173667067
El Salvador 3000 10500 3500 1.505376344086 6.0035389282103 6.2876052948255 26.106194690265
Guatemala 2500 8600 3600 1.7201540436457 8.3916083916084 7.4102368220015 32.523532048409
Honduras 3900 54700 14100 2.4152847873107 8.0867556085563 6.3076479631053 23.954515232624
Mexico 22500 56400 30700 1.8803105003671 9.1710642040457 8.932349858609 38.983674349574
Nicaragua 2300 27200 5900 1.1279311368359 6.3725882635498 6.4270613107822 19.867078091621
Panama 2400 4500 2500 1.7765733212888 8.3914510686164 8.5676625659051 36.711059640996
Central America 38200 166300 62400 1.8422657679496 8.2358004247476 7.504214037227 30.532144376996
Bolivia 15500 295700 125800 1.9287982953403 9.4413079019074 7.9727204985043 40.423884050519
Colombia 205300 293100 112600 0.78212290502793 3.6617590491747 4.6639501864771 22.599492380694
Ecuador 259800 334200 149600 0.79468187070411 2.9568977932321 5.0785453923763 25.19010974766
Peru 59000 187400 60300 1.0312332216318 3.8265997290621 4.751698313963 24.457824970279
Venezuela 71600 106500 47100 1.0363853907534 3.8400209980642 4.6594385237813 26.447686788788
Andean Region 611200 1216900 495400 0.9428451852391 4.4048373303482 5.261329077979 27.100577409904
Argentina 118900 201000 106500 1.1010576605501 4.9637611247084 4.542520901792 33.293325206683
Brazil 39500 198600 106800 1.6670772768334 11.147476982139 10.596347401953 44.877417620272
Chile 30800 66700 37600 1.6837704294945 7.4134199134199 8.1920359666024 38.553029914311
Paraguay 2400 137900 53300 2.3192822075504 8.5171019825228 11.316829623466 37.991076519558
Uruguay 27200 63900 29500 1.0126582278481 4.7375474648202 4.4417796788271 32.343607594242
Southern Cone 218700 668100 333700 1.2853855418383 6.9810505434846 7.0433951516525 37.626536851162
All above countries 1006200 2327100 976600 1.0615646290097 5.2356230209309 5.7035488504989 29.298756935705

 

Overall, the estimate of immigrants having been resident in Spain at some point over the 2002-2013 period and who later left is about 29%. Immigrants from the Caribbean show the lowest rates of departure at barely 17% while almost 38% of those who emigrated from the Southern Cone to Spain later left. Between 27 and 33% of immigrants from the other three regions shown in Table 7 left Spain over the 2002-2013 period. Most of the departures occurred in the six years ending in 2013, showing clearly the effects of the 2008-2009 recession on returns. Prior to 2006-2007, departures tended to be relatively uncommon. With fewer entries feeding the resident population since 2009, there has been an increase in departure rates since then, but it is not very large.  

Generally when one examines return rates from a destination country, there is a greater tendency for immigrants from high-income countries to return, because the benefits from staying on are less obvious. If one excludes Canada and the United States from the analysis, there is a slight tendency for the departure rate to be correlated with the home-country GDP per capita. However, it is not an especially strong association (correlation = 0,50).  Because immigrants of different nationalities have not entered Spain in the same numbers at the same time, it is more likely that some of the differences observed here reflect differences in the recency of arrivals, with higher departure rates being observed for countries with immigrant populations which have been in Spain for longer.

The general picture therefore is that many immigrants from the Americas in Europe are staying on, despite the difficult economic conditions in countries, especially in Spain. Although departure rates have increased strongly with the recession, they have generally stabilized and a large majority of residents are now long-term. With each year, more and more are taking up the nationality of their countries of residence. Migration to Spain from the Americas in 2013 was at 86 thousand scarcely one fourth of its peak 2007 level. Although migration itself has declined strongly in the face of adverse economic conditions, it has clearly not led to massive return movements, at least not yet. Although returns doubled from 2006 to 2007 and increased by 15-20% in the following two years, they have remained at close to the 135-140 thousand level since 2010. There is now (2013) a net return of about 55 thousand immigrants per year to the countries of origin, but this is a far cry from the 215 thousand net entries which prevailed on average over the 2002-2007 period.



[1] The statistics presented in this table are based on the municipal population registers; persons moving into or leaving a municipality are required to register/deregister, respectively. Such data sources do not exist for the United States.

[2] If one examines what happens to the departure rate estimated in this way as the period covered lengthens, one observes that the estimate increases as the reference period lengthens and that it reaches close to 95% of its value after 7 years. This reflects the fact that departure rates prior to 2006 were very low.