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Paper walls are easier to tear down : passport costs and legal barriers to emigration

By David J. McKenzie


Increased attention to the development potential of international migration has led to calls for greater global cooperation and for industrial countries to consider temporary worker programs and other options for increasing the number of immigrants admitted. But less attention has been devoted to policies that migrant-sending countries pursue that impact on the ability of people to emigrate under the existing system. This paper documents the existence and impact of two such policies: passport costs and legal restrictions on emigration. New data collected on passport costs in 127 countries reveals enormous variation in the cost of a passport from one country to the next. One in every 10 countries in the sample is found to have passport costs exceeding 10 percent of annual per capita income. High passport costs are found to be associated with poor governance, especially in terms of the quality of the bureaucracy, and with lower levels of migration. Countries that place legal restrictions on the rights of women to emigrate are also found to have lower migration rates than countries with similar income and population levels. These findings suggest there is scope for some developing countries to receive greater benefits from migration by tearing down the paper walls they place around their own citizens.Governance Indicators,Economic Theory&Research,Country Strategy&Performance,Human Migrations&Resettlements,Voluntary and Involuntary Resettlement

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