Safe and Legal Alternatives

Every year, thousands of people attempt to migrate to a different country without a valid visa or permit. Many are not fully aware of the financial, physical and psychological costs of choosing to migrate irregularly. While some people waste time and money, others face abuse and exploitation, and some even lose their lives on route.

There are a number of alternatives to irregular migration that are safe and legal, and do not involve criminal networks and people smugglers. Are you or is someone you know considering travelling to another country to live and work without a valid visa? If so, read this guide to find out more information about safer alternatives, including accessing legal immigration channels and job opportunities in your home country.

Most European Union (EU) member states participate in a scheme called the EU Blue Card Work Visa Scheme that aims to attract talented professionals from other countries.

The EU Blue Card Network connects high skilled workers from outside of the EU with European employers. If you are offered a job, you may be eligible to apply for an EU Blue Card. Eligibility depends on your work experience and education level.

EU Blue Card holders are granted entry and residence in advance which means they can travel safely and legally to the EU. In many cases, they can also bring their families and apply for permanent residence after a fixed period of time.

There are a number of schemes offering work visas to migrants in Europe and other countries. For instance, Germany is looking for skilled professionals from many different countries and areas of expertise. The US offers a lottery program for receiving a United States Permanent Resident Card. Canada offers a permanent residence visa to skilled workers who are interested in migrating there. Australia also offers a range of visas for work and study.

If you are accepted into a European university and you can pay the tuition fees, you may be eligible for a student visa that lets you study, travel and work part time in Europe.

A Student Schengen Visa allows non-EU students to stay in Schengen zone countries for up to three months. To live and study in Europe for longer periods of time, you can apply for a Long-Stay Study Visa at the relevant embassy in your country.

Although tuition fees at European universities can be expensive, the costs of irregular migration can be even higher.

If you are academically strong, but can’t cover tuition fees, you might consider applying for an educational scholarship scheme. There are several scholarships available for students in Europe and around the world. For example, the Islamic Development Bank funds scholarships for talented students from member countries and Muslim communities in non-member countries. 

With a scholarship, you can apply for a student visa that will allow you to live in the EU country where the university is located. Depending on the legislation of the specific country, living and studying in Europe may put you in a more favourable position for applying for permanent residence.

If a direct family member has refugee status or legal permanent residency in a European country, it is possible that a spouse, parent or child might be able to join them. Learn more about family reunification here.

Asylum is a fundamental right. People fleeing direct persecution or serious harm in their own country are entitled to international protection. In general, UN member countries and the UNHCR follow the rules outlined in the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to decide who qualifies for refugee status. This means that asylum is regulated by the same principles in most parts of the world. The EU Member States have established a Common European Asylum System. Individual countries also have their own national laws and practice guidance manuals, which provide detailed guidance to help their authorities screen asylum applicants. Learn more about what it means to be an asylum seeker here.

If you apply for asylum in another country, even if that country doesn’t grant you permission to stay, there is a chance you could be relocated to a third country where you can live and work safely and legally.

Resettlement is the transfer of refugees from a country where they have sought protection to another state that has agreed to grant them residence. You can find more information on resettlement here and here.

Migrants who are stranded in transit countries can opt to voluntarily return home. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) facilitates an Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme (AVRR) for irregular migrants  whose asylum applications have been rejected. Under AVRR, eligible migrants receive post-return reintegration support, including financial assistance and counselling.