The issue of the socioeconomic inclusion of Venezuelan migrants and refugees is undoubtedly one of the political dilemmas facing the region, but it’s also a policy dilemma.
This is because, as I’ve said before, the capacity of the host countries to take advantage of the arrival of Venezuelans is directly proportional to the public policies that are designed and implemented to respond to their arrival.
And among all the things that need addressing, the issue of the recognition of degrees and education credentials seems to be a never resolved problem. Every time I speak with a Venezuelan migrant or refugee, in every panel or seminar on the subject, this keeps coming up.
Why is this important? Because in order to achieve social and economic inclusion of this displaced population, nothing works better than ensuring they can work in their fields of study along with, of course, the possibility of having a work permit, and a job in the formal economy. But having an electric engineer as a taxi driver, or an oncologist as a physician’s assistant, or a psychologist waiting tables does nothing to make the best of this migration.
From my interviews with Venezuelan migrants in various countries of the world, whether they are doctors, teachers, engineers or specialists in information technology (IT), all those with higher education aspire to continue working in their professional fields, and hence the need to be able to validate their degrees obtained abroad.
There are a number of impediments to this legalization of titles. The main impediment remains how long these processes can be; the second impediment has also been the high cost; the third, relates to the differences between the variety of processes depending on each field; this can be confusing for newcomers, and the last one is applicable to the Venezuelan case is that migrants and refugees don’t always have the actual physical title, and how difficult (and expensive considering the coimas you need to pay) it is to get an official copy with apostille.
We always point out the existence of the problem, but we talk little about its solution.
So, what strategies can be considered on this subject of recognition of titles? I mention three examples that we could continue to explore.
- The first is the executive decision to eliminate requirements for certain fields, and it’s important to highlight the decision of several Latin American countries to exempt the presentation of requirements to doctors or health professionals in order to be able to add them to the task forces responding to COVID-19.
- A second is to consider the implementation of intensive programs or courses with contents that are considered key in the host country in a particular field, accompanied by a short practice to validate the experience. This is a fast-track way, controlled by the competent authorities, and in collaboration with professional associations in the receiving country that can help validate the particular expertise.
- Finally, I’d also mention a needed negotiation, first, within the countries, and then in every region where Venezuelans are settling, of a procedure for the recognition of qualifications. A good example is the “Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications Relating to Higher Education in the European Region” used in Norway, through which one or two employees of the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT), with knowledge of the educational system in the applicant’s country of origin and with the participation of two national external experts with experience in specific subjects, verify through a questionnaire, an interview and both oral and written tasks, the specialty of the applicants.
These are extensive and perhaps cumbersome processes, but they are also the best way to take advantage of that talent and achieve the desired social and economic integration of these migrant and refugee populations. It’s also a tangible way to change these migrants and refugees’ lives for the better.
The call is to continue moving forward from analysis and evidence to the design of options to achieve the full social and economic inclusion of Venezuelans, and make the most of their arrival in host countries. We at the OAS remain always attentive to technically support the necessary dialogues to achieve this goal.
* Opinions are personal. They do not represent those of the Organization of American States.
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