Discussion paper

DP8965 Sale of Visas: A Smuggler's Final Song?

We study how smugglers respond to different types of migration policies - legalisation through the sale of migration visas, or more traditional repressive policies through borders' enforcement, employers' sanctions or deportation - by changing the price they propose to illegal migrants. In this context a government that aims at eradicating smugglers and controlling migration flows faces a trade-off. Eliminating smugglers by the sale of visas increases the flows of migrants and may worsen their skill composition. In contrast, repressive policies decrease the flows of illegal migrants and may improve their skill composition but do not eliminate smugglers. We then study how a combination of increased repression -through reinforced external and internal controls- and sale of visas may be effective at eliminating smugglers and controlling migration flows while not weighing on public finances. Simulations allow us to quantify the partial equilibrium effects of the policies under study.


Auriol, E and A Mesnard (2012), ‘DP8965 Sale of Visas: A Smuggler's Final Song?‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 8965. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp8965