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Abstract

Immigrant professionals comprise a growing segment within current migration waves, but the determinants of successful transnational skill transfer are poorly understood. In this paper, I offer a framework for the evaluation of these determinants, drawing upon three empirical studies among immigrant professionals from the former Soviet Union in Israel. I start by describing the social context of immigrant integration, including policies aimed at assisting skilled immigrants to get a fresh start on the local labour market. Next, I reflect on the nature of various professions in terms of their cultural and linguistic dependency, with the ensuing adaptive potential upon migration. I also tap into the main macro-economic and institutional characteristics of the host society that may facilitate or hinder the initial entry and subsequent mobility of immigrant professionals within local organizations. I apply this analytical frame to the discussion of Israeli studies among immigrant professionals who represent three different points on the scale of cultural dependency: engineers (technical occupation), physicians (combining standard medical training with cultural skills) and schoolteachers (most dependent on language and local cultural codes). In every case, the resulting success or failure of occupational continuity reflects a complex interplay of context-bound and individual factors, aggravated by the small size and rapid saturation of the local labour market.