The tension between EU harmonisation of economic migration law and Member States’ concern over their sovereignty has downplayed or neglected EU legal obligations by Member State legislators. The law-makers’ design of a system granting either no or very wide discretion to the street-level bureaucrats, as is the case in the Netherlands, creates an atmosphere of fear and frustration amongst migrants . Interestingly, we see a similar pattern in East Asia, more specifically in Macao SAR of the People's Republic of China. Both use discretionary power to randomly set income requirements for migrant workers, claiming a salary offered might be too low or high, based on vaguely defined local labour market rates. With the Netherlands and Macau as examples this contribution provides unique comparative data on law-making practices and discretion at work in the field of labour migration policy.