As more governments implement skill-based migration policies, understanding how policymakers, employers and migrants evaluate and interpret skills is of great importance. Based on a study of Taiwanese white-collar migrant workers in Japan, this article treats skills as socially constructed and offers an opportunity to investigate how skill is experienced across borders. This article makes contribution to skilled migration research by investigating the social contexts in which skills are categorised, evaluated, and developed, and how such experiences feed into migration decisions and adaptation outcomes. To many Taiwanese college-educated migrants, coming to work in Japan is a first step in being recognized as ‘global talent’. The initial successful migration outcome fails, however, to retain these new arrivals to corporate Japan. Taiwanese migrant professionals usually do not aspire to develop the firm-specific skills and in-house careers that Japanese-style training regimes offer.