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In a bid to better manage the increasing migration of health workers, in 2010 the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted its Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel. The Code has been misinterpreted by many as banning all recruitment from the 57 countries it deemed to have a “critical shortage” of health workers. But that is neither what the WHO intended, nor what the Code says. Recruitment from these countries was always allowed, even encouraged, as long as it was conducted under a mutually beneficial government-to-government agreement. In this policy paper, we outline how the WHO defined a “critical shortage” of health workers, both for the original Code and for its newly published Health Workforce Support and Safeguards List. The paper then goes onto explore how countries of migrant destination and origin can (and should) design ethical and sustainable health worker migration partnerships that fulfil the requirements of the Code.