Canada Steps Up Efforts to Lure U.S. Technology Talent Hit By Trump Visa Crackdown


Last Updated on August 13, 2020

Billboards have sprung up in Silicon Valley as part of a campaign by the Canadian technology industry to lure workers hit by Donald Trump’s H-1B visa crackdown.

Both workers and US tech companies have already shown significant interest in relocating to Canada due to visa difficulties south of the border.

Trump has used the coronavirus crisis to push his anti-immigration agenda, banning a swathe of work visas in a move he says is aimed at ensuring jobs for Americans.

In reality, the U.S. president has been looking for ways to cut immigration and limit work visas ever since he came to office.

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With Canada’s federal government looking to move in the opposite direction, through policies such as the Global Talent Stream promising two-week visa processing, it is perfectly positioned to benefit from a potential exodus of skilled workers from the U.S.

Since he was elected in 2016, Trump has moved to increase red tape within the U.S. visa system, pushing up processing times and increasing uncertainty for both candidates and employers desperate for new hires.

With the COVID-19 pandemic setting in, Trump has moved to place outright bans on most work visas until at least the end of 2020.

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Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals launched the Global Talent Stream, which targets specific technology occupations with fast processing times.

Canadian employers can make a job offer and have their candidate on the ground in 10 working days. Before the GTS, the process took at least six months.

While Canada has its own restrictions in place due to coronavirus, the open attitude to immigration north of the border means that the system will be back up and running as soon as it can be done safely.

In the U.S., that cannot be said with any certainty, particularly with a presidential election looming.

It means that tech companies and tech workers looking to enact longer-term plans are being drawn by Canada’s stability, and thriving tech hubs in Toronto, Vancouver and the Waterloo region.

One such example is language learning app Duolingo, an American tech company worth $1.5 billion whose top executive recently threatened to move jobs to Toronto due to Trump’s crackdown.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on international travel have, of course, lowered the number of new arrivals to Canada.

But 91,280 people still went through International Mobility Program, which includes the Global Talent Stream, in the first six months of this year, compared to 146,530 during the comparable period in 2019.

In the first three months of this year, 59,575 went through the International Mobility Program. That rate dropped to 32,335 in the second quarter of the year.

Even during the first six months of this year when the COVID-19 pandemic was raging throughout the world, 21,530 highly-skilled workers came to Canada under its International Mobility Program. That’s roughly 23.6 per cent of the total number of people who went through the program during the first half of this year.

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