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Why Canada’s New Work Permit Isn’t a Death Knell for U.S. Tech Industry

Jun 28, 2023

Canada and U.S. flags

In a move aimed at attracting top tech talent, Canada’s Immigration Minister announced Tuesday the creation of an open work permit stream for H-1B visa holders in the United States. The program will allow 10,000 H-1B visa holders in the U.S. to work in Canada and provide study or work permits for their family members as well.

The new initiative, which is part of the country’s new Tech Talent Strategy, is set to launch on July 16, 2023. Under the program, approved applicants will receive an open work permit valid for up to three years. This permit grants them the freedom to work for any employer anywhere in Canada, offering increased flexibility and opportunities.

Although the plan has the potential to attract top talent in the tech sector, there are several factors that may limit its effectiveness in poaching workers from the United States. These include:

  1. High Taxes and Cost of Living: Canada’s high taxes and cost of living, particularly in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver, may deter some entrepreneurs and tech workers from moving there permanently. The United States has a wider range of affordable cities to live in, which could be more appealing to prospective immigrants.
  2. Strong Existing Tech Ecosystem in the U.S.: The United States already has a well-established tech ecosystem with massive tech hubs in Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Austin. The networks, infrastructure, and resources available in these hubs may still be more attractive to tech talent and entrepreneurs.
  3. Talent Mobility and Dual Intent: Talented individuals who secure Canadian citizenship may choose to return to the United States once they have more secure immigration status. The U.S. may still be perceived as a more lucrative market for career development, so achieving Canadian citizenship could be a stepping stone rather than a final destination.
  4. Limited Scope of Canada’s Initiative: The new program will remain in effect for one year or until 10,000 applications are received. This is a limited scale compared to the size of the tech industry in the United States.
  5. Brand and Perception: The global brand and perception of the United States as a land of opportunity and the center for innovation could continue to attract talent even with competition from Canada.

What the U.S. Can Do:

  1. Reform Immigration Policies: The U.S. could reform its immigration policies to make it easier for highly-skilled talent to obtain visas. This includes reducing processing times, increasing visa quotas, and providing clearer paths to permanent residency and citizenship.
  2. Encourage Investment in Emerging Tech Hubs: Encouraging investment in emerging tech hubs in the U.S. through tax incentives, grants, and other supportive policies would create more options for tech talent.
  3. Engage with the Tech Industry: By engaging with tech companies and understanding their needs, the U.S. government can develop policies that directly address the concerns of the industry.
  4. Educate and Train: Invest in education and training programs that build a domestic talent pool that can complement the foreign tech workforce.
  5. International Partnerships: The U.S. could forge closer ties with other countries to develop international technology partnerships that could benefit both the U.S. and foreign talent.

While Canada’s new strategy is commendable and may attract some talent, it doesn’t mean the U.S. will be left with few tech workers. The U.S. has the ability to adapt and respond to competitive pressures by leveraging its established tech ecosystem and enacting policies that are supportive of high-skilled immigration and innovation.

Boundless helps you build a tailored visa plan for every step of the process, from forms to your immigration interview.