Tech workers would rather go to Canada than the U.S., suggests new trends. As the current administration cracks down on immigration, foreign tech workers are finding it more difficult to get work visas in the U.S. Alongside the lengthy process and stricter policies to be eligible for H1 visas, the administration’s travel ban on Muslim majority countries, which the Trump administration plans to expand, contributes to the decline of U.S. bound foreign professionals. As the U.S. strengthens its policies against immigrants and increases the rate at which it rejects visa applications, Canada welcomes immigrants with high skills to join its workforce.
"While the States has gone, 'Let's make it difficult to get the employees here on a visa,' Canada's gone the exact opposite, and it's beneficial for Canada,” co-founder of TechToronto Alex Norman told NPR. ”You had a fast-growing ecosystem here that's been getting a shot of steroids.” NPR also interviewed foreign tech workers in which it found that many chose to apply to Canada rather than the U.S. because of the less restrictive visa application and approval processes.
Delays in visa processing have also occurred for many applicants, despite following the correct process over the years. While many foreign tech workers acquired their higher education in the U.S., they pursued jobs in Canada because the vigorous application process for work visas makes companies more hesitant to consider foreign workers, Ozge Yoluk told NPR. "I said I will not waste my time applying for positions in the States," Yoluk said. "Whereas in Canada, the process was easy.”
Earlier this year in an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News, Trump said “we have to allow smart people to stay in our country,” but his immigration policies seem to suggest otherwise. While Trump told Ingraham that the country does not have enough high skilled workers and needs “to be competitive with the rest of the world,” immigration policies including the administration’s travel ban make it difficult for global workers to come to the country for work. As if the application process is not complicated enough, many foreign applicants have faced increasing delays from months to even years in visa processing in the U.S. since Trump took office. Canada, on the other hand, launched a program in 2017, Global Talent Stream, which reduced application processes from 10 months to two weeks for certain tech fields, CNBC reported.
In the last two years, Canada has streamlined its visa application process enabling over 40,000 immigrants to work in the country each year. By 2021 the country plans to have 350,000 immigrants, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said, in 2018. Meanwhile, in the U.S. the rate at which high skilled immigrants are getting rejected has increased. According to NPR, despite U.S. companies struggling to find qualified applicants, since 2018 the approval rate for H1 visas has dropped 17%. For those who do apply, the competition is strong; according to TIME magazine, the annual cap on H1-B visas was met in four days last year. While a significant number of immigrants, especially from China and India, continue to apply for work visas in the U.S., the current administration has seen a decrease in those applying. The drop in applicants results from Trump's 2017 executive order to review H-1B visa processing and campaign pledge to buy and "hire American.”
Big companies like Google and Uber have begun opening or announcing plans to open offices in Canada to have faster access to foreign workers. In a survey of 400 US hiring managers, Envoy found that many companies were relocating due to the current immigration system and policies, Vox reported. "Look, every time Trump tweets, we get another sort of injection, which is all good from my perspective," CEO of the MaRS Discovery District, a Canadian technology hub, Yung Wu told NPR. ”Companies are locating here because they can get access to foreign talent faster.” Wu added that timely hiring is essential in determining a company's success.
The obstacles the U.S. is creating in enabling foreign workers to come to the country only hurts the economy. Data shows that foreign workers create businesses that generate jobs for locals, essentially tackling the issue of unemployment while boosting the economy. If the U.S. continues to deter these workers from coming to the country and choosing Canada instead, businesses will continue to follow in pursuit only hurting the U.S. economy.
“Really smart people can drive economic growth,” President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Robert Atkinson told TIME. “There are not that many people in the world with an IQ of 130, and to the extent that we’re attracting those people rather than the Canadians doing so, we’re better off.”
Canada is known as one of the fastest-growing countries for the tech industry. According to Vox, one city in Canada, Toronto, created more jobs in 2018 than three of the U.S.’s top locations, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, for tech workers combined. “Immigrants create jobs; they don’t take away jobs,” Wu told Vox. “America’s loss right now is Canada’s gain.”
While the current administration often argues that employing foreign nationals takes away the opportunity of employment from Americans, the fact is many Americans are not qualified for the positions open to foreign nationals. Many American companies are having difficulty finding qualified applicants as restrictions on work visas increase. Allowing for qualified immigrants to come into the U.S. not only creates job opportunities as Wu said but increases the country’s economy. According to TIME, “immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Americans to start businesses,” and almost 50% of the country’s Fortune 500 countries are founded by immigrants. Strengthening immigration policies especially for high skilled workers hurts America and gives other countries a jump start ahead.