As the Trump administration continues to clamp down on opportunities for skilled foreign workers, their neighbors to the north have moved in the other direction. The Canadian government is actively opening its doors to international talent as the country is increasingly becoming a haven for tech innovation, and these efforts are beginning to bear fruit.
Canada has long been an easier option for immigrants if they are unable to get into the United States, but was widely considered the clear-cut second choice. The current US administration’s plans to tighten the borders, including review of the H1-B visa program and halting adoption of the International Entrepreneur Rule, along with its much more restrictive posture toward immigration in general, have started shifting that assumption.
In response to Canada’s pitch to foreign firms and talent, some startups from the US and other countries are beginning to migrate to Canada, and organizations like Toronto-based Extreme Venture are even reaching out to these companies to help them make the move, the Wall Street Journal reported last week:
One taker was fulfil.io, a cloud-based software platform that aids companies in their supply-chain operations. Two of the company’s founders decided to come to Canada in May from their native India after they had to leave the U.S. when their H1-B visas expired and renewal proved difficult. They closed their first sales deal a month later. “Canada looks like the right place to grow,” said one, Sharoon Thomas, fulfil.io CEO. “I’m just surprised that we didn’t think of it first.”
For workers, the pull of a Facebook or Google paycheck and the Silicon Valley locale is still hard to beat, but Canadian government officials, tech leaders, and venture capitalists are making a concerted effort to court American tech talent.
In April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to the value of diversity as he introduced a program to provide temporary resident visas in just two weeks as opposed to one year. Additionally, multiple organizations are making a marketing push to capitalize on the changing sentiment. According to the Journal, the Province of Ontario plans to launch an ad campaign targeting Silicon Valley talent and a group of Canadian businesses partnered to put up two billboards in the area suggesting those workers “Go North.”
While the major American tech players will still have an advantage, they will certainly feel the pinch of tightened talent pipelines and need to do something about it. Microsoft recently opened an office in Vancouver, allowing the tech giant to keep freely pulling in global talent. More companies may follow suit, but only as a last resort, as many are already increasing hiring in their existing overseas offices.
Many founders and key leaders at America’s top tech companies are foreign-born or first-generation Americans. With oncoming challenges in attracting the world’s best available talent, Silicon Valley and the US tech sector may see a decrease in the development of innovative, rapid-growth companies at the expense of rising hubs in Toronto, Vancouver, and beyond. America will likely still remain the top destination, but the gap is likely to close in the coming years if the current administration meets its immigration policy goals.