How US Immigration Policies Are Impacting Canadian Immigration
Over the past three years, the United States has enacted many policy changes that are leading to decreases in legal immigration. As a result, this is driving many emigrants to a country with more favorable immigration policies, America’s neighbor to the north: Canada. Among these policy changes are those focused on foreign work and entrepreneurial opportunities. This is in large part due to the Presidential initiative, as introduced by Executive Order in April 2017, to “Hire American”.
In contrast, Canada currently has many robust and streamlined immigration paths for these types of individuals. While the U.S. hopes to bolster domestic work opportunities through their current policies, Canada has taken a different view. They are welcoming foreign, highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs, as long as they can demonstrate their ability and intent to provide significant benefit to the Canadian economy.
H1-B Visa for Skilled Workers
As mentioned, among the changes leading to a decrease in legal immigration are those targeted at skilled foreign workers. The H1-B visa program allows employers to bring highly skilled temporary workers in for specialty occupations. This is a program frequently utilized to fill technology roles at tech and non-tech companies alike.
However, both the total number and the percentage of H1-B visas being accepted are declining due to new policy changes. Not only are the number of H1-B approvals going down in general, over half required additional paperwork and applications are frequently held up. The amount of visa applications requiring extra paperwork doubled between 2016 and 2018.
While H1-B visa holders make up only 0.2% of the total U.S. workforce, the demand for high-tech workers is growing immensely. In fact, according to a 2019 study by Envoy Global – a company that specializes in helping U.S. companies traverse immigration applications and hurdles – 80% of U.S. companies both large and small expected their number of foreign workers to remain the same or increase.
Given the increasing limitations and competition to obtain H1-B visas, companies are finding it easier to move or expand their operations to other countries, like Canada, that have more favorable immigration policies. In the Envoy study, 65% of the 200 companies surveyed said Canada’s immigration policies are more favorable to US employers than US policies. Their approval rates are much higher and the process itself is quicker making it an appealing option for American companies.
The International Entrepreneur Rule & Start-Up Visas
In late-May 2018, the Trump Administration announced its intent to roll back the International Entrepreneur Rule (IER). The IER allowed foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the United States for up to five years as long as they can demonstrate their business has the potential for rapid growth and job creation.
This IER, which was implemented in 2017 by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama just days before he left office, was a band-aid for the United States’ glaring lack of a start-up visa option or any other entrepreneurial-based path to permanent residency. Although legislation around this was initially introduced in 2010 as the Startup Visa Act, it failed to gain the necessary traction. Although the Act ultimately went nowhere and a start-up visa never became an option in the United States, several other countries have implemented them since, including Canada. In contrast to the American policies and attitudes towards entrepreneurial immigration, Canada has several well-developed programs such as the Self-Employed Persons Visa. Programs like this are designed to foster immigration from individuals that can demonstrate professional expertise and an ability to benefit the Canadian economy. They encourage this type of immigration as long as it will be beneficial to both the immigrant and the country.
Beyond limiting immigration paths that allow companies to not “Hire American”, President Trump has passed additional aggressive immigration limitations, including the highly litigated travel ban. With a Presidential election year now upon the U.S., and immigration an issue at the forefront, it is expected that the current Administration will aim to limit legal immigration even further. This is likely to accelerate the flow of immigration to Canada, including highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs.