It is Wednesday, January 16, 2019. In case you forgot.
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Canada is stealing our tech immigrants

Immigrant tech workers are skipping Silicon Valley and heading for the border… the Canadian border. 

The exodus from the US is hard to track but we do know that foreign tech professionals who received permanent residency in Canada has grown by 40% since 2016 (what happened in 2016? 🤔).

Political climate aside, there are two reasons for the migration: a broken US visa program and Canada’s increasingly attractive tech environment and immigration policy. 


In the US, many foreign tech workers are employed through the H1-B visa program, which allows companies to hire high-skill foreign workers.

Landing a spot is very competitive. In 2018, there were close to 190,000 applicants for only 85,000 spots.

To be considered, the applicant must find a company willing to sponsor her and prove employment. Then, because of the shortage of spots, recipients are awarded visas based on a lottery system. 

The primary flaw with the program is that it is not merit-based. A handful of IT outsourcing companies petition and receive a bulk of all visas issued. The workers typically hired for these companies barely qualify as high-skill and are paid below-average wages. 

This leaves foreign workers looking for work in tech startups at a disadvantage even if they can garner higher wages and are relatively more skilled. 

Basically, a few big companies that pay poorly are snatching up all the visas while innovative startups who want to hire high-value software engineers get the shaft. 

Maple Valley

Compounding the migration trend, tech opportunities are growing in the Great White North. US tech companies like Google, Uber, an Amazon are expanding their engineering offices in Toronto to capitalize on eager foreign talent (1 in 5 is foreign born in Canada). 

And Trudeau’s government has been more than happy to roll out the red carpet for these tech-pats, raising the Canadian immigration limits to 300,000 per year and investing in artificial intelligence startups in Montreal. 

Hope on the horizon?

Trump, who has been critical of the H1-B program in the past, tweeted last week that H1-B holders can “rest assured” that reform (possibly including a path to citizenship) is coming soon. We’ll see. 
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Zac Cherin
Brendan Uyeshiro
Brendan Uyeshiro