H-1B restrictions motivate tech talent to move to Canada

H-1B visas are becoming harder to get, forcing local businesses to set up shop in Canada - who has a more friendly program for tech and high skilled workers.
17 May 2018

Trudeau’s new Global Skills Strategy helps bring in talented professionals faster. Source: Reuters

Trump’s administration is cracking the whip on H-1B visas making it more challenging for foreign tech workers to come to America and work on tech-related projects.

Media outlets are focusing on the point that this move makes life more complicated for H-1B visa holders and for tech professionals harboring the American dream, hoping to move to America in the near future.

However, there’s more to the story and it’s the other side of the narrative that’s going to impact the country in the long run.

There’s too much emphasis on the 59184 H-1B visas allotted to US and foreign IT outsourcing companies and not enough on the 7,248 H-1B visas allotted to tech companies. Citizens are furious that up to 70 percent of these visas are issued to Indians, allowing them to take up high paying jobs in the country.

According to California-based Mercury News, Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet pay an average of US$139,000, US$132,000 and US$115,000 per annum respectively. Foreign outsourcing companies, on the other hand, just pay an average of US$72,000 per annum.

However, it is the highly-paid candidates who are part of the 7,248 visa pool that actually adds value to the American economy.

In the first 8 months of 2017, IBM filed for and won 5,797 patents. Intel was issued 2,064 patents. Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon were each awarded anything between 1,000 and 2,000 patents. Some credit, if not all, does go to the specialists that these tech bring in from other countries – including India – with the help of the H-1B visas.

Now, to put things in perspective, the world is short of tech talent and with emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and 5G set to transform the world, America needs more, not less, of technology specialists.

We should be developing frameworks to attracts more, not less, of programmers, coders, and engineers if we want to hold on to our place in the market as the world’s tech leader.

At present, with all the H-1B visa holders in the country, we’re still not saturated and there are plenty of jobs that are still vacant because we don’t have the right talent available to fill those jobs. Hard as they might be to accept, we can do exciting things if we can get more specialists to come here.

TechHQ spoke to Karen-Lee Pollak, Dallas-based Immigration Lawyer and Managing Partner of Pollak Immigration:

“We are in desperate need of people in the science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM) in order to remain competitive with the rest of the world.

“We are also limiting the import of top talent by curbing the issuance of H-1B visas. These policies actually make the USA less competitive.  It just does not make sense.

“From the perspective of the employer, companies cannot grow their businesses or plan for the future relying on the H-1B lottery system so they are taking these jobs off-shore resulting in a loss of revenue and jobs in the United States.

“We should allow market forces to determine the amount of H-1B visas issued each year not some outdated quota. In the recession in 2010, it took almost a year for the H-1B quota to be used up. If the economy is good, there are more jobs available and the market should dictate the number of H-1B visas issued.

Canada, on the other hand, is attracting top tech talent. Not only is it making it easy for local companies to hire temporary foreign workers but also making the process more simple, painless, and quick.

Canadian President Justin Trudeau often talks to businesses in the country and understands the needs of local businesses. Last year, he announced the Global Skills Strategy that gave employers a faster and more predictable process for attracting top talent and new skills to Canada, creating economic growth and more middle-class jobs for Canadians.

The ministry believes that doing so will help local businesses access temporary, high-skilled, global talent, and scale up or expand their knowledge of specialized skills so that they can be more innovative and build their expertise.

According to Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, “The Global Skills Strategy will allow Canadian employers, who are investing in people and skills here in Canada, to continue to grow by attracting top talent from around the world. Whether it’s developing a new product line or leading a new sales team, bringing in the best and the brightest from around the world will result in more good-quality, middle-class jobs for Canadians.”

Much of this talent is going towards building technology-based solutions in the country. In fact, according to Indian media, Canada approved 4,400 applications until December 31 under the Global Skill Strategy programme it launched in June 2017.

Many US-based tech companies are working on setting up a base in Canada to employ foreign workers there in order to be able to ensure they have access to the talent they need to do exciting work in the field of technology.

“It’s becoming less and less sexy to be going to the United States,” Tim Delisle, a founder of the start-up Datalogue, which uses artificial intelligence to prepare and synthesize data for other businesses told the New York Times.