Hey, it looks like actions have consequences!
The Canadian tech sector is trying to cash in on President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies with a pilot program to slash waiting times for work permits and temporary resident visas from a year to just two weeks, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Canadian program just so happens to come as Trump is investigating how to reshape the nation’s immigration laws, including the H-1B visa program, which tech companies have used to import thousands of skilled foreign workers. When Trump signed an executive order on the review, he trotted out his usual anti-immigrant dog whistles, saying he would end “the theft of American prosperity” by foreigners willing to accept lower pay.
In March, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service suspended all expedited H-1B visa processing for up to six months. It claimed the suspension was part of a routine review to clear a longstanding backlog in applications, though the length of the declared period was unusual.
It’s worth noting here that, Trump’s motivations for changing the policy and the way he plans to go about it notwithstanding, the H-1B program has long been subject to criticism it does enable tech companies to lay off US workers and replace them with cheaper temps. Cutting the program is vigorously opposed by giants like Google and Facebook, and as ThinkProgress notes, rolling it back would have ramifications far beyond the tech sector.
Though it could take years for any huge changes to the program to actually roll out even if Trump resists pressure from tech companies to back down, fear of such changes has already made Canada’s streamlined process look pretty good to both employees and talent.
Hubba Inc. chief executive Ben Zifkin told the WSJ he tells potential employees, “You don’t have to stay in Canada forever, just the current presidential term.”
“A year ago, the only people I could talk to were ex-Canadians who missed home, but the talent was lacking,” he added. “This time it’s much better.”
“You’re running a startup. You’re involved in one of the most uncertain businesses of all time,” Extreme Ventures CEO Ray Sharma told the paper. “Now you’re introducing your residency as part of that uncertainty? That’s crazy.”
Whatever changes Trump makes to the program, there will likely still be tons of demand to get into the US. According to SFGate, in fiscal year 2017 the US received 236,000 petitions for just 85,000 available slots at for-profit corporations.