As the H1-B visa program in the United States faces an uncertain future, the prospects look grim for tens of thousands of foreign workers who have pinned their hopes on the program to build their careers. For many workers in the USA, particularly H1-B workers, moving from the USA to Canada has become an attractive option.
Canada operates a progressive immigration system that welcomes newcomers through a range of temporary work permit and permanent residence programs. Because H1-B workers are typically young and educated, with skilled work experience and strong English skills, they are primed for success in Canada’s immigration system.
This guide aims to help current and potential H1-B holders, as well as other foreign workers in the US, plot a path to Canada. Prefer learning by video? Check out our video webinar with regulated Canadian immigration consultant, Jenny Perez:
H1-B: the background
For years, the H1-B has been instrumental in the careers of young professionals, particularly workers from India. The H1-B has also helped companies — notably in Silicon Valley and in the medical sector — hire talent that may be in short supply locally. Many H1-B holders have gone on to settle in the USA by obtaining a Green Card, often with the support of the same employer who originally petitioned for that worker to come to the USA on a H1-B visa.
All that began to change with the current US administration, which came into office in early 2017. Within weeks, a fast-track H1-B processing option was removed and a new “Buy American, Hire American” executive order directed that H-1B visas would be awarded only to the most skilled or highest-paid beneficiaries. Data from later in 2017 then showed that the number of denials and requests for evidence had increased significantly, a trend that continued into 2018. Only administration officials know what they future of the H1-B program may be (or maybe they don’t), but whatever happens, foreign workers in the USA have every right to feel less secure than they have in the past.
In addition to meddling with the H1-B visa, the US administration has threatened the very existence of some work permit options, such as NAFTA, and made restrictive changes to others, such as the J1.
You are what Canada wants
Canada’s immigration system is set up to support the arrival and integration of younger, highly-educated people with strong English skills and work experience in a managerial, professional or technical occupations. As a H1-B worker, you probably tick most, if not all, of these boxes, and moving from the USA to Canada may be relatively straightforward. If you happen also to speak French, or have a sibling living in Canada, or can land a job in Canada before arrival (a feat you have accomplished before in the US, don’t forget), your prospects are even better.
Canada wants workers who can help to alleviate labour shortages across the country, particular in the IT/tech sector. As more Canadians retire and birthrates stagnate, Canada is looking to international talent to come and be a part of something special here. The attitude to immigrants from the government, employers and communities is broadly welcoming.
Moreover, you can wave goodbye to slow, indeterminate immigration processing. Canada’s flagship immigration system, known as Express Entry, provides exactly that — a way to be living and working in Canada as a permanent resident within a few months of beginning the process. And if you want to move to Canada from the USA even sooner, there may be a way to do that; the Global Talent Stream provides a two-week processing standard for eligible applicants coming to Canada on a work permit, and other temporary work permit options may also be available depending on your situation.