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WHY CANADA MAY STILL BE BETTER THAN BIDEN’S IMMIGRATION PLAN FOR TECH H-1B & OPT WORKERS.

President Joe Biden wasted no time getting to work dismantling Trump-era immigration policies. Just hours after his inauguration, Biden signed several executive orders – one that extends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for another four years, another that overturned the travel bans on largely Muslim-majority countries, and a few others more recently. 

In addition to these executive orders, the Biden administration plans to provide 11 million undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship that includes an eight-year waiting period. Biden’s planned pathway would give those living in the US without legal status five years of temporary status. They will also have the opportunity to earn a green card if they meet requirements like passing a background check and paying taxes.

And that’s not all.

Biden’s Department of Homeland Security announced that it would stop deportations for certain noncitizens in the US for 100 days, and it would stop enrollments in the “remain in Mexico” program — also called the Migrant Protection Protocols policy — which required asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for American court hearings.

Biden is off to an aggressive start on family-based and humanitarian immigration – these first executive orders have even been praised by the business and tech community.

But can we expect to see major business immigration reforms in the coming months too?

H-1B challenges may still exist for some time, even with Biden’s immigration plan

President Biden seems to be ushering in a new phase of US immigration, one that will hopefully be more fair and open in the coming years. But some of the challenges and frustrations that have surrounded business immigration — particularly H-1B visas — may remain for the foreseeable future.

Last summer, former President Trump threw a wrench in the US immigration system by suspending a number of visa programs, including the H-1B visa, which many US tech companies use to recruit talented employees from overseas. Massive American tech companies — like Apple and Google — have argued in the past that comprehensive immigration reform and improving visas for high-skilled workers would benefit the US economy. But the government has been slow to respond.

Biden’s flurry of immigration actions is a good sign that things are on the up-and-up in the US, but H-1B holders and hopefuls shouldn’t get their hopes up. It looks like there are still long wait times for permanent residency for H-1B holders from countries like India and China and that the H-1B cap will remain, and there will be other hurdles to overcome like a recent Department of Labor (DOL) wage priority rule change and a new H-1B filing requirement that, while up in the air given the new administration, add layers of complexity and confusion.

The controversial wage rule reissued by DOL was designed to, effectively, price H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants out of the U.S. labor market by making it almost prohibitively expensive to hire them. 

To further complicate the H-1B process, DOL issued additional guidance saying that US companies that hire H-1B visa workers for contracted work must now also petition for labor certification with the Department of Labor, along with the main sponsoring company. This means that H-1B contract workers now have to have two companies file an H-1B visa petition for them, even though they will be hired by just one of them and contracted out to the other.

Long story short: the H-1B visa remains fraught with issues, and while the Biden administration is fighting to reverse these last-minute challenges and otherwise get the visa back on track, H-1B visa holders and  hopefuls should have a plan B.

And that plan B should be Canada.

H-1B and STEM OPT workers can still get into Canada easily, quickly, and find a tech job!

In an effort to bolster its economy, Canada announced last year that it would increase its immigration targets. Canada hopes to bring 401,000 new permanent residents into the country this year alone! The last time Canada attracted more than 400,000 people in one year was in the early 1900s. Canada hopes that these big immigration numbers will fill jobs in sectors that have been growing but have had a hard time filling roles due to the COVID-19 pandemic closed borders and slowed new arrivals.

Talented tech workers will be happy to hear that Canada’s tech industry is booming, in part, at least the past four years, thanks to America’s strict immigration policy. As the Trump administration made it more difficult for high-skilled workers to get visas, Canada has been making it easier for tech workers to immigrate there. How hard has it been to get a work visa in America? In 2015, 92% of new H-1B visa applications were approved, but recently the approval rate dipped to only 75%. 

Fortunately, those facing possible H-1B rejection or are just tired of being in limbo and waiting for their green cards have a stellar alternative just north of the US — Canada.

Canada has cemented its reputation as immigrant-friendly with immigration pathways like Provincial Nominee Program, Intra-Company Transfer, and the Global Talent Stream that are tempting draws for tech workers. Just look at a city like Toronto — which saw the biggest growth in technology jobs of any North American city over the past five years — and it’s clear that Canada is winning the global race for tech talent.

Tech workers aren’t the only ones feeling north — big American tech firms like Google, Microsoft, Intel, and Uber have opened or plan to open new offices in Canada

The American tech industry has long relied on a steady stream of talented folks from places like China and India, and the H-1B visa was an important way to ensure that those workers could keep the tech industry humming and growing. But the H-1B visa is also expensive and slow, and after it got worse over Trump’s presidency, is it worth waiting to see how long it will take to improve?

Yes president Biden is taking impressive steps to improve the American immigration system, but skilled tech workers in the US on Optional Practical Training (OPT) and H-1B can still fare better in Canada. This is especially true for those workers who are interested in getting permanent residency and ultimately settling down.

PathtoCanada can help you navigate Canada’s immigration system

If you want a little help navigating Canada’s immigration pathways, that’s what we’re here for.

Path to Canada helps foreign-born tech workers explore Canadian jobs and connects them with Canadian tech companies willing to sponsor them. We also help Canadian tech companies find experienced technical talent who are seeking to move permanently to Canada. We pre-qualify applicants so you only interview the very best global talent. 

Are you looking for a tech job in Canada or are you a Canadian company seeking qualified candidates? Visit our website to learn more about how we can help you, or join our database of qualified candidates seeking to move to Canada!

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