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Canada immigration minister Jason Kenney to visit TiEcon 2013 conference

world Updated: May 16, 2013 19:42 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
Jason Kenney

As Canada’s minister for citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism Jason Kenney heads to California’s Silicon Valley for four days, pushing the country’s new Startup Visa programme, he will make an appearance at TiECon 2013, the annual conference of The Indus Entrepreneurs, dominated by tech pioneers of Indian origin.

Minister Kenney will arrive in Silicon Valley on Friday, and will even be present at a Canadian government booth at the Santa Clara convention venue for TiECon, as part of an attempt to poach entrepreneurial talent in the tech sector away from the United States.

In an interview with the Hindustan Times, the minister said, “I think it’s no secret that many of the bright young people (in America) on short term work permits, are of Asian origin and more specifically of Indian origin.”

The Canadian campaign comes amid political logjam over immigration reform in the United States. Interestingly, the minister will also inaugurate a billboard on a highway in California’s Bay Area, connecting Silicon Valley to San Francisco. That billboard features a clear message: “H1B Problems? Pivot to Canada.”

On the purpose of the visit, Kenney said, “Our idea is to go down there, and say to many of these young people: If you would like to start your company in North America and stay on on a permanent basis, Canada is open for you.”

He emphasized that the Canadian Startup visa programme, which opened in April, was different from similar efforts in Australia and the United Kingdom in the sense that it offered permanent residency to those who qualified. Among the required qualifications are that the applicant entrepreneurs have venture funding from a recognized Canadian group and an adequate knowledge of English or French.

While the minister stressed the Canadian Government did not target immigrants by their country of origin, he also said of the Startup visa, “It will obviously end up attracting a lot of people of Indian origin.”

Though Silicon Valley was the “obvious initial target for us to focus on”, Kenney clarified that the new visa was open to applicants from across the world, including, certainly, India.

Ironically, the idea for the visa originated with the Canadian venture capital industry observing movement in the US Congress in recent years to create an American startup visa. That effort has yet to succeed. The industry then promoted the concept in Canada. And the Canadian Government was convinced: “It made a great deal of sense when we studied it - that we should have a specific way to facilitate the immigration of brilliant people who have solid startup business plans,” said Kenney. The new programme has been undertaken on a pilot basis for five years and will be reviewed for its effectiveness.

The minister also said that the Canadian consulate in Bangalore, scheduled to open in September, will feature a “major immigration office.”