Highly skilled H-1B workers pivot from U.S to Canada amid visa program changes
Skilled international workers on H-1B visas in the US are now looking for job opportunities in Canada.
Thousands of highly skilled international workers holding H-1B visas in the United States are opting for job opportunities in Canada. The shift comes in the wake of changes made to the H-1B program under former President Donald Trump, which created hurdles for bringing in highly skilled immigrant talent.
"The highly educated foreign national is really at the mercy of the United States employers," emphasizes Annie Beaudoin, a former Canadian immigration officer, shedding light on the challenges faced by skilled workers in the U.S.
According to a report by CNBC, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services dealt with a staggering 758,994 eligible requests for the H-1B program. However, only 188,400 applicants were selected in the final draw for permits due to the stringent changes implemented.
Canada, seizing the opportunity, announced in July that its H-1B visa program had attracted a substantial number of international applicants, closing within 48 hours after reaching the 10,000-application limit.
Starting July 16, 2023, holders of H-1B specialty occupation visas in the U.S., along with their immediate family members, can apply to work in Canada. Successful applicants will receive an open work permit for up to three years, granting them the flexibility to work for any employer across Canada.
The United States H-1B visa program has faced scrutiny for potential abuses, prompting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take action. Measures include fraud investigations into organizations suspected of colluding to manipulate employee selection and law enforcement referrals for criminal prosecutions against violator companies.
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The H-1B visa, often dubbed the "Person in Specialty Occupation Visa," allows U.S. employers to hire qualified workers for specialized roles, including IT specialists, professors, architects, and doctors.
Criticism of the H-1B program has also surfaced domestically. Indian-American Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has vowed to abolish the program, denouncing it as "indentured servitude." Ramaswamy advocates for a meritocratic admission system, emphasizing the importance of skilled-based contributions to the country.
As skilled workers seek more welcoming opportunities, the exodus to Canada signals a potential reevaluation of immigration policies, both in the U.S. and abroad.