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Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy: A Magnet for U.S. High-Skilled Workers

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Thousands of high-skilled workers are leaving the U.S. for Canada due to H-1B visa uncertainties and layoffs in the tech industry.

In a surprising turn of events, more than 6,000 U.S. H-1B visa holders have migrated to Canada this year, seeking stability after mass layoffs. Annie Beaudoin, a former Canadian immigration officer, explains, “The highly educated foreign national is really at the mercy of U.S. employers.”

The H-1B visa program, designed for specialized foreign workers, has become fiercely competitive, with only 188,400 selected out of nearly 759,000 applicants in 2024. Harnoor Singh, a Microsoft software engineer, shared the stress of multiple lottery attempts, saying, “It took me three times to get accepted.”

Tech industry layoffs earlier this year, including 10,000 job cuts at Microsoft and 18,000 at Amazon, left H-1B visa holders with a tight 60-day window to secure new sponsors or face deportation.

Capitalizing on this situation, Canada launched a pilot program allowing up to 10,000 U.S. H-1B visa holders to apply for a three-year open work permit. The program, part of Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy, has issued over 6,000 work permits since October.

Shivastuti Koul, an H-1B holder laid off by Microsoft, embraced the opportunity for a Canadian work permit, emphasizing, “I wanted to make sure that if nothing pans out, I can just move.”

Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy aims to recruit global tech talent, with a 15.7% tech market growth since 2020, surpassing the U.S. at 11.4%. Frederick Anokye, a laid-off engineer, expresses a plan to move to Canada if no opportunities arise in the U.S., praising Canada as a welcoming country for immigrants.

While Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller was unavailable for comment, a spokesperson highlighted, “The immense interest in Canada’s new H1-B application stream is a strong indication of just how competitive Canada is on the global stage.”

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