Last Updated on March 15, 2018
February 3, 2017 – Technology companies have placed themselves at the forefront of the battle against Donald Trump’s crackdown on U.S. immigration.
Canada looks set to be the chief beneficiary – with the possibility of major firms like Amazon and Google moving large parts of their operations here as immigration worries continue south of the border.
And Canada’s homegrown technology industry – including household names like Shopify and Hootsuite – are also set to benefit from a swathe of the best and brightest talent looking to move from the U.S., or switching their focus away from America because of Trump’s controversial policies.
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Already, Amazon is doing what it can to help the legal battle against the Trump administration, while Google took the step of recalling its staff from all over the world in the wake of the immigration crackdown.
While Canada’s politicians, notably Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and new Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, have been strong with words since Trump signed his executive order, there has been little in the way of policy.
The federal government is cautious because of the looming renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump wants to rewrite in favour of the U.S.
Thousands of Canadian technology companies signed an open letter to the Canadian government urging them to create a special visa specifically aimed at high-skilled immigrants from the seven countries Trump has banned.
The good news is that a directly applicable program is already on the way in the shape of the Global Skills Visa, aimed at bringing in high-skilled foreign workers with just a two-week processing time.
The planned visa will also see the creation of a 30-day work permit that can be spread across a year, meaning companies can bring in workers for short stints without the need to apply for new paperwork each time.
Trump signed an executive order on Friday, January 27 2017 that placed a temporary ban on entry to the U.S. for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The 90-day ban expires on April 27, 2017 with a view to giving time for the Trump administration to set up its ‘extreme vetting’ procedure.
The order also blocked all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, and blocked the entry of refugees from Syria indefinitely. It cut by more than half the number of refugees the U.S. plans to accept in 2017, from 110,000 to 50,000. The order excluded officials with diplomatic credentials.
Trudeau led Canada’s reaction, prompting headlines around the world with a tweet which read: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcometoCanada.”
Then Hussen said those stranded at the Canadian border would be given temporary residence.
Canada’s mayors and provincial politicians have been outspoken in their criticism.
Canadian technology executives say foreign talent is now far more likely to look to Canada over the U.S., with some saying they are already fielding calls from individuals looking to move north.
Individuals are not the only ones looking to move. Major international corporations are now considering Canada as a better place to grow their businesses instead of the U.S.
The uncertainty created by Trump has these companies looking for a more stable base for their business.
Microsoft already has a significant presence in Vancouver, built because of the ongoing struggle to bring in foreign workers under the U.S. immigration process.
Major technology and medical research firms were already seriously looking here before the Trump ban – now they are on the verge of making the move.
Canada is already home to established bases for several of the major U.S. Silicon Valley giants.
Google has a staff of 900, up from 40 in 2006, the majority comprising of engineers.
Amazon is also always growing its Canadian software development wing, with 500 staff in Vancouver and 400 in Toronto, not to mention a recently-opened Ottawa office.
As recently as October, Thomson Reuters revealed its plan to create 400 high-skilled positions in Toronto with a new downtown technology centre.
In terms of bold policy action against the U.S. and Trump, Canada appears to have its hands tied because of NAFTA. But there appear to be immigration policy-driven ways it can not only help those stranded by the immigration ban, but also benefit its own business community.
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