The Government of Canada has been aggressively campaigning to bring in tech workers from Silicon Valley, workers who have voiced their frustration over US policies, as Congress fights to pursue the long-planned restructuring of the country’s immigration system.
Jason Kenney, Canada’s citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism minister, paid the US a four-day visit to invite start up entrepreneurs to apply for a new visa and contribute to the further development of Canada’s high-tech economy.
In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Kenney described the US system as “pretty dysfunctional,” adding that he had come to the Bay Area to tell everyone that his country welcomes qualified entrepreneurs, and is ready to give them the Canadian version of a green card upon their arrival.
The “Startup Visa” will be given to businessmen who can establish an enterprise in Canada and come up with sufficient starting capital.
Previously, a billboard featuring Canada’s characteristic red maple leaf symbol was installed in South San Francisco as part of the country’s campaign to lure tech workers to make the big leap to the north.
The billboard posed the question, “H-1B problems?” along the road leading to Silicon Valley, in reference to US skilled workers’ temporary visa.
At the US Senate, an immigration bill – the outcome of long negotiations among eight prominent legislators – is being worked out to permit an increase from 65,000 to 110,000 of qualified skilled foreign workers who will be admitted to the US via an H-1B visa.The idea is to create a Canadian equivalent of Silicon Valley, according to Irene Bloemraad, the professor-chair of UC Berkeley’s Canadian studies program. Bloemraad says people do recognize that US current immigration policies are giving them a hard time getting permanent residency status in the country.
Kenney’s trip, explains Boelmraad, aimed to help emphasize the differences between the two countries’ immigration policies. With two-thirds of US immigrants gaining their permanent status through family links, she says relatively the same number of Canadian immigrants are selected by virtue of their skills with the use of a points-based ranking system.
The current H-1B system in the US allows foreign tech workers to be employed in the country for no more than six years, and does not allow them to work for employers other than those that sponsored them.
Kenney came to meet with tech leaders and encourage them to consider applying for the new visa, supervise a Canadian booth at the TiEcon entrepreneurship conference held in Santa Clara and speak with students from Stanford University.