Canada eyes Silicon Valley in its push for new immigrants

Aug 23, 2023, 6:41am EDT
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives ahead of a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, July 26, 2023. REUTERS/Blair Gable
REUTERS/Blair Gable
North America
Jenna Moon/

Canada is hoping to attract highly-skilled immigrants to bolster its economy — including poaching workers from Silicon Valley. Last month the country launched a three-year work permit to anyone holding a U.S. H-1B visa, commonly used by employees in the tech sector, drawing thousands of applications.

Canada's immigration system moves faster than the U.S.'s, and allows more than four times as many migrants into the country on a per-capita basis than its southern neighbor. The Liberal government has boosted immigration by 40% over the past five years, part of a broader goal to bolster the country's economy. Alongside pursuing H-1B visa holders, Canada is also fast-tracking visas for other skilled workers, including in health care, tech, and the trades.1

The program reached its 10,000-application threshold within 48 hours when it opened in July. While that means no new applicants can apply at this point, some analysts think the government will offer the permit again after it determines how many visa holders actually entered the country to work. "Once [the immigration ministry] learn the numbers and have a feel for how many will take up the opportunity, they can commit to the next steps," David Crawford, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, told Forbes.2

Countries around the world are competing with each other to draw in skilled labor. Canada's ratio of workers to retirees is expected to hit two-to-one by 2035, the Financial Times reported earlier this year, and that is among the factors driving its push for new immigrants. It's not alone: Germany, the U.K., and Australia are all vying for skilled immigrants. A post-pandemic labor shortage is part of the drive, as is a coming demographic crisis driven in part by a falling fertility rate.3