Canadian Law Group

Wanted: U.S. Tech Workers in Canada

By Veronique Malka

Canadian tech companies are thriving in 2018, standing at the frontline of global innovation. They may be headed towards replacing the United States as the #1 country in technological and scientific advancements. We are seeing a significant increase of U.S. scientists and technologists applying for jobs in Canada, especially in Toronto, where the MaRS Discovery District, an enormous startup incubator, is quartered in the middle of the city. This unprecedented wave of immigration applications coming from highly skilled Americans working in the STEM field could be a sign that President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, which focus on restricting immigration of talented foreigners, are barring the breadth of innovators in the American tech hub.

A survey conducted by MaRS Discovery District is at the center of this observation. The survey included 55 tech companies based in the Toronto region that receive over $1 million CAD in annual revenue.

The study showed the following:

  • 55% of companies saw an increase of international applicants in 2017 than in 2016, and many reported that this increase was of at least 50-100%;
  • 45% of companies hired international applicants in 2017;
  • Some companies saw as much as a 300% increase in general applicants, year over year;
  • The top jobs for international applicants included engineering, sales, marketing, data scientists, operations, and c-suite;
  • 82% of companies reported hiring applicants coming from the United States.

The Canadian companies surveyed in the MaRS study are also hiring from India (55%), China (36%), Brazil (27%), and the UK (14%).

The companies are citing the new Canadian application stream, Global Skills Strategy, as one of the main influencing factors for their increase in international hires. The Global Skills Strategy stream allows foreign nationals working in very specific fields found in the Global Talent Occupations List to come to Canada on a work permit. This differs from the Skilled Workers stream of the Express Entry system, as it ensures the following: two-week processing, and work permit exemptions. The departmental staff also dedicates itself to a high quality service channel, aiming to guide employers through their specific immigration needs.

MaRS CEO Yung Wu, however, strongly believes that the U.S. immigration policies are also firmly affecting the wave of American tech workers in Canada: “For the first time in my life, the North to South brain drain is flowing in the opposite direction, top talent will go where they can work with the best and make the biggest impact”, he states, “and Canada has emerged as the obvious destination.”

We hope to see more highly skilled workers from the U.S. and around the globe make their way up North to further innovation in the Canadian tech market, and throughout the world.

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