Canada has launched a bid to attract techies working in the USA on the notorious H-1B visa, by offering them the chance to move north.

The offer, announced on Wednesday as part of the nation’s first ever tech talent strategy, means H-1B visa holders can move to Canada without having a job waiting for them.

The H-1B visa is contentious in the USA. Its purpose is to attract skilled people whose talents are in short supply stateside, thus adding flexibility to the economy, but the visa is believed to be widely abused – by employers who use it to find employees willing to work for less than their American peers.

But the visa is vey popular in India – one of the main sources of H-1B applicants. Indeed it’s so popular that the Biden Administration last week announced moderate reforms to the program during the state visit by Indian prime minster Narendra Modi.

The H-1B also made news early in 2023 amid mass layoffs in the tech sector, because visa holders who don’t have jobs have just 90 days to leave the Land of the Free.

Canada has clearly spotted an opportunity to nab some talent that needs a bolt-hole – and can get that talent safe in the knowledge that its southern neighbor has vetted H-1B holders, and they already have some experience of working in North America.

Canada has created 10,000 places for H-1B holders, which must be filled within a year as of July 16. The work permits issued under the program last three years.

The talent acquisition plan also includes:

  • STEM-specific categories for the Express Enty program targeting skilled workers;
  • Promotions to attract digital nomads;
  • Visas that make it easier for workers to move to Canada to work at startups other than their own companies;
  • The development of an “Innovation Stream” offering five-year work permits for those with skills in certain occupations, or who will work for businesses contributing the Canada’s industrial innovation goals.

The Great White North is also keen on growing more local talent.

Skilled people – especially techies – are in short supply everywhere. Canada’s revamped talent acquisition program is therefore not unusual, but is doubtless designed with the hope of giving it an edge.

One audience the strategy doesn’t explicitly address is Russians. Hundreds of thousands of skilled techies are thought to have fled Russia – either to avoid conscription, or just to seek greener pastures in light of economic sanctions. ®

Read More