Jul 15, 2020 - World

Canada poaches tech talent from the U.S.

Data: Center for Security and Emerging Technology; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Data: Center for Security and Emerging Technology; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Canada is convincing an increasing number of noncitizen American residents with tech talent to instead settle north of the border.

Why it matters: The U.S. risks losing its long-standing leadership in the tech sector as restrictive laws and a hostile political climate causes highly skilled immigrants to leave for more welcoming countries.

What's happening: In a new report, CSET research fellow Zachary Arnold analyzed the success of Canada's skilled immigration system in attracting tech and scientific talent from abroad.

  • Canada's Express Entry program prioritizes potential immigrants who score high on work experience and education, as well as other factors. Those who score above a cutoff receive fast track invitations to apply for permanent Canadian residence.
  • Arnold crunched new data and found that the number of U.S. residents receiving Express Entry invites to Canada rose 75% between 2017 and 2019, more than almost any other country.
  • The U.S. rose to third in invites in 2019, after India and Canada itself. (Noncitizen residents in Canada can use the Express Entry program to apply for permanent residency.)

Context: With the White House moving to freeze green cards — including the coveted H-1B visas used in the tech sector — Canada has pushed to attract talent across the border.

  • "If this affects your plans consider coming to Canada," Tobi Lutke, CEO of the Ottawa-based e-commerce company Shopify, tweeted last month.

The bottom line: The U.S. is accustomed to being the destination of choice for the best and the brightest, but if it closes the door to skilled immigrants, its neighbor to the north will be happy to welcome them.

Go deeper