H-1B frustrations bring renewed U.S. media interest in Canada’s immigration options

Stephen Smith, Noah Turner
Published: April 3, 2019

With the rejection rate for H-1B visa applications on the rise in the United States, highly skilled foreign workers who depend on them are turning to Canada in search of stability and new opportunities. 

Numerous American media outlets have published stories in recent days about highly skilled foreign workers living in the U.S. who have already made the move to Canada or are looking into their Canadian immigration options given the increasingly grim prospects of obtaining one of the prized, three-year work visas in the current application period, which began April 1.

One H-1B candidate told Business Insider that he's been impressed with how advanced Canada's immigration system is compared to what he's experienced in the U.S.

"It seems like it would be really favorable for someone like me. It seems like the way their system's designed has common sense," he said.

The H-1B program provides a pathway to permanent residence for highly specialized foreign workers in the U.S., many of whom work for large American tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook.

The number of applications filed each year reaches well into the hundreds of thousands and only 85,000 H-1B visas are awarded annually.

Since taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump has called for increased scrutiny of the program, which he has accused of displacing American workers and undercutting wages. 

The approval rate for H-1B applications has declined as a result, dropping by more than 10 per cent between 2015 and 2018.

Express Entry

The skilled foreign workers like those who rely on the H-1B visa are highly prized by Canada’s federal and provincial governments, which have tailored their immigration policies and programs in recent years to facilitate the entry of such workers.

Many Canadian immigration pathways select immigration candidates using points-based systems that reward education, English language proficiency and skilled work experience, among other factors, leaving many H-1B candidates well-positioned to pursue Canadian permanent residence as a result.

Canada's Express Entry system is a case in point. Introduced in 2015 to manage the federal pool of high-skilled immigration candidates, Express Entry awards points for factors including language, education, age and skilled work experience through its  Comprehensive Ranking System, or CRS.

A job offer from a Canadian employer is not required in order to be eligible for Canadian permanent residence through Express Entry.

Candidates are ranked based on their CRS scores and a set number of the highest-ranked are invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence through invitation rounds that typically take place every two weeks.

Find out if you are eligible to enter the Express Entry pool

Residents of the United States ranked third in terms of invitations issued through the Express Entry system in 2017, receiving seven per cent of the total invitations issued that year.

Given the fact only two per cent of invitations went to U.S. citizens in 2017, it is fair to conclude that a majority of the 5,820 U.S. residents invited that year were citizens of countries other than the United States.

Citizens of India led with the most invitations in 2017, receiving 32,310 — or 42 per cent — of total invitations issued that year.

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)

Canada also has a network of provincial nominee programs, or PNPs, each with a variety of streams that are tailored to local labour market priorities in its respective province or territory.

Many of PNP streams also employ points-based approaches to selecting immigration candidates that reward proficiency in English, education and skilled work experience.

Express Entry candidates with point totals lower than the cut-off scores in recent draws can improve their CRS scores dramatically with the 600 points that are awarded for a nomination for permanent residence from a Canadian province or territory.

Furthermore, many PNP streams also do not require a job offer in order to be eligible for a nomination for Canadian permanent residence.

Temporary Work Permits

There are also a number of temporary work permit options for skilled foreign workers with a job offer from a Canadian employer.

Canada's Global Talent Stream is one example of an increasingly popular work permit program that has been used to bring H-1B holders specializing in IT or STEM-related occupations to Canada on an expedited basis.

Canadian employers can obtain a work permit in as little as 10 days through the Global Talent Stream, which was introduced as a pilot program in 2017 and the Government of Canada is now moving to make permanent.

Discover your Canadian immigration options

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