As of last month, the Canadian government reported that over 6,000 people with U.S. H-1B visas had come to Canada this year. This happened because many skilled foreign workers with H-1B visas lost their jobs and faced uncertainty.
Annie Beaudoin, who used to work in Canadian immigration, said, “Highly educated foreign individuals really depend on U.S. employers.”
The H-1B program is for well-educated and specialized foreign workers, especially in fields like technology and healthcare. Major tech companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Meta, and Apple all support thousands of applicants through this program each year.
Since its establishment in 1990, the H-1B visa has become more and more competitive. In 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received 758,994 eligible applications, but only 188,400 were chosen through a final drawing to receive an H-1B visa.
Harnoor Singh, a software engineer at Microsoft from India and an H-1B visa holder, shared, “It is very stressful. It took me three attempts to be selected in the lottery.”
Earlier this year, the tech industry faced layoffs, with Microsoft releasing 10,000 employees in January and Amazon cutting 18,000 jobs around the same time. This shake-up in the job market meant that H-1B visa holders who lost their jobs had 60 days to find a new sponsor, transfer their visa status, or risk deportation.
H-1B Visa Holders Navigate Layoffs with Canada’s Innovative Work Permit Program
Frederick Anokye, originally from Ghana, worked as a real-time defect analysis engineer at Micron and was among the H-1B holders affected by the layoffs.
Anokye shared, “I’m currently searching for jobs in the U.S. It’s challenging, especially since some companies are still letting people go.”
On July 16, Canada took advantage of the circumstances.
A pilot initiative was introduced to allow up to 10,000 U.S. H-1B visa holders to apply for a three-year open work permit in Canada. The available slots for applications were filled the following day. As of October, over 6,000 work permits have been granted by the Canadian government as U.S. H-1B visa holders cross the border.
Licensed immigration consultant Kubeir Kamal from the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants remarked, “This is unprecedented. I have never heard of a similar program in the past.”
Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy for a Secure Future
Shivastuti Koul, an H-1B visa holder from India who lost her job at Microsoft, seized the opportunity.
Koul explained, “My primary motivation was to feel secure. I wanted to ensure that if things don’t work out, I can obtain a Canadian work permit and apply for jobs in Canada before my grace period runs out. I can easily relocate.”
The initiative is part of Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy, a comprehensive plan over several years to attract the world’s top tech professionals. According to a study by CBRE, Canada’s tech market has grown by 15.7% since 2020, surpassing the 11.4% growth rate in the U.S. The study reveals that Canada now boasts 1.1 million tech workers, with Toronto and Vancouver ranking among the top 10 tech cities in the U.S. and Canada.
Expressing his plans, Anokye stated, “Currently, my intention is to try moving to Canada if I can’t find opportunities here in the U.S. soon. Canada is also a great country, especially for immigrants.”
Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller couldn’t be interviewed, but a spokesperson stated, “The significant interest in Canada’s new H1-B application stream strongly indicates Canada’s competitiveness on the global stage. As a top destination for attracting international talent, we continue to lead in this regard.”
In response to tech industry layoffs and heightened competition for H-1B visas, over 6,000 U.S. H-1B visa holders sought refuge in Canada. Facing uncertainty, skilled foreign workers turned to Canada’s innovative work permit program, a part of the Tech Talent Strategy. As they navigate challenges, the global talent landscape shifts, emphasizing Canada’s attractiveness.