U.S. visa freeze could be a boon for Canada's effort to attract top talent
Donald Trump’s latest move to restrict immigration to the U.S. might wind up being a windfall for Canada.
With COVID-19 travel restrictions in place, Justin Trudeau’s plan to drive long-term growth by welcoming more and more newcomers has been sidelined. But the U.S. president’s decision this week to freeze access to certain employment visas gives Canada an opportunity to win back some of the workers it loses to America.
“The immigrants will come back in the long term once we are on other side of this crisis, but the more permanent change might be the impact on returning citizens,” Benjamin Tal, deputy chief economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said by phone from Toronto.
Both the shift toward remote work during the pandemic and the U.S. restrictions on immigration could draw more Canadians home, reversing a persistent “brain drain” effect in the northern nation, Tal said. He estimates that each year about 100,000 Canadians move abroad, with a majority entering the U.S.
And with Trump’s move likely to hit immigrants from all countries, Canada could also poach those workers for jobs in its burgeoning tech scene and other sectors.
Ottawa-based Shopify Inc. was quick to pounce on the idea. Its chief executive officer, Tobias Lutke, touted Canada as a relocation option Tuesday after Trump’s announcement a day earlier.
Tech giants have been expanding their operations in Canada’s major cities in recent years because of the country’s access to high-skilled talent.
Google announced plans this year to build new offices in Toronto, Montreal and Waterloo, Ontario by 2022. Amazon.com Inc. is also expanding its Canadian footprint, leasing space in a new Vancouver office tower and unveiling plans to build a major fulfillment center in Toronto.
“We see Canadian companies being able to access talent from all over the world very quickly whereas their U.S counterparts can’t,” said Geoff Baum, a fellow at the Lazaridis Institute at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.
“Not only are Canadian companies able to take advantage of this but you see lots of American companies who are establishing offices in Canada because they can get access to talent more easily,” he said.