Two weeks: That’s how quickly a foreign technology worker in Silicon Valley can get an employment permit from Canada. In the U.S., that process takes months.
As the administration of President Donald Trump has increased scrutiny of H-1B visasfor skilled foreign workers and plans to ban their spouses from holding jobs in the U.S., Canada has been moving aggressively to suck top foreign talent out of Silicon Valley and other technology-rich regions of the U.S.
Former Bay Area software developer and Indian citizen Shobhit Khandelwal has already moved to Toronto. He came to work for note-taking app firm Evernote in Redwood City in February 2017, with a master’s in operations research from Columbia University, experience at Citibank and e-commerce company Jet.com, and an H-1B visa. Eighteen months later, he left.
“I wanted to work on my own startup and I didn’t want to wait another 20 years or 30 years to get a green card,” said Khandelwal, 28, who acknowledged that the uncertain climate for immigrants in the U.S. also played a role in his decision. “I thought about, if I do a startup (in the U.S.), if I can’t get the right kind of talent, how can I build a company?”
Rather than simply get a work permit, Khandelwal opted to obtain permanent residence in Canada — the equivalent of a U.S. green card. It took about six months. In the U.S., Indian H-1B workers like him wait years, if not decades, for a green card. Later this month, Khandelwal plans to launch his startup’s artificial-intelligence-based parking-technology product.
“I don’t have to worry about my visa, I don’t have to worry about am I going to be able to come back in if I leave the country,” he said.
The only advantage of Bay Area is its people. Engineers are people. VC’s are people. Managers are people. Bay Area succeeded despite its high housing costs, high taxes and bad commute. We really have nothing going for us except our people.
If we let this stupid immigration situation go on for another 10 years I am afraid we will see a tech center rivaling SV up north in Canada. And signs are that things will get even worse. There was serious debate at the White House about restricting Chinese students coming here for college and grad school. We are already tightening Chinese investment in American tech. I recently read an article saying the Chinese VC money is the patient money, willing to invest in long timeframe projects like quantum computing. Not just another social or dating app. If we don’t let those money in these startups may well have no choice but to set up shop in another country.