The H-1B visa is in turmoil right now.
A cornerstone of the American tech industry, changes in government policy have hindered the H-1B visa program in recent years as rejections increased and the process became more expensive and less certain. The Trump Administration has now moved to suspend the entry of foreign nationals on H-1B visas – as well as H-2B, L and J visas – with potential plans to force long-time holders out of the country.
Companies across the United States are now looking to Canada as the best option for hosting teams of top talent. Those with offices in Canada have a distinct advantage of making this pivot as they can begin transferring global talent without delay through our renowned business-friendly immigration programs.
Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t already here – expansion into Canada isn’t necessarily a years-long endeavour. With the appropriate support and guidance, American companies (and foreign companies with offices in the US) can open a new office in Canada within months, if necessary.
For a company looking to retain global talent while maintaining operations, there are a handful of simple, but required, steps if you intend to move quickly.
Here are five important steps for moving your H-1B workforce to Canada:
1. Connect with an economic development expert
It may sound self-serving, but the best way to move quickly during an expansion is to connect with an investment attraction organization. Waterloo EDC provides a one-stop, complimentary concierge service that helps companies develop a custom expansion plan, connect with experts and business leaders, find real estate and navigate government immigration and funding programs.
It’s good to have experience on your side and in the last five years we’ve helped businesses invest more than $800 million in Waterloo.
2. Create a plan for your Canadian expansion
If you’re reading this article it’s probably because your company is interested in tapping into Canada’s political/economic/social stability and business-friendly immigration programs. What does that expansion look like? We can help you map out a plan – how big the initial team is, how big the team will become, the type of space you’ll need, etc.
We have ideas. We also have examples – there are tons of American companies growing in Waterloo, including Square, Google, McAfee, Insticator, Carta, Oracle NetSuite and many more. They all came here in different ways. You can model your expansion on their successful experiences.
3. Connect with the experts
Once you have an idea for your expansion, our team can help your company connect with the legal, tax and immigration experts who will make the process of expansion easier. To tap into Canada’s immigration programs you’ll need to establish an entity in Canada and have a Canadian bank account.
As for immigration, while the Global Talent Stream program tends to get the headlines, there are a wide variety of programs that may simplify the process, speed it up or allow for different types of immigration. For example, some programs help companies get work visas for specialized talent quickly – within two weeks – and others specialize in helping move large groups of employees to Canada all at once. For companies looking to use Canada as a base for international recruiting, the former program is a useful tool, but for those looking to shelter employees from challenging American policies the latter is probably the right option. An experienced immigration lawyer will know for sure.
4. Establish your Canadian office
With all of the legal and financial boxes checked, the next step is finding the right real estate for your expansion needs. Are you looking for a large-scale office? Do you want to start in a shared space? Your expansion plan will guide your choice, and the Waterloo EDC team can help you find real estate that fits the bill. Waterloo has a wide array of options – there’s room here for your success.
5. Bring H-1B talent to Canada through our business-friendly immigration programs
Last but not least, bring in the talent. The Waterloo EDC team – along with your immigration lawyer – will assist with government applications. Some programs, like the Global Talent Stream, require a referral, but no fear: Waterloo EDC is an official referral partner. Once your expansion is off and running, we’ll introduce you to our business retention counterparts who will become your first point of contact for issues, but we’ll always be ready to help with further expansion.
Do you want to take the first step?
We’re here to help your company grow and succeed. Our experts can help you build a custom expansion plan, connect with experts, find the right real estate and get top global talent into Canada. But first, let's just have a conversation.