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We Should All Just Go to Canada!


“We are moving!” – a popular sentiment among many progressive and Democratic-leaning individuals in 2016 used to illustrate their feelings about the election of now former President Trump. The political divisions in our country had many of our cherished artists and entertainers looking to our northern neighbor, assuming relocation to Canada would be an easy option. And to an extent, they would have been correct if they chose to follow through on their threats.

No stranger to the role immigration plays in a globalizing economy, Canada launched its flagship Express Entry program in 2015 in an effort to target and retain talent already in Canada and attract new skilled professionals from abroad. The program, which is a purely economic point and merit-based framework, has proven extremely popular amongst nations that traditionally have been infatuated with the American dream.

For example, for 2019, Express Entry had registered 332,331 applications of which 239,115 entries were eligible for consideration. Of those entries, 85,295 individuals (~35%) were invited to apply and bring their families to Canada. As a result, the end number of permanent residents added in 2019 was actually 109,595 because the Canadian program does not restrict the number of visas but rather appears to control for the base number of principal applicants in its pool.

In comparison, at the end of 2021, Express Entry had received a total of 443,004 registrations, of which 326,257 were properly filed and were eligible for consideration. Of those, 114,431 candidates (~35%) were invited to apply for permanent residence in Canada and bring their families along with them. A total of 155,810 individuals (42% higher than in 2019) were granted permanent residence under Express Entry alone as a result.

While the numbers are already admirable, we should also consider that in 2022 the total number of permanent residency applications granted across all verticals (family, humanitarian, and economic channels) exceeded 377,000. The United States, in turn, granted 740,000 permanent residency applications for the same year, more than double the numbers our northern neighbor processed. However, the number includes visa numbers that had remained unused due to the 2020 travel bans and COVID-19 restrictions. In 2019, for comparison purposes, the US system welcomed a total of 577,000 new permanent residents against 341,180 permanent residents admitted to Canada for the same time, making the gap between the two countries much smaller.

Some may say that this wide differential suggests that the US is still clearly the preferred market for global talent, but recent trends across our homeland increasingly have global talent and US employers alike considering crossing our northern border much more closely once again. For one, both employers and foreign talent are continuing to experience trouble maintaining seamless work authorization and transition between visas under the rigid H-1B lottery system.

The FY2024 lottery which was run this year is a glaring example. During this year’s registration period, USCIS received more than 750,000 eligible registrations from US companies. In comparison, in FY2023, the number of eligible registrations was slightly less than 475,000. The available H-1B visas for each fiscal year are 65,000 for those holding a bachelor’s or higher degree, and an additional 20,000, which are reserved for those holding a US master’s degree or higher. While in the US employers are fighting over 85,000 visas in total for temporary workers, Canada granted 119,825 temporary work visas in the year 2022 alone.  This substantial difference, coupled with the fact that selection rates from the H-1B lottery have been low, has now made US employers consider alternative approaches to talent retention. Many now are exploring the opportunity to register offices in Canada to transfer some of their workers out of the United States. While the workers transferred will ultimately be non-US citizens, such moves can trigger economic effects of taking job opportunities outside of the United States, resulting in lower contributions of taxes to the government, lower job creation, and potentially, transferring all those benefits to our northern neighbor.

Not only has Canada made more temporary worker visas available on an annual basis, but it has far outpaced our system when it comes to processing times. For example, a temporary worker permit application for an individual who is not currently in Canada and is applying from the United States is reported to be as little as three weeks. In comparison, an H-1B employee selected in the H-1B lottery on April 1st cannot begin employment until October 1st of each respective year and can only achieve less than three weeks of processing if the employer pays an expedite fee of $2,500 per case.

Similarly, when it comes to permanent residency, the US application process is very different based on the applicant’s country of birth. For those born outside of India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines, processing can usually take about a year or so once the appropriate preliminary steps are completed. For those born in India, the US government is still processing cases for which preliminary steps were completed in 2011, thus requiring Indian-born workers to wait often more than two decades before they can obtain a green card. Canada, on the other hand, appears to be able to process permanent residency applications under its economic immigration programs (Express Entry) in less than nine months in most cases. So, were our Hollywood celebrities onto something in 2016? It is too early to tell, but for as long as federal and local government is more preoccupied with installing floating barriers along its southern border (Texas), preventing certain foreigners from owning property in its state among other restrictions (Florida), or busy associating immigration reform with the fight on drugs (i.e. fentanyl-related bills currently on the floor in Congress), the problems our US businesses face will remain unanswered, leaving them to seek out more flexible locations for their business operations and bringing the economic influence with them.

The material contained in this article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.  An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation.  The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

Reprinted with permission from the August 17, 2023 edition of The Legal Intelligencer© 2023 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. – 877-257-3382 –

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