Tech Talent Moves from U.S. to Create “Silicon Valley North”
Thanks to unfriendly immigration policies in the U.S. and a more welcoming approach up North, American and foreign tech ventures are heading to both Vancouver and Toronto. In fact, this movement past the U.S. towards Canada’s own second “Silicon Valley” is creating new opportunities for small startups that wouldn't otherwise have a chance in tech.
Although California remains the tech mecca of the West for now, many entrepreneurs stymied by the unfriendly and complicated U.S. immigration system are starting their high tech businesses in Canada instead. For many, even those already working in high tech in the U.S., the sought-after green card just isn't in reach despite years of hard work stateside.
This is in large part because there are too few “spaces” allotted in the system, and in part because even skilled visas require sponsorship, placing visas for entrepreneurs who wish to create startups out of reach. For others, friendly Canadian policies that favor those with excellent technical skills in particular are too attractive to pass up. And even some American companies now have satellites in Canada in order to take advantage of more friendly laws.
Facebook is one example of an American company that has an office in Vancouver. The company opened the satellite office in 2013 in order to import talent from around the world that otherwise would not be part of the Facebook team in America thanks to the shortage of available visas in the U.S. Facebook isn't the only company, either; Amazon, Bench, Electronic Arts, Hootsuite, Microsoft, and Sony have all been forced to use the same strategy.
Canadian officials know and admit that the somewhat dysfunctional American immigration system is benefitting their country's tech sector. And why not admit it? The chances of the American government remedying the situation in favor of allowing more immigrants into the country, even under the carefully regulated circumstances followed in Canada, are slim to none.
The problem for the U.S. under these conditions according to some critics is that this pattern of movement is creating a talent drain. There is already a shortage of tech talent in the U.S. that is unlikely to shrink anytime soon, and this is made worse when existing talent pools and companies move out of the country. However, many argue that it is too soon to call this a drain on tech talent. University of California at Berkeley Professor Charlyne Fothergill comments that growth of business overall is healthy for everyone and that especially in tech we should expect to see international connections being made.
In Canada, the startup visa with its promise of permanent residency is working, and Vancouver especially is experiencing an economic upswing from the tech boom—if it isn't a bubble. American proponents of a similar “startup visa” for the U.S. argue that sponsorship shouldn't be required for applicants with investors and/or capital in minimum amounts.
Meanwhile, Vancouver tech, cloud, computing, and data businesses are thriving as the Canadian government is poised to foster “the best business environment in the world” through its friendly immigration policies.
Photo: "Vancouver night 2". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vancouver_night_2.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Vancouver_night_2.jpg