For many years now, U.S. employers have increasingly looked to hire immigrant professionals with degrees in the so-called STEM fields: science; technology; engineering; and math. This is not a matter of discrimination against U.S. workers, but a natural consequence of the fact that roughly 60 percent of U.S. grad school students in STEM disciplines are foreign-born.
Meanwhile, American immigration policy has continued to ignore the needs of domestic employers, applying archaic limits on H-1B visas for skilled workers, and burdening those workers with high query rates on immigration petitions of all kinds, as well as long consular delays.
For example, according to published reports, a software engineer born in India now faces a waiting time of more than 10 years to obtain an employment-based third preference (EB-3) green card. This is not exactly a welcome wagon we are operating at the current time.
But as the U.S. limits or delays the visa and green card petitions of thousands of specialized professionals, nearby Canada is welcoming those same individuals with open arms. In fact, they are reportedly placing ads online, and in Silicon Valley area newspapers and billboards, inviting H-1B professionals and STEM students to consider Canada for “new start-up visas” and special tax treatment.
The Minister of Immigration for Canada, Jason Kenney, has issued blunt quotes on the matter, reportedly stating to the San Jose Mercury News: “As the U.S. Congress wrestles with a long-sought overhaul of America’s immigration system, the Canadian government is trying to poach talented immigrants frustrated by U.S. visa policy.” He has made a number of trips to the San Francisco Bay area to spread the message that “Canada is open for business [and] we’re open to newcomers. If they qualify, we’ll give them the equivalent of a green card as soon as they arrive.”
If the U.S. Congress is unable to move forward with badly needed immigration reforms soon, then U.S. companies and the U.S. economy will lose out on the most talented scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians in the world we are studying here in our graduate schools and then going elsewhere.