Canada as an H-1B Alternative


Securing and renewing US work visas has become increasingly difficult for many talented foreign technology workers seeking opportunities in the US. In last year’s H-1B visa lottery, USCIS received 201,011 petitions, from which only 85,000 visas were issued. With this year’s lottery changing to an online registration process requiring minimal upfront paperwork and a modest registration fee of only $10, it is reasonable to expect that there will be many more petitioners this year, while the number of H-1B visas issued will remain the same. Even for those who are successful in the H-1B lottery, considerable uncertainty remains, with the number of Requests for Evidence from USCIS almost doubling since 2017. Those already working in the US on a STEM OPT visa, who have been previously unsuccessful in the H-1B lottery and are now facing their last opportunity at obtaining the required visa to remain in the US, are arguably in the most difficult position.

Securing temporary work authorization is just the first of a number of hurdles that foreign nationals must overcome if they plan on making the US their permanent home. A critical step in the process is securing a green card. For individuals from certain countries, this is often more of a hope than an expectation given unpredictable wait times. For example, an Indian national new to the green card application process could expect to wait over 50 years, according to a recent article in the Washington Post. Whether it is an intended consequence or not, often the end result for those unsuccessful in securing either a US work visa or green card is that they must make a difficult choice: return home, or seek new opportunities in a new country.

America’s neighbor to the north, Canada, is taking a different approach to immigration. The country has relied on immigrants for population and economic growth since its founding. Recent decades have shown an even more open approach, based primarily on furthering Canada’s economic goals. A landmark change to Canada’s immigration policy came in 1967, when a points-based system was implemented to rank potential immigrants for eligibility. Critically, race, nationality, and pure luck are not factors in this new system, which instead focuses on skills, education, and language proficiency. Building on this in recent years is Canada’s Global Talent Stream program, which was put into effect as a pilot in 2017 and made permanent in 2019. Recognizing a domestic shortage of certain types of high-skilled workers such as software engineers, the Canadian government program enables employers to help individuals move to Canada under expedited timelines. Generally, candidates eligible for this program are those with experience in software, digital design, mathematics/statistics, and other technology-related fields. As long as a prospective employer can substantiate the need for the foreign worker and that the additional employee will benefit the national economy, immigration can proceed on an accelerated timeline. A Canadian work permit under the Global Talent Stream can be secured in as little as four to six weeks, while permanent residency can be obtained in six to eight months, full Canadian citizenship is possible in approximately three and a half years (the same amount of time as a typical H-1B cycle).

It is important to note that this open and welcoming approach is just as important to the average Canadian citizen as it is to the decision makers in government. Based on a recent survey from the Environics Institute, 80% of Canadians believe that immigration has a positive impact on the economy of Canada. Not only are Canadians welcoming towards newcomers, many of Canada’s cities consistently rank as the most liveable in the world, according to the Economist’s Liveability Index. In 2019, Canada boasted three cities in the top ten: Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver. The deciding criteria in the study were stability, healthcare, culture, environment, education, infrastructure, and cost of living. For its receptiveness to immigrants, stability, affordability, proximity to the US, time zone congruence, similar business culture, and exceptional public services, Canada has proven itself as a viable and attractive alternative for those who are seeking a way to build a future in North America. The country has a long history of welcoming immigrants, which is not expected to change any time soon.

About The Author

Irfhan Rawji is a Director at the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, an advisor to the Privy Council Office of the Government of Canada, and the Founder & CEO of MobSquad. MobSquad solves the significant and growing technology talent shortage faced by US-based start-ups and scale-ups by enabling its clients to quickly have a turnkey "virtual" Canadian subsidiary. MobSquad ensures software engineers with US work visa challenges remain working with their current company, but nearshore from Canada. This is accomplished via MobSquad's unique partnership with the Canadian Government, enabling work visas to be issued for software engineers and their respective families within four to six weeks, permanent residency (a Canadian green card) within six to eight months, and Canadian citizenship in three and a half years. Additionally, MobSquad has unfettered access to top-tier global talent which it relocates to Canada and pairs with clients on an exclusive, long-term basis. If you or your clients are seeking an alternative solution in the face of an increasingly difficult US work visa environment, contact MobSquad today! For more information, please visit or e-mail

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