525,000 workers to be kept out of the U.S. . . .
On June 22, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a proclamation that suspends H-1B, H-2B, J, and L category visas to foreigners until December 31, 2020. The new policy means that approximately 525,000 skilled and seasonal workers, au pairs, and students on work-study programs will be kept out of the U.S. In the proclamation, Trump highlighted that more than 17 million American jobs have been lost due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and positioned his proclamation as responding to this "unusual threat to the employment of American workers." This week’s suspension of work visas has been criticized for its alignment with the Trump administration's broader anti-immigration stance.
A blow to Asia-based tech talent . . .
The H-1B visa program allows 85,000 graduate-level workers to work in the U.S. every year, filling gaps in the tech and other high-demand sectors. Apple, Facebook, and Google hired more than 13,000 workers through this program in 2018. Trump's visa ban especially affects workers from the Asia Pacific, who constitute a large part of the tech talent in the U.S. Three-quarters of the H-1B visas have been issued to India-born workers annually. According to CSET, a think-tank based at Georgetown University, 36 per cent of computing science Ph.D. graduates were from China and India combined, while 35 per cent were U.S. nationals. Graduates from South Korea (4 per cent), Bangladesh (2 per cent), and Taiwan (2 per cent) follow these two large groups. The CSET report also says that around 90 per cent of Ph.D. students in artificial intelligence (AI) take a job in the U.S. following graduation. Combined with the Trump administration's previous bans on Chinese researchers, the U.S. is set to lose its attractiveness as a destination for Asian tech talent.
An opportunity for Canada . . .
The latest visa ban in the U.S. presents an unprecedented opportunity for Canada to attract and retain more Asian tech talent. Anti-immigration policies in the U.S., which contrast starkly with Ottawa's open immigration policies, have further enhanced Canada's attractiveness for Asian students and workers. The number of Indian students in Canada jumped from 48,765 in 2015 to 219,855 in 2019, and the numbers for students from China (141,400), South Korea (24,180), and Vietnam (21,595) have remained strong as well. Canada has also implemented a fast-tracked visa program for skilled workers, and the Trudeau government has decided to expedite approvals for temporary foreign workers to fill employment gaps in the tech sector in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The new U.S. ban is yet another opportunity for Canada to attract and retain highly-trained Asian tech talent.