redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
A Canadian invasion of sorts is underway in the US, but it isn´t a military operation — rather, it´s an attempt to convince Silicon Valley tech workers frustrated with America´s immigration policies to take their talents north.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Jason Kenney, Canada’s minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, kicked off a four-day recruitment drive by offering immigrants working in the high-tech industry a new visa in an attempt to bolster his nation´s economy.
Kenney is hoping to capitalize on non-resident US workers who are becoming irritated by the country´s visa policies, and his visit comes at a time when Congress is in the midst of working on a long-awaited overhaul of the American immigration system, the wire service added.
“I think everyone knows the American system is pretty dysfunctional,” he told Matt O’Brien of MercuryNews.com on Thursday. “I’m going to the Bay Area to spread the message that Canada is open for business; we’re open for newcomers. If they qualify, we’ll give them the Canadian equivalent of a green card as soon as they arrive.”
The visa, which is being known as the “startup visa,” grants permanent Canadian residency to any budding entrepreneur who opens a business within the country´s boarders and successfully raises enough venture capital, the AP said. Kenney´s visit comes only a few days after a billboard advertising the program was erected in the southern part of San Francisco encouraging workers having difficulties with their H-1B temporary visa to relocate.
O´Brien said that Kenney will be meeting with tech executives, as well as speaking to students at Stanford University and operating the Canadian booth at the TiEcon entrepreneurship conference this weekend at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Under current US visa regulations, foreign-born tech employees may remain in the country on H1-B visas for a maximum of six years and are prohibited from changing employers.
“The Canadian perspective is they would love to re-create Silicon Valley in Canada,” Irene Bloemraad, chairperson of the Canadian studies program at the University of California, Berkeley, told MercuryNews.com. “And they recognize that under the current immigration system in the United States“¦ there are people who are having a hard time getting permanent legal status.”
Kenney´s visit “exposes broader differences between Canadian and U.S. immigration laws and philosophies — differences that could narrow if Congress passes a bipartisan Senate plan that follows the Canadian model by moving to a more skills-based admissions system,” O´Brien added. “The Senate plan would shift to a more Canadian approach in adopting a new ℠merit visa´ to award permanent U.S. residency to the highest scorers in a points system favoring those who are young, highly educated, fluent in English and working in high-demand fields.”