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Sep 12, 2022

For lots of good reasons, ‘working remotely’ has elbowed its way into being the central conversation when it comes to recruitment.

If you can get workers from anywhere, why wouldn’t you?

But while remote work is making the biggest headlines now, before terms like coronavirus and COVID-19 became a part of our everyday lexicon, the labor discussion of note was about something else: the failing H-1B program.

But now, as we start to talk about being ‘post-pandemic’, it’s even more important that we return to this topic.

The fallen gold standard

Once a gold standard in international business recruitment the H-1B program had already started to lose its luster. First, it had become expensive and risky, with an outsized benefit for America’s biggest companies at the expense of fast-growing scale-ups. Then, the Trump Administration – no fan of the tech industry in general – came down hard on immigration of all kinds.

As a result, in Q4 of 2018, 25% of new and continuing H-1B visas were rejected, whereas in 2014, just 5% of applications weren’t approved.

Could Canadian talent be the answer?

At almost the exact same time, Canada launched its own fast-track business immigration program – the Global Skills Strategy.

Meant to compete with H-1B, this program has beaten it in every possible way. It isn’t a lottery. There isn’t a maximum number of visas. The job types are flexible. The work visas can be available within two weeks. Companies can move hundreds of workers at once, if they want.

For organizations like mine – the University of Waterloo is a global top-25 computer science school and a top recruiting ground for Silicon Valley companies – it’s a godsend.

Our tech companies can now offer jobs to the world’s best tech talent and almost guarantee a work visa in no time at all. That’s a game-changer for many companies looking to attract the best minds in machine learning, artificial intelligence and data science.

It’s a big part of the reason Boston Consulting Group identified Canada as the #1 destination for global talent in 2021. Not only is Canada more attractive – it’s welcoming more immigrants as a willing host community for international talent. In 2021, the United States issued 105,000 green cards while Canada welcomed 400,000 new residents. In 2020, 63% of American hiring professionals reported that their companies were already expanding their presence in Canada.

Are talent hubs the answer?

Yes, I’m biased, but Canada’s business immigration program holds significant potential for American tech companies struggling with attracting and retaining international talent.

A few years ago, renowned business thinker Richard Florida wrote that companies in high-cost, high-competition centres were moving toward creating talent hubs in smaller cities where recruiting the talent they want at a cost that works was advantageous.

That’s what we’re seeing, but instead of a small city, it’s all of Canada and it’s global talent.

Companies can build a global talent hub anywhere in Canada. In fact, companies are now starting to call me with the explicit aim of making their new Waterloo office a “global talent hub.”

So what are the first steps for your business?

The real first step is identifying your international talent challenges. Are you having problems getting work visas for your staff? Are you having trouble renewing work visas? Are your workers having trouble getting their spouses into the country? The Canadian program solves these problems.

Next, you need to think about how international talent fits in your company strategy. Is this how you plan on growing?

If so, you can kill two birds with one stone – help accommodate existing international employees and help recruit new international employees – with one Canadian office.

The world is smaller than ever. Your company has greater access to international talent than ever before. You just need to figure out how to recruit them and how to keep them.

A global talent hub in Canada could be your answer.