Canadian government receives overwhelming response to new work permit for H-1B visa holders from US

Image has been used for representational purpose only. , Photo Credit: The Hindu

Indian professionals are expected to benefit from the Canadian government’s decision to allow 10,000 H-1B visa holders in the US to come and work in the country, with the plan meeting its target within the first day.

The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire thousands of employees every year from countries like India and China.

The new work permit for H-1B visa holders officially opened for applications on July 16.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) now says applicants can no longer apply for the scheme as it has been discontinued.

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“We reached the threshold of 10,000 applications for this initiative on July 17, 2023,” the IRCC said on its website. The message on the IRCC applicant portal also says the same thing.

“The temporary public policy for H-1B visa holders is now closed. The admission limit of 10,000 primary applicants has been reached and no additional applications are being accepted,” the portal said.

Canada, which hopes to become a world leader in various emerging technologies, announced the plan last month and is expected to attract professionals affected by mass layoffs by US tech giants.

The program will also provide study or work permits for their family members.

“We are excited about the ambitious goals we have set in immigration because they are not just about numbers – they are strategic. With Canada’s first Immigration Tech Talent Strategy, we are targeting newcomers who can help establish Canada as a world leader in a variety of emerging technologies,” Sean Fraser, Canada’s minister for immigration, refugees and citizenship, said last month when announcing the plan.

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Applicants accepted to the new program will receive an open work permit for up to three years, meaning they will be able to work for almost any employer anywhere in Canada. Their spouses and dependents will also be eligible to apply for a temporary resident visa with a work or study permit as required, the release said.

Tech companies recruited heavily during the pandemic but since then started laying off people in large numbers. Many H-1B visa holders are struggling to find new jobs before being forced to leave the US, reports the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Thousands of highly skilled foreign-origin workers, including Indians, have lost their jobs in the US due to a series of recent layoffs at companies such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon. According to US media reports, around 200,000 IT workers have been laid off since November last year.

Industry insiders say 30 to 40% of them are Indian IT professionals, a sizeable number of whom are on H-1B and L1 visas.

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The US government issues 65,000 H-1B visas every year. The visa lasts for three years and can be renewed for another three years.

According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, 72.6% of H-1B petitions approved in FY 2022 were for beneficiaries whose country of birth was India.

In the last fiscal year, about 74.1% of Indians received H-1B visas out of the total approved in FY2021.

Meanwhile, the Migration Policy Institute wrote in a commentary that Canada’s new visa policy towards H-1Bs cleverly exploits weaknesses in the US system: offering work and study permits for spouses and other family members and The prospect of a sustainable future.

Canada’s new policy is highly unusual in explicitly targeting visa holders in another country. But the tech talent strategy’s overall goals fit a broader trend of countries that focus themselves on what their “competitors” are doing in order to attract and retain talent, wrote the authors from the Washington-based think-tank.