Canadian vs. US Opportunities For Foreign Tech Professionals – Which One Wins?

February 27, 2020

Software developers, hardware engineers, data scientists and many other tech-related professionals have always sought after opportunities in the US, particularly in cities like San Francisco and New York. But if you’re a foreign-born technology professional, it’s more difficult than ever to get a job in the US.

From constant changes and added restrictions in US immigration law since 2017 under the Trump administration to a rise in overall anti-immigrant sentiment, tech professionals are starting to look for opportunities elsewhere. Specifically Canada.

Since 2017, Canada has launched several new immigration programs, including Global Talent Stream, meant to attract top global talent and make it easier for Canadian companies to fill science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) job vacancies.

But the question still remains: is there really as much opportunity in Canada for tech workers as there is in the US?

Let’s look at the numbers

Let’s start by looking at the numbers. According to a June 2019 CNBC report, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there are over 700,000 unfilled IT jobs in the US. They also reported that staffing company Robert Half survey revealed that 87% of the technology leaders surveyed “say it’s challenging to find IT talent in their area.”

With this many open jobs today, one would think that the US would be clamoring for tech talent from around the world.

But US immigration stats and news say otherwise. The H-1B visa, which is the most popular temporary work visa for foreign tech talent, has seen a high number of denials and requests for evidence, increased fees, and new systems put in place resulting in confusion on the part of employers, immigration lawyers and foreign candidates.

So yes, there seem to be a lot of jobs in the US, but there seem to be few job opportunities for foreign-born tech workers than ever before.

Now let’s look at Canada. It was tough to find total IT job vacancy statistics for Canada, but that’s OK – we can gauge employment opportunity in Canada for foreign-born tech workers in other ways. Keep in mind, too, that Canada’s population is an estimated 35,881,659, while the US is 329,256,465 – that’s one tenth the size.

First, according to Global News, in January 2020 alone, Canada added 34,500 jobs after a similar increase in December 2019. So jobs openings are increasing.

More importantly, however, is Canada’s work visa process. In 2017, at the same time the US started making it harder and harder to move to the US for work, Canada launched the Global Skills Strategy which, among other things, made it possible for companies to register specific STEM job openings and thereby take advantage of extremely fast visa processing times for qualified, foreign-born tech talent.

So while in the US an H-1B visa can take anywhere from 3-6 months if not longer, a similar visa type into Canada can take just a few weeks.

What’s more, while getting permanent residence can literally be a decades-long process in the US, Canada makes it super easy, allowing qualified foreign-born workers to almost immediately apply for permanent residency and, in many cases, apply for citizenship after just five years.

What does this have to do with employment opportunity? Everything. If you’re moving your entire life across the globe, you want to make sure that the opportunity is solid from multiple angles. Yes the number of job openings matter, but that’s a vanity metric if the job openings are either not accessible to you or come with conditions such as decades-long wait times to become a permanent resident and never-ending and expensive legal battles.

Opportunities in Canada vs. the US

Ok, but what kind of jobs are available in both countries?

To start with the US, everyone knows about Silicon Valley – it kind of goes without saying. And of course there are other big tech hubs such as Seattle, New York, Austin and more.

But Canada has its own tech hubs.

First on the list is Toronto. Voted #3 city in North America for tech talent by CBRE, “Toronto’s pool of tech talent grew at the fastest pace of all 50 markets measured, adding an eye-popping 80,100 tech jobs in the past five years, a 54 per cent increase. Toronto nearly equaled the number of tech jobs created in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2013.”

But other Canadian cities are on the rise as well. According to the same CBRE report, “Vancouver rose 13 spots to come in at No. 12, which was the greatest year-over-year improvement of any North American market. Vancouver benefited from tech-centric post-secondary schools such as the BC Institute of Technology and University of British Columbia. Montreal ranked No. 13 and is also the most cost effective of all 50 tech markets. Ottawa rounds out the Canadian markets in the Tech Talent ranking, at No. 19.”

Most recently, Canada-based Shopify announced a new Vancouver office that will add 1,000 jobs, mostly in research and development. Google plans to open new offices in Toronto, Montreal and Kitchener, which will enable them to grow their Canadian workforce from today’s 1,500 up to 5,000.

Canada-based startups are booming too. In Q3 2019, Canadian-based VCs invested more than $2B, which was the highest-ever investment amount in Canadian history.

You get the point. Now, on with the verdict.

Which one wins?

If it’s not clear by now, Canada comes out on top as being the place with more and better opportunities for foreign-born tech workers.

Let’s recap:

  • Canada is creating tens of thousands of new jobs per month
  • Canada’s immigration policies are incredibly favorable toward tech professionals
  • Canadian cities are booming, attracting growth and expansion by the world’s leading tech companies
  • Canadian VC dollars are up and to the right.

All this against the backdrop of a US job market that is making it harder and harder for even the most talented foreign workers to come work, and more importantly settle, in the US.

We’re passionate about getting tech workers connected with high quality jobs in Canada, get them the immigration support they need, and get them started working as soon as possible. In short, we’re passionate about building a Path to Canada.

So if you’re a technology worker and want to learn more about moving to Canada, check us out!