U.S. based employers face H-1B issues that can undermine their ability to obtain or extend employment authorizations for foreign skilled candidates or valued employees. For example, holders of H-1Bs may reach the six year time limit allowed under H-1B status. The cap of 65,000 new H-1Bs each year means many companies are not able to recruit the foreign skilled workers that they require. And those who employ foreign graduates under a one year F-1 visa may face a gap during which the person cannot work between the end of the F-1 visa and the October 1 start date for new H-1B work visas - or worse, face losing the F-1 holder if the person cannot be transitioned to an H-1B or some other work visa.

U.S. employers with Canadian operations may be able to use Canada's more facilitative work permit system to address some of these H-1B issues. Canada's more favourable work permit and immigration environment was cited as one reason that Microsoft announced last summer that it would open a software development centre in Vancouver.

Canada has a work permit regime with a number of categories and programs that can be utilized. These include an intra-company transferee category, a software developer category and some provincial programs that facilitate the entry of skilled workers. If these categories are not available, it is still possible to apply for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) which, if successful, will lead to a work permit. An overview of some of the work permit options is set out in this article. Recent developments have provided even more options.

Note that, if a foreign national works for a related Canadian entity for at least 12 consecutive months, it may be possible to transfer them back to a related U.S. entity under the L-1 work visa category.