Trump’s January 27, 2017, Executive Order, entitled "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States," has created waves in the tech world. Canadian technology firms are viewing this as an opportunity to lure top tech talent as those individuals struggle with the impact of the travel ban on their business and mobility.
Kasra Nejatian, the Iranian-Canadian chief executive of Kash, a tech company based out of San Francisco and Toronto, has created a digital list of resumes to share with Canadian tech executives. So far over 180 names are on the list.
The global tech industry has been significantly impacted by the U.S. travel policy and on the heels of the Executive Order, the American tech industry has reacted strongly. A group of 97 American tech firms have filed legal documents claiming that the immigration ban affects their operations and "inflicts significant harm" on their respective business. The amicus brief, which includes tech giants such as Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, states that the travel ban makes it increasingly difficult for U.S. companies to recruit, hire and retain some of the world’s best employees in the tech field. The brief further argues that Trump’s ban has threatened the companies’ ability to attract talent, business and investment to the U.S.
On January 28, 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an email to his staff, explaining Apple’s position on the travel policy. Cook stated, "Apple believes deeply in the importance of immigration—both to our company and to our nation’s future. Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do." The letter went on to say that Apple does not support the ban.
Apple was not the only giant to react: Google recalled around 100 of its affected staff from overseas, and Microsoft warned its shareholders that curbs on immigration could have a material impact on its business.
In the wake of the travel ban, Canadian tech firms have opened their arms to those affected. On January 29, 2017, over 150 executives signed an open letter emphasizing their support for diversity in the workforce. The letter also implored the Canadian government to institute a visa specifically providing for tech workers displaced by the American Executive Order, which would allow these individuals to work and live in Canada.
The Canadian tech industry has also seen an increase in interest from skilled tech workers after the U.S. recently suspended its processing of H-1B visas. H-1B visas allow workers such as programmers, engineers and scientists with highly specialized knowledge to enter the U.S. for three years. Late last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it would be suspending processing H-1B visa applications for up to six months starting on April 3 to deal with high-volume backlog. This suspension is another step in a series of moves that restrict mobility for non-U.S. citizens to work in the country, especially those in the fintech sphere.
Conversely, Canadian companies are trying to expedite visa applications in order to efficiently import talent to tech hubs like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Historically, Canada has struggled to compete with American tech hubs like Silicon Valley for the market’s leading minds but the Canadian industry is hopeful that the shift in U.S. politics might catalyze talent to look north.
Canadian fintech companies should be mindful of what’s happening to their southern counterparts, and be prepared to welcome talent that are either looking to move, or that are being forced to. Fintech companies will want to capitalize on the current political climate in the U.S. and strategically target individuals to join Canadian teams.