In this article, we explore options available for highly skilled foreign tech workers facing layoffs in the US, including Green Card routes and new immigration opportunities in Canada.
Layoffs and the H-1B Visa Situation
The past couple of years have seen an increase in layoffs, especially in the tech sector. Layoffs come in waves and we are seeing massive layoffs in 2022 and 2023. According to the specialized site layoffs.fyi, more than 200K workers have been affected as of mid 2023.
Approximately 10-30% of job losses have been experienced by H-1B visa holders, who are temporary workers in specialized occupations. These are highly skilled individuals who, if laid off, have only 60 days to secure another job in their field, with the new employer also needing to sponsor their visa. This situation presents significant challenges due to the high numbers of layoffs and difficulties in securing new positions within the allotted time frame. We had discussed this situation in a previous blog post, and today we are expanding with the Canadian reaction to the US struggles.
The Green Card Solution
One way to circumvent this situation is by exploring Green Card options. H-1B Visa holders are typically highly skilled individuals, making them potential candidates for either EB1 or EB2 categories of Green Cards. These options don’t necessitate a job offer, company sponsorship, or even legal representation, making them a viable route to avoid precarious situations post-layoff.
- The EB1A category, in particular, is an attractive option where you can self-petition.
- A slightly lower standard is the EB2-National Interest Waiver (NIW) category.
For tech workers from India or China, where the backlog for EB2 is significantly long, EB1A would be the recommended choice.
Canada’s Approach: attracting talent neglected by the US
While for many applicants the priority is to mantain immigration status in the US, it’s essential to look at alternatives, especially considering the recent announcements from Canada. Canada has made significant strides in catering to tech workers facing uncertain times in the US. It is a smart strategy because they may be able to attract top talent that the US is simply neglecting due to the inefficiencies of their immigration system.
New Pathways for STEM Workers
Firstly, Canada is launching a new and dedicated pathway for permanent residency specifically tailored to employees and workers in the STEM sectors. This move is aimed at attracting top-tier talent from around the world to contribute to Canada’s growing tech sector.
Global Skills Strategy
Secondly, under the Global Skills Strategy program, Canada is expediting work permit applications to a processing time of just two weeks. This change will help companies secure the talent they need promptly.
In an even more ambitious move, Canada is also developing a specific stream called the ‘Innovation Stream’ under the International Mobility Program. This will allow highly talented individuals, particularly in tech, to work in Canada for up to five years under employer-specific work permits. Also, they are introducing open work permits, offering a level of flexibility that reminds me of what you get in the US with an employment based green card (only that without the permanent residency status).
Streamlined Work Permits for H-1B Holders
The most significant announcement is the introduction of streamlined work permits specifically for H1B specialty occupation visa holders from the US. This program, starting on July 16, offers 10,000 spots for H-1B holders to transition to Canada. These permits are open, meaning they are not tied to a specific employer, and last for three years. Additionally, spouses and dependents are also eligible for residency visas under this program.
You can read more about these announcements in the official Canadian Government website.
While these changes don’t diminish the appeal of attaining a Green Card in the US, they offer alternative paths for highly skilled tech workers who might find themselves facing an uncertain future due to layoffs. Canada’s proactive immigration policies present viable options for maintaining status in North America, continuing work in the tech sector, and potentially returning to the US once the Green Card process is finalized.
However, if you are not affected for a layoff yet, I encourage you to start working on your green card petition. You can self petition certain green card categories, and I offer online course to show you how to do it by yourself, without using expensive lawyers. You can check out my EB2 NIW online course here and my EB-1A online course here.