If the talent can’t stay in the US, Silicon Valley has a backup option: Create a safe haven up north.
On January 30, White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that administration officials had drafted an executive order to transform how foreign-born workers find US jobs. The order, whose details have yet to be released, would be a transformation of the H-1B work-visa program.
H-1B visas allow roughly 85,000 highly skilled immigrant workers to take jobs in the US each year. Many companies rely on the program to recruit stronger talent than they can find within America’s borders. And any changes meant to favour American-born workers could mean less access to that talent in the future.
A day after Spicer’s announcement, a band of entrepreneurs came out with news of their own: They had formed True North, a company based out of Vancouver that allows American businesses to move immigrant workers to Canada.
For $6,000, a company can pay True North to fly the employee to Vancouver, house them for two nights, and have them meet with an immigration expert to sort out gaining residency.
True North says its program is designed both for people looking to leave the US and those who have fears about not being allowed back in. Founders Michael Tippett, Scott Rafer, Christian Gammill, and Kirsten Spoljaric created the company just a few days after President Donald Trump banned immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland told City Lab that companies like True North — which are known as “subsidiaries” — are common in business dealings when employees have a hard time getting H-1B visas. “What is different now is the intensity,” he said. Now that President Trump has many firms anxious about whether they will be able to keep or hire foreign-born workers, they are looking for alternatives to keep people around, even if it’s not in the US.
Tippett, CEO of the feedback management company Wantoo, recently told the National Observer that he and his co-founders had been discussing a version of True North for about a month before Spicer’s announcement.
“Obviously, we’ve had to accelerate our efforts in light of recent events,” he said. “But if there’s one group who can move swiftly in situations like this, it’s the entrepreneurial community.”
Vancouver is in a unique position to accommodate new workers. Beyond close its proximity to California, the city was recently voted one of the most high-tech in the world, and it has been called “Silicon Valley North” for its booming tech sector.
According to CNN, the Trump administration is expected to release details of the full changes to H-1B visas within 90 days.
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