Move your company — and foreign workers — to Vancouver, U.S. tech companies told

February 5, 2017

By Jen St. Denis, Metro News |

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are trying to convince American tech companies to set up subsidiaries in Vancouver in order to get their foreign-born workers out.

“I am a huge believer in the strength of immigrants in the startup community and I’m a big believer in it being a community,” said Scott Rafer, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur who helped to set up a non-profit initiative called True North.

“If no one does anything, all these great people are going to scatter to the four winds.”

The True North website lays out the pitch, directed at American tech companies:

“The program moves the current employee and her/his job to Vancouver. It requires a valid H1B, the employer to incorporate a subsidiary in Vancouver, and a quick visit.”

H1B is the American work visa program many tech companies rely on to bring in skilled workers from abroad. After instituting a sudden and chaotic travel ban on immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries late last week, the Trump administration has now drafted an overhaul of work visa programs, according to media reports.

Rafer said current Canadian immigration policy is already set up to accommodate such a transfer. But Vancouver immigration lawyer David Aujla said it wasn’t quite that simple. Yes, companies can quite easily create a Canadian subsidiary, but there are rules governing which employees they can transfer from head office to their Canadian branch office.

“Currently under NAFTA, you can transfer people who have specialized knowledge or executive managers,” Aujla said.

So senior managers would likely have no trouble transferring, but that may not hold true for jobs like software developer.

“Whether H1B people fall into that category is something else,” Aujla said. “You have to look at each individual person. Some may not, some may just be software engineers. Then the Canadian company would have to undergo the usual thing: look for Canadian (workers) first, then and only then can you bring in anyone who’s foreign.

But very large companies may be able win exemptions from government, Aujla said. Microsoft, which opened a Vancouver office several years ago, was able to get an exemption to Canada’s temporary foreign worker restrictions in order to bring in more workers from outside of Canada.

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