For Canadian employees looking to live and work in the US, the H1-B visa is the most effective way to legally emigrate. With the April 2nd deadline to file rapidly approaching, the uncertainty created by the government shutdown and the Trump administration are making it harder for highly skilled immigrants to work in the US.
We spoke to Melissa Salvador, an immigration lawyer at Altro LLP, who explained to us who is eligible to apply, and which industries will be most affected by the changes.
Which Canadian workers are eligible to apply for an H1-B work visa?
The H-1B visa is primarily for skilled workers performing services in specialty occupations, which require a Bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent that is common for entry into the particular profession. In other words, the worker must possess at least a Bachelor’s degree, because the job is so complex or unique that it can only be performed by an individual with a degree.
In addition to the degree, the Canadian worker must also have experience directly related to the position being offered and, if required for the specialty occupation, hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification that authorizes the person to fully practice their specialty occupation. Examples of such specialty occupations include engineers, lawyers, doctors, computer programmers, and accountants, to name a few.
Why will technology workers will be the most effected?
The technology industry greatly relies on the H-1B visa program to bring in skilled immigrants. Silicon Valley in California is home to a large population of tech companies and start-ups, and boasts a large community of immigrants who rely on the H-1B program to work in the US. In a 2017 report, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the government agency responsible for processing H-1Bs, found that 4 of the top 5 industries employing H-1B workers are from the tech sector.
President Trump’s executive order, ‘Buy American, Hire American’ has espoused policy to limit the way in which H-1B requests are decided; this could affect the pipeline of reliable talent for US tech companies. They may have trouble finding qualified candidates to fill roles. For tech workers, it may force them to look to other countries for employment.
How will these visa changes affect the employment landscape in Canada?
While the legal requirements for the H-1B visa have remained unchanged, the current administration has adopted policy changes that affect the way H-1Bs are approved or denied, stemming from the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order President Trump signed last April. Consequently, there are new challenges when applying for an H-1B visa:
- a rise in the number of ‘requests for evidence’ the Service has issued to require additional documentation and information to substantiate the need for the visa
- increased scrutiny over whether a position is in fact a ‘specialty occupation’ by questioning an entry-level salary for the position offered and the need for a bachelor’s degree in connection with certain jobs
- USCIS is conducting more site visits to ensure the veracity of employer and applicant information.