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Canadian government is recruiting high-skilled foreigners in the US to move to Canada instead

TORONTO — The Canadian government is recruiting high-skilled foreigners working in the United States to move to Canada instead, and the program has been so successful that it met its target of 10,000 applicants in just two days.

The government this week launched a special work permit for foreign workers who already have obtained an H-1B visa in the U.S., who number nearly 600,000 and come mostly from India and China. The program’s 10,000 quota was filled in the first two days of the week, a spokesman for Canadian Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Wednesday.

“We even had a whole campaign to promote this and we had to put an end to that,” spokesman Jeremy Bellefeuille said.

It is unusual for a country to so explicitly target the visa holders of another country. Bellefeuille said the Canadian program was a trial run, and that the minister would now consider next steps.

Each year, up to 85,000 people are selected for H-1B visas in the U.S., a mainstay for technology giants such as Amazon.com Inc., Google parent Alphabet Inc., Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. and International Business Machines Corp.

The H-1B visa program allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in specialized occupations in sectors like technology, engineering and medicine. Usually, they’re issued for three years and renewable. Most of the nearly 600,000 H-1B visa holders in the U.S. are from India and China.

If they are fired or let go from the company in the U.S. that sponsored them they have to find a job and be sponsored within 60 days.

Fraser promoted the Canadian work permit aimed at America H-1B visa holders at the Collision tech conference in Toronto last month. The conference attracts technology workers from around the world.

The moves come as a wave of layoffs have hit the tech sector. Companies like Meta, Amazon and Google have made cuts.

The Canadian work permit includes study or work permit options for the accompanying family members of U.S. H-1B visa holders. It became available July 16 and was scheduled to remain in effect for one year, or until immigration authorities received 10,000 applications.

Bruce Heyman, a U.S. ambassador to Canada during the Obama administration, said Canada’s gain in the program would be the U.S.’s loss.

“Canada sees the opportunity to bring talented individuals into Canada and if we can’t keep them shame on us and kudos to Canada for identifying the opportunity and attracting them,” Heyman said.

“Being attractive for the best and brightest to come to America has always been a key to our success and any diminution of that comes with a lot of risk especially since our birthrate is running below replacement rate right now,” Heyman said.

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