On June 22, the Trump administration announced it would be extending a ban on new green cards issued outside the United States for the remainder of this year. It was also announced that there would be an immediate freeze on temporary work visas, including those used by technology companies and multinational corporations to bring in non-citizen workers. The announcement initially caused alarm and confusion for thousands of Canadians who wondered if they would be impacted.

The Trump administration released a Presidential Proclamation that stated: “In the administration of our nation’s immigration system, we must remain mindful of the impact of foreign workers on the United States labour market, particularly in the current extraordinary environment of high domestic unemployment and depressed demand for labour”.

The ban on new visas applies to H-1B visas, H-2B visas for non-agricultural seasonal workers, J-1 visas for cultural exchanges and L-1 visas for managers and other key employees of multinational corporations. The ban on H-1B visas will heavily impact technology company workers and their families.

A senior official in the Trump administration suggested that the restrictions will open up 525,000 jobs for Americans, however not everyone is supportive. The chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce made a statement about how the ban will harm the American economy:

“Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other workers won’t help our country, it will hold us back,” he said. “Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation.”

Canadian Workers Exempted

When the announcement was first made, it was unclear how, or if, it would impact the thousands of Canadians employed or looking to become employed in the U.S. More than 4,000 Canadians filed for H-1B visa applications in each of the last two years. Furthermore, Canadian executives of cross-border corporations operate with L1 business visas. A freeze on L-class visas for Canadians would have a significant impact on the operations of affected corporations.

However, on Wednesday, two days after the initial announcement, the American Immigration Lawyers Association informed its members that it had received assurances from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that Canadians were to be exempted from the order. The well-established arrangement between the two countries, which permits Canadians to enter the U.S. without a visa so long as they have a passport, remains in place. Further, Canadians are permitted to continue to request non-resident worker status at the point of entry from U.S. border officials.

How the Freeze Could be a Boon for Canadian Businesses

While the freeze will no doubt have a negative impact on skilled workers entering the U.S., some Canadian businesses see it as an opportunity for growth in Canada. With thousands of skilled workers barred from entering the U.S. from around the globe, Canada may be positioned to secure unprecedented numbers of top talent across several industries. Businesses with both a Canadian and U.S. presence, in particular, may look to hire people originally bound for the U.S. and have them work in Canada instead.

After the regulation was announced earlier this week, one company, the tech giant Shopify, began to actively entice workers to move to Canada instead of the U.S., taking to social media to post:

“If this affects your plans consider coming to Canada instead. If getting to the U.S. is your main objective you can still move on south after the H1-B rules change. But Canada is awesome. Give it a try.”

Another business specializing in recruiting tech workers for businesses looking to expand operations in Canada is actively looking into ways they can track down and reach out to workers who have been shut out of the U.S. under the new rules. It appears likely that other companies and recruiters will soon follow.

How We Can Help

If you or your business requires assistance with individual or large-scale immigration matters, we are here to help. Our lawyers are exceptionally experienced in all immigration matters, including assisting businesses with skilled worker permits.

The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the developing situation in relation to COVID-19 and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.

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