On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending new work visas for immigrants, including the H-1B high-skill visa popular among technology companies recruiting engineers and other people with specific technical skills.
Less than a day later, Shopify vice-president Kaz Nejatian stated on Twitter that he had registered the url H1Bengineer.com. The link redirected to Shopify’s careers page.
“If you are an engineer whose H1B is in jeopardy, I’ve created a resource to help you avoid Visa troubles and finding fulfilling careers that make the world a better place. Go to H1BEngineer.com or DM me,” he said.
In another post, Nejatian said that Shopify is ready to help engineers “getting screwed by this insanity,” referring to Trump’s executive order.
A little while later on Tuesday morning, Shopify chief executive and founder Tobi Lutke also weighed in on Twitter.
Sharing a link to a New York Times story about the U.S. immigration ban, Lutke said, “If this affects your plans consider coming to Canada instead. Shopify is hiring all over the world and we have lots of experience helping with relocation. Let us know at h1bengineer.com.”
Lutke then followed up to say that if getting to the U.S. is their main objective, “you can still move on south after the h1b rules change. But Canada is awesome. Give it a try.”
In an emailed message, Nejatian said that the international recruitment effort dovetails with Shopify’s values and its recent shift to emphasize remote work.
“We believe commerce needs more voices, not fewer. And that means pursuing, not hindering, highly skilled people from all corners of the world,” he said. “Shopify recently announced it is shifting to a ‘Digital by Default’ approach, which allows us to not only recruit across the globe, but also help people relocate if they wish, specifically those impacted by the recent suspension of new work visas in the U.S.”
It wasn’t just Shopify that took notice of the executive order.
Cory Janssen, founder and chief executive at Edmonton-based artificial intelligence firm AltaML Inc., said that Shopify’s move to poach international talent being turned away by the United States made him proud to be Canadian.
Janssen said his own company has directly benefitted from the United States’ hostility to immigrant workers, and used Canada’s Global Talent Stream program to hire a data scientist.
“She had just under 10 years of experience, the last four or five in San Francisco, and had trouble getting her HB1 work visa, so she had to look around,” Janssen said. “She did not want to go back to China, so we were lucky enough to fast track her in, bring her in, and she’s in Calgary right now and wants to be in Toronto in six months.”
Multiple executives who spoke to the Financial Post for this story, including Janssen, said hiring top talent is the No. 1 focus of companies in the knowledge economy.
“Talent is jet fuel in an innovation economy,” said Benjamin Bergen, executive director of the Council of Canadian Innovators, an advocacy group for growing Canadian technology companies. “It’s the people that generate the ideas that ultimately generate the business. So talent is 90 per cent of it.”
The general consensus among executives is that Canadian universities produce smart, capable workers, but it’s difficult to find people with experience in growing technology companies.
Within the tech world, hiring internationally is relatively common, and many business leaders are happy to give the federal government credit for the Global Talent Stream, which allows high-skill workers to get visa approval in just two weeks.
Levi Cooperman, co-founder of cloud accounting software Freshbooks, said they’ve hired around 130 people in the last year, and six or eight of them were international hires.
“If you look internationally, the folks that you can find bring a wealth of knowledge and diversity that really helps a tech company. And highly skilled people, they’re hard to find in Canada and North America, and therefore if you can expand to (searching) globally, it really helps a lot,” he said.
“The landscape doesn’t change overnight. I think it probably has changed significantly in the past two years due to U.S. policies.”
People on both sides of the border are taking note of the changed climate for immigration in the United States.
“Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today,” Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google, said on Twitter. “Disappointed by today’s proclamation — we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.”
Twitter posted a message from its vice-president of public policy, Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, saying, “This proclamation undermines America’s greatest economic asset: its diversity. People from all over the world come here to join our labour force, pay taxes, and contribute to our global competitiveness on the world stage.”
In Canada, Waterloo-based ApplyBoard can see the shifts in global trends, as international students apply to Western schools through the company’s software platform.
Dan Weber, senior director of innovation and strategy with ApplyBoard, said that American immigration decisions could cast a longer shadow on the economy, as students make decisions about where to study.
“The key thing about this policy change is that, when we’re working with international students, the value proposition that they’re looking for abroad is much more than the education that they’re receiving,” he said.
“Working while in school, and after they graduate, are very important components of that total value proposition… They’re looking for potential permanent residency and eventual citizenship as well.”
Source: Financial Post