Immigration Minister to Visit Silicon Valley to Promote ‘Start Up Visa’

Waterloo, Ontario, sometimes called Silicon North, is one of Canada’s major tech centres. Citizenship and Immigration Canada hopes the new Start Up Visa encourages foreign technology entrepreneurs to start companies in the country

Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will be visiting California’s Silicon Valley on Friday for a four day trip intended to promote Canada as a place to live for the region’s entrepreneurs.

According to an article in San Jose’s Mercury News, a billboard is currently appearing near Silicon Valley advertising Canada to foreign tech workers struggling with H-1B visa restrictions:

On Tuesday, just days before Kenney was set to tour San Francisco and the South Bay to promote his new visa for startup entrepreneurs, a giant red maple leaf emerged on a billboard off Highway 101 on the route from San Francisco to the heart of Silicon Valley, part of a Canadian advertisement encouraging tech workers here temporarily to migrate north permanently.

Modeled on an idea first introduced but never passed in the U.S. Congress, Canada’s new “startup visa” grants permanent residency to entrepreneurs who can raise enough venture capital and start a Canadian business.

“H-1B problems?” asks the South San Francisco billboard, referencing America’s temporary visa for skilled foreign workers. “Pivot to Canada.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) hopes to capitalize on the frustration tech companies in the U.S. are feeling over immigration restrictions on foreign technology workers and encourage them to relocate to and invest in Canada.

The eventual goal is to help foster the development of a Canadian equivalent to Silicon Valley.

One challenge that CIC faces in this mission is the country’s top marginal income tax rate, which is significantly higher than that of the U.S. A Canadian entrepreneur can look forward to paying about 50 percent of their income to the government if they succeed in joining the top bracket of income earners.

Compensating for this disadvantage, the federal government is offering a perk that no other advanced economy offers foreign entrepreneurs: permanent residency status.

For foreign tech workers in the U.S. anxiously awaiting the six year limits on their H-1B visas, immigration to Canada offers a chance of stability that only permanent residency can provide.

Also working in Canada’s favor is the perception of being a safer country than the U.S., with significantly lower violent crime rates, particularly homicide rates. A better fiscal situation, with a much lower deficit to GDP ratio than the U.S., also gives foreign nationals more confidence in the country’s economic future.

Regardless of how successful CIC’s headhunting campaign in Silicon Valley ends up being, the federal government has a lot of ground to make up for, with total venture capital funding in all of Canada in 2012 coming to $1.5 billion -less than 15 percent of the $10.9 billion worth of deals that happened in Silicon Valley last year.

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