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Come North

Silicon Valley startup aims to aid the relocation of American workers affected by Trump’s immigration policies

Foreign talent coming to Canada

A Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur is encouraging U.S. workers affected by President Trump’s draconian immigration ban to leave America and seek greener pastures — like in Vancouver.

Scott Rafer, who founded the highly successful tech consulting company Mashery, has banded together with a small group of Silicon Valley startup founders to launch True North, a service that helps American companies and their employees figure out how to legally move to the western Canadian city.

True North offers to move U.S. workers to Canada for $6000

Here’s what True North is offering: for six grand, you’ll get a flight for one to Vancouver, two nights’ accommodation (at what we’re assuming is a pretty fancy hotel), and a full day with “world-class immigration professionals who will walk you through the process and answer any questions you have.”

The idea behind True North, according to Rafer in an interview with TechCrunch, is to keep workers in one place rather than see them scatter all over the world if Trump’s immigration ban continues after its current 90-day testing period.

“We’d like to point workers to a more-than-decent city and airport where they can move their work and live happily and access great public schools. We have this community here in Silicon Valley that we want to preserve, and if you look at a map, there are few places other than Vancouver that qualify for this kind of move,” said Rafer.

The H1-B Visa Debacle

True North’s website states that it is a “backup plan for H1-B holders working for an American company.” In other words, you have to hold a legitimate work visa (the most widely offered work visa in the U.S. is the H1-B permit) to be able to receive relocation help from True North.

But obtaining an H1-B visa might not be so easy in the near future if Trump goes ahead with an executive order that calls for the overhaul of of current work-visa programs that technology companies depend on to hire thousands of employees each year. A few days ago, a leaked draft of this new executive order started making the rounds on a couple of news sites.

According to the draft proposal, U.S. tech companies will have to prioritize American interests first when it comes to hiring — the recruitment of a foreign national for a position should only occur in the event that no other American worker fit the hiring criteria.

Foreign work visas like the H1-B were originally created for precisely that reason — to help American companies find the best kind of talent abroad, if that talent did not exist locally. But in the last decade or so, there have been numerous accounts of these visa programs being abused by big tech companies, as they prioritize cutting labour costs (i.e. hiring cheap foreign workers) over preserving American jobs.

Indeed, Trump may have a point calling for an overhaul of America’s work visa programs that depress the wages of skilled foreign workers and cost Americans their jobs, but there are a substantial number of skilled foreign workers, usually graduates from top American schools, who will end up being collateral damage to this executive order.

If it does indeed become much harder for foreign workers to obtain permits to legally work in the U.S., that could mean a wave of foreign talent arriving on Canadian shores, instead of applying to work in America, which in fact, the Canadian tech community seems to be very receptive towards.

“Vancouver could be an unexpected beneficiary of this,” Michael Tippett, co-founder of True North told VICE Money. “One of the interesting things about Vancouver is that we are directly north of Silicon Valley so if they start clamping down on foreign talent coming to the U.S. new emerging tech centres like Vancouver will inevitably pop up.”

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