U.S. immigration woes push jobs to Canada
CTV (Canada)
July 7, 2007

The United States' struggles with developing an immigration policy are providing job opportunities in this country.

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced the opening of a software development centre in Vancouver after losing a fight to ease restrictions on the admission of foreign workers to the United States.

"Unfortunately, our immigration policies are driving away the world's best and brightest, precisely when we need them most," Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said in March.

U.S. companies are desperate to hire more computer engineers from India and China.

To work in the U.S., those candidates would need a so-called H-1B visa. However, the U.S. will only issue 85,000 such visas this year, while companies applied for 150,000.

U.S. senators defeated an immigration bill last week, one supported by U.S. President George W. Bush, that would have eased the limit.

"A lot of us worked hard to see if we could find common ground. It didn't work," Bush said.

Canada has no such limit, if qualified Canadians can't be found.

In announcing the Canadian operation, which would be located a three-hour drive north of Microsoft's Redmond, Wa. headquarters, Microsoft said it was an effort to "recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by immigration issues in the U.S.

Some accuse the company of using Vancouver as blackmail to get more U.S. visas for lower-paid foreigners, although Microsoft has said it wants to diversify software development outside of Redmond.

"It's clear that the H-1B program has been corrupted by both outsourcing firms as well as cheap labour," said Ron Hira of the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Toronto immigration lawyer Evan Green thinks the situation will continue to benefit Canada.

"Business is going to talk with its feet and its moving out of the U.S. because they just can't deal with it anymore," he told CTV News. "That's why Canada is such an attractive option."

Microsoft plans to start with 200 new workers and increase that to 900, although that could be scaled back if the U.S. allows more workers to enter on visas.

Most Washington observers think Congress is unlikely to revisit the immigration issue until after the November 2008 U.S. elections.

With a report from CTV's Roger Smith

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