Data Shows U.S. Losing Talent to Canada

A July 2020 Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) data analysis reveals that from 2017 through 2019, the number of highly skilled, professional level noncitizens living in the U.S.  who emigrated from the U.S. to Canada through its skills-based Express Entry system increased by 128%.  That represents a loss to the U.S. of over 20,000 talented noncitizens who opted to leave this country to take up permanent residency in Canada in the past three years.  (This does not include the more than 50,000 asylum seekers who have given up trying to get asylum in the U.S. and have crossed into Canada to request protection there during the same time period).

Here is an excerpt from the report (footnotes omitted):

Governments around the world are competing to attract talent from abroad, and many have set their sights on the United States –in part because they think U.S. immigration policy is driving skilled foreign-born workers away.  Canada arguably leads this competition. In recent years, the Canadian government developed a simpler and more generous immigration system for skilled workers, nurtured cutting-edge tech companies capable of drawing talent from around the world, and even set up billboards in Silicon Valley encouraging immigrant tech workers to relocate north.

Given these efforts and close geographic and cultural ties, Canada is uniquely well positioned to attract talent away from the United States. But so far, the evidence that skilled workers are now avoiding or leaving the country in large numbers has mostly been anecdotal. At least before the COVID-19 pandemic, key U.S. immigration pathways such as the H-1B visa and employment-based green cards remained oversubscribed, and large majorities of foreign-born STEM PhD students at American universities hoped to stay in the United States after graduating.

At the same time, scattered but worrying signs have indicated that the situation may be changing. For example, the number of foreign STEM students studying in the United States has fallen, and growth in the STEM Optional Practical Training work program for international students has slowed considerably. Now, new data from Canada’s flagship skilled immigration program provide further evidence that America’s foreign-born talent base may be eroding.

While the authors of the data analysis note that the reasons behind this shift aren’t conclusive,

the fact that U.S. noncitizens are driving the trends explored in this paper strongly suggests the combination of Canadian recruitment and increasingly restrictive American immigration policy is playing a role in pushing talent north.

This administration has taken repeated actions to limit legal immigration.   The migration of talent north to Canada may be a bellwether of the benefits other countries will reap at our nation’s global competitiveness expense, if the U.S. continues down the road of adopting increasingly restrictive immigration policies.

You can find CSET’s paper here.