Allure of Canada dims slightly for some U.S. employers: report

Proportion of U.S. employers who view Canada’s immigration policies as more favourable has dropped significantly

The Peace Arch border crossing sits mostly empty as the border remains closed amid the pandemic  | JeffGoulden/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Borders between Canada and the U.S. might still be tightly restricted, but that doesn’t mean American employers aren’t taking a hard look at their neighbour to the north for workforce expansion plans.

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT) revealed in March it was adding 500 people to its Vancouver offices this year. A month earlier Silicon Valley fintech Tipalti Inc. announced it was hiring 50-60 workers in the city in the coming year, bringing its local workforce to just under 100 employees.

But the allure of Canada has dimmed for some U.S. employers over the past year of the pandemic, according to survey results released Monday from Chicago-based immigration services firm Envoy Global Inc.

The survey, conducted March 2-18, drew responses from 529 human resources professionals and hiring managers based in the U.S.

Among the respondents, 43% said they were considering Canada for their company’s expansion — down from 51% a year earlier.

Meanwhile, 14% of respondents reported already having an office in Canada. That’s down from 21% in 2020.

The proportion of American employers who found Canada’s immigration policies more favourable than their own country’s has plummeted dramatically since U.S. President Joe Biden was sworn into office: 52% in 2021 vs. 74% in 2020.

Envoy Global CEO and president Dick Burke told BIV in January that most U.S. employers are “very excited” about the Biden administration’s potential for ushering in more progressive policies to attract top talent.

“They expect more certainty, more predictability,” he said.

But Boughton Law Corp. immigration lawyer Bruce Harwood said at the time he doesn’t anticipate any significant downturns in the volume of applications for skilled workers applying to enter Canada.

Part of that is due to Ottawa’s efforts to bring in 1.2 million immigrants over the next three years to address labour shortages and boost the economy.

The country also plans to grant permanent residency to 401,000 immigrants this year.

However, an April 15 report from RBC said the “jury is still out” on whether Canada can meet that target for 2021.

Senior economist Andrew Agopsowicz noted Canada admitted 25,000 new permanent residents in January and 23,000 in February, which nearly matches the same levels during those same two months a year earlier, just prior to the pandemic.

He said that puts Canada on track to exceed the bank's February forecast of 275,000 new permanent residents this year.