Canadian Province Says 'No' to H-1B-Type Foreign Workers

By David North on May 10, 2010

While USCIS encourages corporations to hire more foreign H-1B workers on its website, Alberta, the oil-rich Canadian province, has done the reverse and, citing the economic slowdown, has closed its borders to the same kind of high-tech foreign workers.

Provinces in Canada play a much more central role in immigration policy than American states.

News that the Alberta government had taken the step came in an angry blog by David Cohen, a Canadian immigration lawyer, appearing in the May 7 issue of Immigration Daily. He is planning a class action suit against Alberta for at least momentarily stopping the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program, which essentially feeds off the American H-1B program in an interesting manner.

One of the ways for a non-Canadian to get a high-tech job in Alberta is to have a year's experience in the American H-1B program and to have an occupational specialty that meets what Alberta regards as its personnel needs. Now, I have been in the immigration business for a long time and have examined the migration policies of many other nations, and I have never heard of one nation playing off – essentially exploiting – another nation's immigration policy.

Alberta has both extremely conservative provincial politics, by Canadian standards, and has long recruited aliens to meet its labor needs. (Once upon a time it was the national railroad that handled the migrant-recruiting duties.)

But Alberta has noticed, as USCIS apparently has not, that the economy has slowed to the point where foreign workers are not needed. For more on the basic problems of the H-1B program, and its recent troubles check out earlier CIS blog postings, here and here.