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US visa hurdles push more companies to relocate foreign talent

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62% of companies sending workers to Canada, Mexico and the UK

A survey conducted by immigration services firm Envoy Global Inc. has found that 93% of employers expect to relocate foreign workers this year due to immigration restrictions and labor demands. Offshoring or nearshoring talent is being used by smaller companies and multinational corporations alike to retain key talent. Canada is the top destination for relocating foreign workers, with 62% of responding companies sending workers there, followed by Mexico and the United Kingdom (48%) and Germany (31%).

The move is often a result of difficulties in securing a work visa, with over 80% of employers losing a foreign employee in the past year due to an inability to secure an H-1B or other employment-based visa. Demand for foreign workers with skills in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering has continued to grow across the economy, far outstripping that annual cap. The rise of hybrid and remote work has also driven the increase in offshoring plans.

Nearshoring to Canada has become a top fallback option for employers when an early-career worker has run out of immigration options after multiple attempts at the H-1B visa lottery. Canada is attractive because of its close proximity and similar time zones, as well as offering a more worker-friendly immigration system, including immediate work permits for spouses and a quicker pathway to permanent residency.

Davis Bae, Co-Chair of the immigration practice group at Fisher & Phillips LLP, said that although there hasn’t been a massive shift toward relocating workers abroad, companies that do so are finding it easier. Smaller companies without operations abroad have been turning to professional employer organizations (PEOs) for human resource and compliance services when they face losing a skilled foreign worker. Under this arrangement, paying to relocate a worker to Toronto or Vancouver costs a fraction of what it would cost to replace them with a new employee.

Marc Pavlopoulos, the Founder and CEO of PEO Syndesus Canada Inc., said: “The company employs about 200 workers for US companies in Canada, roughly 90% of whom relocated after losing out on the H-1B lottery. The Canadian Dream is a good one. You get to keep your cool job and you’re on your way to getting a Canadian passport.”

Pavlopoulos works with smaller US-based tech companies that are seeking to grow, while also working towards a Canadian goal of adding 500,000 immigrants per year by 2025.

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