As the division between left- and right-leaning Americans continues to grow, the United States is facing one of its greatest political and cultural crises in recent memory. Led by a controversial president who continues to advocate for tighter borders and a tougher road towards citizenship, many skilled immigrants, including engineers, are turning their focus north to Canada.
Take, for example, Vikram Rangnekar, a Mumbai, India, native who traveled to the United States to study computer science at the University of Delaware. Following graduation, Vikram moved to Silicon Valley, where he worked as a software engineer for LinkedIn for six years. That allowed Vikram to secure the H-1B, a temporary visa made available to particularly skilled workers.
But Vikram knew it may be years before he and his family could focus on enjoying a long-term stay in the United States. Many of his colleagues from India were looking at waiting decades before receiving a green card that would provide them with legitimate stability. Despite making significant contributions to the American economy and some of the United States’ most well-known corporations, these skilled workers and their families faced years of uncertainty.
This anxious feeling only intensified for Vikram following the nomination of Donald Trump to the Republican ticket in mid-2016. The real-estate mogul – who just so happens to be married to a Slovenian model and whose businesses depend in large part on the labour of immigrants – surged to popularity by promising Americans he would put “America First,” a slogan with a racially charged past.
Trump’s rising popularity signaled to Vikram that the U.S. may no longer offer the best future for his family. In response, he moved with his loved ones across the northern border to Toronto, capital of Ontario and Canada’s most populous city. There, he found a cosmopolitan city that offered many opportunities for him and his family to find work.
Trump’s victory later that year resulted in a flood of emails to Vikram’s inbox, many from friends asking about life in Canada and the process for migrating to the Great White North. Vikram received so many messages of this kind that he established his own website, MOVNorth.com, which helped explain the process of legally migrating to Canada. Within 48 hours the site had garnered 20,000 pageviews; today, it regularly clocks more than 100,000 views each month.
Many of the visitors to Vikram’s site are, like him, natives of India with advanced technical skills interested in settling their families in a relatively multicultural community. With cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Montreal all embracing cosmopolitan reputations, Canada seems like a very good choice for those contacting Vikram, whose site spikes in popularity each time Trump introduces another controversial immigration idea, either through Twitter or a legitimate democratic channel.
Of course, not all of the people visiting Vikram’s site have been happy with its message. As the comment boards of many Canadian news sites often reveal, Canada has its own share of conservatives, many of whom worry the country is becoming too welcoming of immigrants capable of competing with Canucks for jobs.
Nevertheless, the situation in Canada is clearly different. For the last two years Canada has accepted 300,000 permanent residents each year, a substantial number for a nation of just 35 million people. Most of the immigrants taking Canada up on the offer have found happy homes north of the border: For engineers like Vikram, they’re finding many of the major tech companies, including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, have established large operations in Canada and are more focused on how they can acquire talented workers than the nation of origin or skin colour of job applicants.