- Toronto-area tech companies saw an increase in international applications and hires in 2017, according to a MaRS survey of more than 100 high-growth tech companies with 55 respondents based in Toronto with a footprint in the U.S. market. More than one-third of companies used the country's new Global Skills Strategy visas, which expedite processing for skilled tech workers.
- Three-fifths of companies cited visa and immigration policies and one-quarter cited artificial intelligence as the top reasons for growth in international recruitment. Engineers were the top position hired for and filled, and data scientists and C-suite were also among the most in-demand positions.
- Per capita, Canada admits roughly six times more highly skilled international workers than its southern neighbor, according to the report. More than half of hired international workers originated from the U.S., followed by China at 23%, Brazil at 18% and India at 9%.
While the study only offers a small snapshot of the Canadian technology sector, it could be indicative of shifting immigration trends in North America. Skilled immigration in the U.S. is facing significant changes and uncertainty as the Trump administration tightens some immigration policies.
In terms of immigration, Canada exceeded its planned 50,000-59,000 immigrant admission in the skilled worker category in 2017, allowing in 59,999 workers, about 28,000 of which were principal applicants with the remaining made up of immediate family members.
The Global Skills Strategy allows Canadian employers with "short supply" occupations (such as IT roles) to fill positions with skilled international workers, with visa turnaround times as short as two weeks. With programs like this, in conjunction with more strict American immigration policies, some experts foresee a brain drain to Canada.
Toronto has established itself as one of the strongest tech hubs on the continent. The city made the cut for Amazon's HQ2 short list — the only one outside of the continental U.S. to do so. The city rose six spots year-over-year to No. 6 in tech talent in 2017 and kept pace with New York and the Bay Area in talent growth, according to the CBRE 2017 scorecards.
In addition to a "very high" quality of tech labor, the city has a low cost of labor, with an annual average salary for software engineers in the $60,000s — roughly half the cost of Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area, according to CBRE.