Prior to President Trump’s controversial immigration orders, Amazon offered positions in the U.S. to seven Iranian-born candidates. Now, the company is considering placing them in offices in other countries, in what may become a trend under the nation’s uncertain immigration climate.
Seattle-area tech companies employ thousands using the H-1B visa, which allows skilled, graduate-level immigrants to live and work in the U.S. Microsoft, alone, has nearly 5,000 employees using the program. Each of those employees faces an uncertain future.
President Trump’s administration outlined plans to overhaul the work visa program and other avenues for immigration in a draft executive order obtained by Bloomberg News. The tech community is scrambling to make sense of the order and considering options for affected employees. One of those options is relocation and Vancouver, B.C. is a likely choice for Seattle-area companies.
Microsoft’s 142,000-square-foot Vancouver office has capacity for about 750 employees. As of last summer, it was about 75 percent full. Amazon’s space can accommodate up to 1,000 workers. Proximity and cultural similarities to Seattle mean employees could expect a relatively similar quality of life to Seattle and could access headquarters when needed.
In a declaration of support for Washington state’s lawsuit, which claims Trump’s temporary ban on immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries is illegal, Amazon’s immigration and mobility exec said the company is already considering relocation.
Amazon is also currently aware of 7 candidates for employment who have received offers for employment with Amazon. All of this candidates were born in Iran, but are currently citizens of Germany, Canada, and Australia. We are currently assessing alternatives that could include placement in countries other than the United States.
Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, a company called True North has cropped up to help immigrants working in the U.S. relocate to Canada without losing their jobs. True North offers a $6,000 package that includes airfare to Vancouver, accommodations, and consultations with immigration professionals in Canada, according to TechCrunch.
Vancouver already has a vibrant tech scene and Canada is eager to bring in more talent. An open letter signed by more than 150 members of Canada’s tech community “calls on the Canadian federal government to institute an immediate and targeted visa providing those currently displaced by the U.S. Executive Order with temporary residency in Canada.”
The letter also notes that “Canadian tech companies understand the power of inclusion and diversity of thought, and that talent and skill know no borders.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau published an equally inclusive statement in the wake of the U.S. immigration crackdown.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
GeekWire has reached out to Amazon and Microsoft for details on their plans for employees affected by changes to U.S. immigration policy. We’ll update this story when we hear more.