A study by Statistics Canada revealed which country is better for STEM immigrants — the U.S. or Canada, and why.
In both countries, immigrants with at least a bachelor’s degree in the STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) were twice as likely as the native-born population to have studied in a STEM field. They were also three times as likely to have studied engineering, computer science, and math. The study is based on the data from 2015–2017.
However, in general, U.S. immigrants saw better economic outcomes.
STEM-educated immigrants in Canada often end up working at jobs that don’t require a university degree. In Canada, only 20% of STEM-educated immigrants employed outside of the field have an occupation that requires a university degree. In the U.S., it’s 48%.
Among all STEM-educated workers, immigrants earn 23% less than their Canadian-born counterparts. Meanwhile, there is almost no earnings gap between immigrants and American-born workers.
Average earnings among economic immigrant principal applicants with a STEM degree and occupation who arrived in Canada within 10 years, 2016 (CAD)
Source: Statistics Canada
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Why are outcomes better in the U.S.? Statistics Canada offers several possible explanations.
- Canada doesn’t face a shortage of STEM workers and has a higher percentage of STEM-educated workforce compared to the U.S., the study says. For example, the share of adult immigrants who are Computer Science graduates is 51% in Canada, while in the U.S., it’s just 26%.
- The skills of STEM-educated immigrants entering the U.S. are higher on overage than those who come to Canada.
- To immigrate to the U.S., skilled immigrants usually need a job offer in the country. Thus, they’re most likely to get high-skilled and well-paid jobs. And Canada’s points-based immigration system selects immigrants based on their human capital. Although applicants can get extra points for having a job offer, in some cases, it’s not required to immigrate to Canada.
- The U.S. industrial structure may result in a higher demand for STEM-educated workers in comparison to other countries, including Canada.
On the other hand, Canada’s fast-track visa program gave it “an edge over the U.S. in the global race for talent,” Bloomberg reports.
In contrast with the U.S., which keeps making employment-based visas harder to get, the Canadian fast-track visa within the Global Skills Strategy has been used since 2017 to accelerate the arrival of thousands of computer programmers, software engineers, and other high-skilled professionals.
The processing of applications under the Global Skills Strategy used to take just 2 weeks. Now that the world is in the middle of the pandemic, it takes much longer.
According to Ilya Brotzky, the CEO of Vancouver-based VanHack, an online recruiting platform for tech workers, authorization from labor and immigration authorities used to take 4 to 6 weeks. Now it’s 4 to 6 months or even longer.
Another company, Toronto-based Myant, started the process of getting a visa for an Italian knitting technician and programmer in June, expecting to be finished in a few weeks. However, he finally got his visa only in October.
Admissions of permanent residents in Canada in the first 8 months of the year reached 128,430, or about 38% of 2020 goals. However, last week, Canada said it plans to attract 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, boosting pre-virus targets by 50,000. These figures, though, assume a return to normal international travels.