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Amazon recently began accepting bids for the location of its future second headquarters, and multiple major Canadian cities – including Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver – are joining the race.
While Amazon’s primary headquarters is in Seattle, Washington, there are indeed some advantages for Canadian cities as well as opportunities for them to distinguish themselves, especially when it comes to immigration.
“Amazon has something like 9,000 engineering jobs they can’t fill. Canada’s immigration policy is much more liberal,” said Ottawa mayor Jim Watson, who also visited Seattle in early September to gather support for the cause. “That’s where we have an advantage.” In a CBC interview, a former Amazon executive also described Canada as “more welcoming” than the U.S. in terms of immigration, not to mention its calmer political climate and lack of uncertainty about potential changes to immigration laws.
Tech companies, which are directly affected by changes to immigration law, have spoken out against proposed changes in the U.S; back in April, a group of over 160 companies, including Amazon, filed an amicus brief to support a lawsuit which challenged the President’s immigration orders in March.
Another issue is the uncertainty surrounding the future of the H-1B visa program, which is regularly used by tech companies to hire foreign workers in specialized areas. U.S. President Trump has both ordered more thorough reviews of the program and threatened to end it entirely, and this April he signed an executive order, literally titled “Buy American, Hire American,” which demanded that agencies suggest their own reforms for the program.
While it’s too soon to tell when Amazon will make its final decision, certain Canadian cities – including Vancouver, which is just 140 miles north of Seattle – could make great candidates and are certainly making their presence known. “It’s like ‘The Amazing Race,’” says Watson. “You’ve got this cast of characters running toward the Holy Grail.”