By Alistair MacDonald
Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney crossed the U.S. border Friday on a raiding mission: to steal foreign-born tech entrepreneurs from the U.S.
Mr. Kenney is slated to arrive in the San Francisco area to attend a trade fair at which he intends to personally pitch Canada to foreign-born entrepreneurs looking to start tech businesses. The idea is to steal them away from the U.S.
“Our message to them is if you want to do your start up in North America… you are more than welcome to come up here,” Mr. Kenney told Canada Real Time.
Last month Canada launched a “Startup Visa” that, Mr. Kenney says, is partly aimed at poaching foreign talent from the U.S. The visa makes it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to stay in Canada by, for instance, giving foreigner entrepreneurs automatic permanent residence status.
Some U.S. businesses and law makers have complained that Washington makes it too hard for foreign entrepreneurs to get visas that would allow them to stay and start businesses in the U.S.
Mr. Kenney aims to capitalize on that in his four-day trip, pitching tech experts in the Bay area, an “obvious market upon which to draw.”
“We are being shameless about this,” he said, adding that he should perhaps walk around this weekend’s TiCON trade show in Santa Clara with a Canadian flag. The two-day conference is run by a group of Silicon Valley-based executives and is aimed at tech start-ups among others. While in California, Mr. Kenney will also be meeting with executives from major tech companies and speaking to students from Stanford University.
Mr. Kenney said that Canadians are known for being modest and reserved, characteristics he intends to “throw to the wind” while in the U.S. The Canadian government has also erected a large billboard on a local highway making its pitch.
In recent months Canada has overhauled its immigration system as it looks to beat down huge backlog of applications and address an increasing pay gap between native born Canadians and new waves of immigrants.