As President Donald Trump rails against illegal immigration, his administration has taken measures to restrict the ability of recently graduated and skilled foreign nationals to work legally in the U.S.
As a result, many students and skilled immigrants looking for a backup plan are heading to Canada, where it's much easier to stay and work, according to immigration lawyers.
The student visa process in the U.S. has become "a nightmare," said Shah Peerally, president and managing attorney of Shah Peerally Law Group in the San Francisco Bay Area, whose work focuses on employment-based immigration for students and recent graduates.
That could be one reason that international student applications and enrollment to U.S. institutions declined in 2018, for the second year in a row, a recent report has found.
"It's kind of across the board these days [for] clients to be asking if they would have better luck in Canada," said Sarah Pitney, an associate attorney at Benach Collopy, a practice in Washington, D.C., that takes immigration cases of all kinds. Pitney also said she gets a number of requests for referrals to Canadian immigration lawyers.
Peerally noted another reason why Canada is so attractive to these students. "Canada has an express entry. Within a few weeks they get not only their work permits, but also their residency," he added.
Many of the recent anti-immigrant policies in the United States are the direct result of Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" executive order, said Henry Chang, a Canadian immigration lawyer at Blaney McMurtry in Toronto.
"This is making it more difficult for students and foreign workers," he said.
He said recent roadblocks for immigrants are dovetailing with a longer-term problem: "The inability of their foreign workers to obtain an H-1B case number in the annual 'H-1B lottery.' Even applicants who receive H-1B numbers are more likely to receive requests for additional evidence or even denials when they file."