In September, Amazon announced that it will be opening a second north American headquarters. The structure will cost $5 billion to build and the endeavor will bring as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs to one fortunate city.
Due to the language barrier, Canada may be the most attractive north American option outside the United States. Immigration may play a key role in Amazon’s decision and Canada has recently made it easier and faster for employers to obtain visas for high skilled immigrants.
As we reported this summer, Canada has launched their fast-track work permit program which will grant high-skilled foreign nationals a work permit in as little as 10 days. This juxtaposed to the 7 months it can take an immigrant to get a high skilled H-1B visa in the United States. Also, Canada has no cap on high-skilled immigrant visas. H-1Bs are capped at 85,000 per year. This year’s H-1B approval rating was only 59%.
At the same time, President Trump, who campaigned on the promises of “America First” and creating 25 million jobs, has publicly slighted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Twitter, straining relations and communications between the current administration and the tech giant. In addition, while the current U.S. administration seeks to repeal Obamacare, Amazon could save up to $600 million per year with Canada’s universal healthcare system.
However, there are reasons why Amazon might want to keep its base solely in the U.S. the North American Free Trade Agreement is being renegotiated and the uncertainty may make it safer for Amazon to stay American.
American cities may also be able to afford larger incentive packages including lofty tax breaks. Laura Dawson, director of the Wilson Center’s Canada institute remarked, “It’s a war they [Canada] have a really hard time winning because they don’t have pockets that are as deep as other [U.S.] competitors.”
Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle boasts 33 buildings and 24 restaurants and cafes. It covers 8.1 million square feet. It’s estimated that Amazon’s current headquarters in Seattle contributed $38 billion to Seattle’s economy over the past six years. Amazon announced its intention in January to create 100,000 full time jobs in America showing it is still committed to creating jobs at home.
Corporate contributions like these make it ever apparent that immigration is an important stepping stone to growing our economy. If companies can’t bring in high-skilled employees, they will consider moving to other localities. Amazon may be the first of many companies to consider moving abroad in light of current immigration issues. It is critical for the current administration to devise immigration policy which will truly keep America first in the minds of corporations and industry leaders.