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During the first half of the 20th century, great power competition often involved the military. During the second half of the 20th century, competition switched to trade and investment. Canada seems to be one of the first countries to understand that the 21st century will be a battle for the world’s top talent:
Last month, Canada offered a three-year work permit to anyone holding a U.S. H-1B visa, the most common entry permit for immigrants working in the tech sector. The program, aimed partly at workers laid off in Silicon Valley’s recent downturn, drew 10,000 applicants in its first 48 hours — “a strong indication of just how competitive Canada is on the global stage,” a spokesman for the country’s immigration ministry said.
It was also a reflection of frustration among migrants who find the U.S. visa system difficult and slow. According to one estimate, only about one in 10 people who register for the annual H-1B lottery get a visa.
“A Canadian visa is much easier,” Gireesh Bandlamudi, a 29-year-old software engineer from India, told me. With a U.S. job offer in hand, he considered his chances of winning an H-1B and applied to Canada instead. He now works remotely with AtoB, a San Francisco firm that provides financial services to trucking companies, from his new home in Vancouver.
Several factors are making immigration policy increasingly central to great power competition:
1. Rapidly declining birth rates. Some countries will see their population fall in half each generation, if they do not allow immigration.
2. The switch from agriculture and manufacturing to the information economy, where top talent is especially important.
3. The ability to work from anywhere.
This general argument also applies to competition among American states. High tax/low service states will increasingly lose out to more business friendly locations.
PS. The NYT suggests that the US is missing out on talent due to an overly cumbersome immigration regime:
Most of the emigrants I spoke to, explaining why they did not pick the United States, cited America’s complicated and unpredictable process for applying for visas and permanent resident status.
The number of student visas granted by the United States to Chinese nationals, long a starting point for promising future emigrants, began to fall in 2016, as relations between the countries deteriorated. In the first six months of 2023, Britain granted more than 100,000 study visas to Chinese nationals, while the United States granted roughly 65,000 F1 student visas.