The Trump Effect & Canadian Immigration

The after-shocks of Tuesday’s historic US presidential election continue to reverberate, and in no area more so than immigration.

That’s not just because of Trump’s immigration policy promises.

Not only have millions been left reeling from the election result, large numbers pledged to emigrate if Trump were elected.

Many weren’t just joking.

Since the results were announced, there has been an intense wave of interest from the US in migrating to other English speaking countries.  Historically only 28% of Americans held a Passport or ever thought about life outside the USA.  That is now changing as Americans look to life outside the USA.

So much so, the Canadian immigration website crashed on polling night, even before the final result was even announced. As of this writing, volume remains high, and the site has still not fully recovered.

The Australian and New Zealand sites followed soon thereafter.

None were able to handle the traffic volume emanating from the States.

Politics as usual

Many elections see a handful of disgruntled voters pledging to leave, but typically do nothing come inauguration day.

Is it really different this time?

Maybe. Reports of this being the most divisive campaign ever are not just limited to the candidates’ rhetoric.

The US now suffers from deeper economic and social divisions than ever before. An expensive and failing health care system, an increasingly over-burdened and fraying social care net, and dim prospects of economic growth all contribute to real anger and resentment. Much of that has been focused on the political classes, who have appeared untouched by the financial crisis – and may well have come out ahead. None of those divisions are healthy for democracy.

Meanwhile, other countries offers an excellent education and universal health care, is seeking to increase the number of migrants it welcomes, and continues to enjoy a robust economy that is the envy of many parts of the US. And, they speak English, enjoy many of the same ideals, and enjoy their beer cold.

What’s not to like?

YES, it could affect you.

Since the election, clients have been asking whether a surge in US applicants could affect their chances.

The short answer is: yes, it could.

Of course, as with most migration issues (and emigration to Canada and Australia in particular), whether and how this affects you are likely to be driven first and foremost by the facts of your case.

When making an application as an emigrant, you are making a legal argument, and the onus remains, as ever, on you to make your best case. And to make it a good one: your first chance is likely to be your best one.

But while that remains true, the context for your application may well have just experienced a seismic shift.

Brexit Times Ten

To get a sense of that shift, it may be worth listening again to some of Trumps pronouncements (he certainly seems to have a better grip on political realities than the average pollster!)

In that regard, his prediction that his election would be “Brexit times ten” deserves some special consideration. Looking at Brexit again for clues, we’re witnessing first-hand the resulting bump UK emigration.

The fact is, if Brexit did nothing else, it signalled that UK voters are even willing to leave Europe if that’s what it takes to regain control of their borders.

That message has been received loud and clear in migrant communities, and its already had a measurable chilling effect on European student applications to UK colleges and universities.

Between Brexit and other changes to the UK’s visa rules already implemented, those who aren’t already citizens or don’t have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) are not just exploring their options, they are acting on them.

And they are looking to Canada and Australia as top destinations.

These effects are taking hold before we’ve even “left” the EU, whatever the final terms, before the courts have finished deciding who can trigger Article 50 and how, and indeed before we see how (if?) Brexit might be put into effect.

So what would Brexit times ten look like?

It might well involve a more Americans moving north or overseas, and given the numbers involved, even a small bump in those numbers could have a big impact in how quickly those countries welcoming an influx of highly skilled Americans will now fill their skills quotas.

Those US applicants could put pressure on an already competitive process, and make it more difficult for UK applicants to gain permanent residency in Canada or Australia.

But there’s more to the equation than that, and this is not just about discontented Americans.

Welcome News in Canada

Even if they may be appalled at the result, and concerned about the effects on issues they care about, Canadians can’t help but have a keen rivalry with their southern neighbours.

As a result, there will be more than just a bit of schadenfreude being enjoyed in Canada right now.

But there are more reasons the Canadians may be a wee bit pleased with the election result.

Canada needs highly skilled migrants to maintain its economy.

The demographics are not in dispute: Canada is not replacing its workforce from within. Many of Canada’s affluent young graduates are not interested in their parent’s jobs, and many more opportunities exist than can be filled by those graduates. These factors create Canadian demand for skilled labour, and opportunity for migrants worldwide.

Meanwhile, the World’s Largest Economy to the south sucks talent worldwide – not just from the international market, but from Canada as well.

So high-profile news that makes the international talent market think twice about the US would be welcome news for Canada.

Trump’s election could well fit that bill.

Canada could benefit in several ways:

  • Canada could stand to receive more applicants from the worldwide talent pool, whether the US is perceived to be closing its doors, or even if there is a growing perception that migrants are unwelcome;
  • With increased applicant volume would come an increase in the quality of the successful applicants – further pressurising the competition between applicants;
  • Add to that mix a fresh and increasing influx of American talent, who will have some further advantages over other migrants (as discussed below); and,
  • If the above trends hold, a self-reinforcing effect could arise such that Canada’s best and brightest increasingly choose to stay in Canada, rather than look south when seeking career opportunities, thus dampening skills demand and thus further increasing competitiveness.

And the shift in perception is not just the subject of idle prognosticating. Already this past weekend, long before he arrives in the Oval Office, headlines have screamed that Trump intends to deport millions of illegal migrants.

Whatever the final result, that type of policy position will only reinforce wider perceptions.

So there several ways Canada might reap the benefits of US discontent and international perceptions of the US under a Trump presidency.

Home Team Advantage

Candidates from the British Isles are disproportionately successful in emigration to Canada and Australia. Most of that can be attributed to the English as a native language advantage and cultural connections.

But that’s an advantage shared by US citizens.

US businesses also enjoy commercial and personal ties with their trading partners and counterparts globally. Many have family ties, or may already be aware to of the advantages as they cross the border regularly for business or leisure pursuits.

US education and skills remain competitive, and skills sharing is a benefit to both Australia and Canada.  By poaching US talent this would be huge opportunity for these countries to quickly fill their local skills in demand.

Add these up, and any real bump in US emigration to Australia and Canada could have significant knock-on effects for UK applicants.

Conclusion: if you’re going, go now.

Of course, Americans emigrating will soon find that it is not any easy move, and it is by no means guaranteed.

It is also not (yet) an established trend.

So UK applicants should bear in mind that the competition may be heating up as US skills mobilise.

However, rather than being a reason to abandon the dream, Trump’s election may simply be another good reason to start soon enough to beat their American competitors to the punch.

One of the best ways to be competitive is to get your application right the first time.

That’s what we help our clients do, and we’d be happy to speak with you about your options.

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