(Also See Paul McDougall's InformationWeek Blog Microsoft's Canada Plan Highlights Need For Immigration Reform.)
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) will open a software development center in Canada by the end of the year, a move that will enable the software giant to hire more foreign workers without running up against the limitations of U.S. immigration law.
Microsoft cofounder and Chairman Bill Gates has been among the most outspoken critics of the current limits on foreign workers who can enter the country. Gates has repeatedly pressed lawmakers to raise the cap on the number of so-called H-1B visas, which are given out to "highly skilled" workers.
A bill that would have raised the current cap of 65,000 visas each year -- part of a sweeping immigration reform measure -- failed to gain enough votes to stay alive in the U.S. Senate last week, dashing hopes that more workers would be let into the U.S. in the near term.
But only a few are picking up that immigration is a red herring. CNET got it right in Microsoft sings 'O Canada' amid immigration challenges:
"Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said that while the immigration issue was a factor, the company would be opening the center in Vancouver even if it were not for the immigration challenges. "Reuters included this fact also, albeit buried as a virtual footnote in an article that mostly discusses the H-1b visa - Microsoft expands in Canada amid U.S. visa crunch:
Microsoft said in a statement that the Vancouver center will "allow the company to continue to recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by the immigration issues in the United States." But company spokesman Lou Gellos said Microsoft's frustration with the U.S. government's visa policy wasn't the only reason for the expansion in Canada. It is part of a larger program to diversify software development outside of Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, Gellos said. . . "We would be opening this center in Vancouver even if this visa situation didn't exist," Gellos said.
Furthermore it is not "news" that Microsoft is doing software development in Vancouver, Canada, as this 1992 article reveals: Canada: Microsoft opens workgroup software R&D facility
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA, 1992 JUL 28 (NB) -- Microsoft has opened a workgroup software development operation here, the only Microsoft research and development facility outside the United States that will develop products for world markets.
In short, Microsoft is pulling a PR stunt, timing this announcement to make it appear that it was related to failure of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which contained a massive H-1b increase provision. Industry raises similar false threats that they are offshoring due to a shortage of H-1b, when in fact H-1b is a primary tool in offshoring.