Microsoft Vancouver responds to immigration woes

The company will open an office in Vancouver in order to retain foreign workers without being subject to H-1B restrictions

Microsoft will open a software development office in Vancouver, Canada, later this year, in part as a way to retain talented workers who can't stay in the U.S. because of immigration laws.

Software developers from around the world will staff the center, which will allow Microsoft to keep skilled workers who are affected by U.S. immigration issues, the company said in a statement Thursday.

Microsoft, along with other high-tech companies, has been a vocal supporter of legislation that would increase the number of foreign workers allowed to stay in the U.S. Proposed amendments to the current foreign worker regulations were part of a larger controversial immigration bill that stalled in the U.S. Congress last week.

Without new regulations, companies across the country are competing for 65,000 H-1B visas issued each year.

"This is especially a problem for Microsoft because it's so big and doing so much hiring," said Susannah Malarkey, executive director of the Washington Technology Alliance, an association of companies promoting education and an entrepreneurial environment in the state. "If you can't use visas to bring people in, you have to take the jobs to where the people are," she noted.

Companies like Microsoft can "either create a worksite in the country of origin of these people or lose out on them altogether," she said.

In addition to its Redmond headquarters, Microsoft already has development centers in Ireland, Denmark, Israel, and North Carolina. The Vancouver location is in part attractive because of its proximity to Redmond, Microsoft said.

Microsoft did not reveal the Vancouver facility's size or precise location.