The Government of Canada is embracing Canada’s emerging role as a leader in global tech talent recruitment and attraction to ensure Canada is not only filling in-demand jobs today, but also attracting the skills and business talent to create the jobs of tomorrow.
In a bid to stay ahead of competition, the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship introduced what he called the country’s first strategy focused on attracting foreign tech workers.
At the Collision Conference in Toronto, Minister Fraser announced an approach that includes four key pillars involving additions and improvements to programs offered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Developing a new Innovation Stream under to the International Mobility Program to attract highly talented individuals
In recent consultations with tech industry stakeholders, the Government have heard that labour shortages are persistent in key tech occupations and that broadening Canada’s talent base in the sector should continue to be a goal. With this in mind, the Government is planning to launch a new Innovation Stream of the International Mobility Program by the end of 2023. This means that IRCC will create a new exemption from the labour market impact assessment process to help high-growth employers and talented workers in support of Canada’s innovation priorities and high-tech industries.
The feedback from stakeholders on the Innovation Stream proposal has led IRCC to consider two options that are not mutually exclusive. Firstly, employer-specific work permits for up to five years for workers destined to work for a company identified by the Government of Canada as contributing to our industrial innovation goals. In addition, open work permits for up to five years for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations
Promoting Canada as a destination for digital nomads
A digital nomad is a person who can perform their job remotely from anywhere in the world. Under current Canadian immigration rules, a digital nomad only needs visitor status to relocate to Canada for up to six months at a time while they perform their job remotely for a foreign employer.
In the months ahead, IRCC will collaborate with public and private partners alike to determine whether additional policies to attract digital nomads to Canada would be desirable. The Government expects that some digital nomads who initially enter Canada to work remotely will decide to seek opportunities with Canadian employers. When they receive a job offer from a Canadian company, they would be able to bring their skills to a Canadian employer by applying for a temporary work permit or even permanent residence.
Improving labour mobility in North America by creating a streamlined work permit for H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the US to apply to come to Canada
Thousands of workers in high-tech fields are employed with companies that have large operations in both Canada and the US, and those working in the US often hold an H-1B specialty occupation visa.
As of July 16, 2023, H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the US, and their accompanying immediate family members, will be eligible to apply to come to Canada.
Approved applicants will receive an open work permit of up to three years in duration, which means they will be able to work for almost any employer anywhere in Canada. Their spouses and dependants will also be eligible to apply for a temporary resident visa, with a work or study permit, as needed.
This will expand the opportunities available for skilled workers to continue to pursue their careers in the high-tech sector and contribute to economic growth and prosperity in North America. This measure will remain in effect for one year, or until IRCC receives 10,000 applications. Only principal applicants, and not their accompanying family members, will count toward the application cap.
Improving existing programs that cater to workers in high-skill tech occupations
The Government is improving some of Canada’s existing immigration programs that can benefit workers in high-skilled tech occupations, including the Global Skills Strategy and the Start-up Visa Program.
Global Skills Strategy – The Global Skills Strategy, launched in 2017, features four policies designed to support Canadian employers seeking quick access to highly skilled talent from around the world. Processing times for Global Skills Strategy work permit applications have recovered after delays throughout the pandemic. Employment and Social Development Canada is meeting the two-week standard for processing Global Talent Stream labour market impact assessments for employers, and IRCC is meeting the two-week standard for work permit applications.
Start-up Visa Program – The Start-up Visa (SUV) Program provides a path to permanent residence for foreign entrepreneurs who gain the support of a designated Canadian venture capital fund, angel investor organization or business incubator for their start-up.
As a first step to address the lengthy wait times for applicants, more spots were allocated to this program under the 2023–2025 multi-year levels plan. This means that targets have tripled the number of permanent residents expected in the Federal Business category for 2023 compared to 2022. Further increases are planned in 2024 and 2025. Processing and accepting more applications will help reduce the application inventory.
Recognizing the long wait times for applicants due to high interest in the SUV program, IRCC will change the temporary work permit option for SUV applicants and will allow them to apply for an open work permit of up to three years, rather than a one-year work permit that limits them to work solely for their own start-up. This will make it easier and more appealing for founders to come to Canada and develop their business while they wait for their permanent residence application to be processed.
Making the SUV-linked work permit an open work permit reflects feedback from stakeholders. Stakeholders have made it clear that in their earliest stages, start-up entrepreneurs might not be able to take a full salary and having the ability to earn additional income can ease financial stress on founders and their families.
The work permit will be available to each member of the entrepreneurial team. Currently, only members of the entrepreneurial team who are identified as essential and urgently needed in Canada by the designated organization supporting the start-up can apply.
The Government will prioritize applications to ensure those supported by committed capital or endorsed by a business incubator that is also a member of Canada’s Tech Network will move to the front of the line for processing.
Venture capital funds and angel investor groups commit significant funds to a start-up when they believe in an idea and expect it to be successful. Some applications supported by business incubators also have capital committed to them. Applications with that type of backing need to be prioritized to enable founders to make their start-up a success and provide a return on those investments. The prioritization plan will be applied to both permanent residence applications currently in the backlog and to newly submitted applications.