The Canadian tech industry is growing fast and is predicted to stay strong in the coming years. Toronto is now the fastest-growing tech city in Canada followed by Ottawa, Vancouver, Waterloo Region and Montreal.
The changes to US immigration policies around H-1B visas made by the Trump administration pushed a lot of tech talent and tech companies North. Silicon Valley tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Intel and Uber are now calling Canada home. The growing investment in startups in these cities is also driving the demand for senior tech talent.
Canada’s growth in the tech sector will increasingly be dependent on immigration. Last year the COVID pandemic significantly impacted the number of permanent residents that immigrated to Canada, resulting in lower numbers of net new talent in the ecosystem. The Canadian government immigration policies recognize the need for tech talent and they have created a number of immigration programs that help facilitate the relocation of global tech talent.
- Start-up visa: The start-up visa program is focused on helping innovative entrepreneurs immigrate to Canada. Qualifying companies are able to bring up to five people and their families with them to start the company. The idea must be innovative and backed by a designated Canada-based investor.
- Global Talent Stream: The Global Talent Stream (GTS) is a program designed to assist Canadian employers with hiring highly-skilled foreign talent who will enable Canadians to compete on an international scale. The GTS operates two categories, Category A and Category B. The program acknowledges the talent shortage in eligible occupations and provides expedited processing to companies and employees applying under the GTS.
- PNP: Each province and territory in Canada has its own “streams” (immigration programs that target certain groups) and requirements. Provinces and territories may have programs for international students, business people, skilled workers, semi-skilled workers.
As many Canadian companies that have brought in international talent will tell you, the process of hiring foreign workers for tech jobs is easier than you think. It is important to ask foreign candidates if they are authorized to work in Canada. Some candidates you may meet might already have permanent residency or a work permit and be eligible to work in Canada without sponsorship.
- Permanent Residency allows foreign nationals to live and work in Canada. To apply to become a permanent resident, candidates must apply to be in the express entry pool and are assessed using a points-based system called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) that evaluates candidates on human capital factors such as language, work experience, age and adaptability. The highest-ranking candidates from the pool will be invited to apply for permanent residence. Provinces such as British Columbia and Ontario have Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) that prioritize in-demand occupations in the tech sector.
- Work permits are permission for a non-Canadian or Permanent Resident to work in Canada. There are open work permits that allow the individual to work with any employer or employer-specific (closed) work permits, which only allow the individual to work for the company named on their work visa. Some people who are spouses of foreign workers, or who have studied in Canada as an international student may have an open work permit, in which case you as an employer can hire them directly without any immigration paperwork. They will get a Social Insurance Number and you will be able to hire them like any other Canadian or Permanent Resident.
If the individual you want to hire does not have a work permit and is not yet in Canada we can help your candidate easily immigrate to Canada in three steps:
- Get employer approval to hire a candidate: In order to hire a foreign tech worker in Canada, the employer is required to get approval from ESDC, this is either in the form of an LMIA or through an employer compliance request if the role is LMIA exempt. The purpose of this process is to ensure that the role being offered aligns with the NOC code for that role and that the employer is offering a wage in line with the prevailing wage for that role. If you are hiring a worker under the Global Talent Stream, there is an understanding that there is a talent shortage for these NOC codes. As such, employers do not have to go through the advertising requirements for a traditional LMIA, however, they will have to prepare a labour market benefits plan to outline the commitments they plan to make to have a positive impact on the Canadian labour market. If you are an employer in British Columbia you may want to look at how you can use the BC PNP program to hire a foreign worker without needing an LMIA.
- Get approval for the candidate’s work permit: In order to come to Canada to work, the employee will be required to get a work permit and a SIN. The employee and accompanying family can be approved to come to Canada for up to two years under the initial work permit application. The employee will be required to submit the employment offer, proof that s/he/they meet the requirements to fulfil the role, in some cases depending on the country of origin, the employee will be required to do an upfront medical. All individuals will be required to submit biometrics if they have not completed them for entry into Canada in the past ten years. Pre-COVID, under the Global Talent Stream there was a two-week service standard on processing work permits.
- Relocate your new employee to Canada: moving to a new country is an exciting and big step for anyone. It is important to help your new employee get settled by helping them find accommodations, connect them with immigrant-serving organizations, and connect them with communities. The employee will also need to open a bank account, get a SIN and get set up with provincial health care. For any employees that we relocate to Canada, we help them with all the settlement support to make their arrival seamless. We even make sure there is a welcome basket at their place when they arrive, with snacks and drinks, because they will no doubt be hungry and tired after their long journey.
If you would rather spend time focusing on growing your company, reach out to our team at Global Talent Accelerator and our Immigration team can take all the paperwork off your plate and have your employee sitting in your office before you know it. We will also go the extra mile to ensure that your employee has a soft landing in Canada so they can be the A-team player you need.
Tiona Corcoran is the VP Recruitment & Immigration with Global Talent Accelerator.