Several tech-driven firms in Canada recently laid off a sizeable percentage of their workforce. These deep staff cuts may have affected many skilled foreign workers, both tech and non-tech, who had their work permit status in Canada tied to their employers.
The situation with foreign workers is more peculiar compared to those who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents. One may wonder what options those workers have now and what they should do to comply with Canadian immigration laws.
The recent staff cuts in the Canadian tech ecosystem are pretty deep. Here’s an incomplete list of companies that decided to shrink amid macroeconomic uncertainty in the market. These jobs were well-paid jobs by Canadian standards.
- Shopify decreased its workforce by 10%, and roughly 1,000 jobs were affected.
- Unbounce laid off 20% of its workforce, affecting 47 talented people.
- RenoRun laid off 12%, affecting 70 members of its workforce.
- Article laid off 17%, affecting about 216 employees.
- Mejuri laid off 10%, affecting 50 members of its international workforce
- Coinsquare laid off 24%, affecting 95 workers out of 125.
- Uberflip laid off 20% of its workforce, affecting 31 employees out of 182.
- Wealthsimple laid off 13%, affecting 159 of its 1,262 employees.
- Clearco laid off 125 employees, which is approximately 1/4 of its team.
- WonderFi reduced staff by at least 15 to 20 percent.
- Hootsuite laid off 30% of its global workforce, affecting around 400 employees.
- Thinkific laid off about 20% of its employees, affecting 100 people.
- Clutch laid off 22% of its employees, affecting 76 employees.
According to the Layoff Tracker website, around 2,400 people in Canada were affected by the layoffs between March 2022 and mid-August 2022.
On the dark side, the foreign workers initially supported by their Canadian employers to move to Canada are left on their own to deal with immigration if they want to stay in the country.
On the bright side, many Canadian and global companies are still hiring, albeit now from a larger pool of candidates. It’s time for workers to pivot a bit accordingly and solve their immigration issues.
So, what are the immigration options for foreign talent after these layoffs? Here’s a short and non-exhaustive list of options.
Obtain a new employer-specific work permit.
Most tech foreign workers laid off by tech firms had LMIA-exempt employer-specific work permits through the Global Talent Stream, intra-company transfers, reciprocal employment, International Mobility Program and provincial tech talent immigration programs. If the worker doesn’t obtain a new work permit soon, the worker can stay in Canada legally until the work permit expires. A worker is not allowed to work after losing a job and before obtaining a new work permit. The worker must apply for a new employer-specific work permit if s/he wants to work for another employer in Canada.
If another employer wants to hire the same tech worker, it will probably be under an LMIA-exempt category again, and it should not be hard to get a new work permit. The problem is the current processing times, which at the time of writing, were 165 days for online applications and 142 days for paper-based applications for a new work permit. It means that the worker should start looking for a new job as soon as possible before losing legal status in Canada.
Switch to study permit and work part-time during studies.
While losing a job may be a lemon, upgrading skills at a university or college could be a way to make some lemonade. Many universities and colleges in Canada offer 1-2 year programs that can help weather the tech job market turbulence and improve one’s employability.
So, becoming a student in Canada has multiple benefits: (1) it gives a more extended legal status for the worker and his/her family; (2) international students in Canada can work part-time for up to 20 hours per week during their studies; (3) the student’s spouse can get an open work permit, and children can get study permits to go to public schools at no cost; (4) the student may get a Post-Graduate Work Permit after graduation to work for any employer in Canada or establish his/her business as an entrepreneur; and (5) the student has a better chance to apply for permanent residency with a Canadian diploma and/or Canadian work experience in hand or (6) during the student’s study, his/her spouse may have accumulated enough Canadian work experience making the spouse an excellent principal applicant for permanent residence application.
If married, the spouse becomes a student, and the worker gets an open work permit.
Switching roles with a spouse to support the family’s present and future in Canada could be another good path. In this case, the tech worker’s spouse may become an international student by enrolling in a 2-year academic program, which can potentially secure the family’s next 5 years in Canada: 2 years during the spouse’s study plus potentially 3 years with a Post-Graduate Work Permit after graduation. During these 5 years, one of the spouses will probably become eligible for a permanent residence program.
Establish a new business and obtain a work permit.
Recently laid-off workers could try their entrepreneurial skills and establish a business in Canada and obtain a specific work permit to work for the business. A C11 Significant Benefit work permit could be one of the entrepreneur work permit programs to try. One could buy an existing business, too, and apply for the C11 work permit.
With a solid business plan and diligent execution, this could be the beginning of something that the foreign worker has been thinking about for a long time but could not take a leap of faith due to previous employment.
Become a partner in an existing business, and obtain a work permit.
Suppose the laid-off worker wants to participate in an existing business as a partner and hold a position in the company. In that case, the company may have to apply for an LMIA, depending on the NOC of the job. If so, it is advisable to allocate enough time to obtain an LMIA and apply for a new work permit.
If the NOC falls under one of the LMIA-exempt categories or the citizenship of the tech worker allows him/her to benefit from LMIA-exempt immigration programs, the company may easily hire the foreign worker for the position in the company.
Apply for a Start-up Visa Program and get a work permit and permanent residence.
With a great innovative idea in mind and a pitch-perfect presentation deck, the foreign worker may try to apply for the Start-up Visa Program. To be eligible for it, the worker must persuade a VC, angel investor or an incubator to support the idea. If everything goes as planned, the worker applies for the SUV, and while his/her permanent residence application is being processed, the worker may apply for a work permit to start implementing the idea in practice.
If ready and eligible, apply for permanent residence through the Express Entry program and a Bridging Open Work Permit.
Assuming that the foreign worker has gained at least 1 year of full-time paid employment in the last 3 years in Canada, s/he may apply for the Express Entry program under the Canadian Experience Class. After applying for the CEC, the worker becomes eligible for the Bridging Open Work Permit – a permit that keeps you legal and working in Canada while your permanent residence application is being processed.
These are 7 options for those skilled foreign workers who want to maintain their legal status after an unpleasant experience with recent layoffs. Depending on the ultimate goal that the foreign worker intends to achieve in Canada, the immigration strategy may vary. The right immigration strategy can be devised to meet your goal.
If you want to discuss the options above and other possible options with experienced business immigration lawyers, Sobirovs lawyers are here to help. You can book a 1-hour Strategy Meeting to have your questions answered.