Canada’s Open Work Program: A New Opportunity for H-1B Visa Holders

From July 16th, H-1B visa holders in the US can apply for the Open Work Program (OWP) in Canada, allowing them to work in the country for up to three years. This program is a part of Canada’s first-ever Tech Talent Strategy that, according to the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, will “help enshrine Canada as a world leader in a variety of emerging technologies.” 

  1. What are H-1B Visas? 

H-1B visas are non-immigrant visas granted by the US to allow for foreign workers in specialty occupations. They are intended to attract individuals with specialized knowledge and skills multiple fields, but with a particular emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There are two note-worthy details about this type of visa. First, they do not grant permanent residence to holders. Second, not all H-1B non-immigrants in the U.S. will hold a valid H-1B visa stamp since in some cases, one can be in H-1B status but does not have an H-1B visa. 

  1. What is the H-1B Open Work program? 

The new H-1B Open Work program gives eligible H-1B visa holder a chance to apply for work permit for up to three years in Canada. Once the applicant is approved, their spouses and dependents can also apply for work and study permits with the possibility of applying for temporary resident visa. This program is set to last for one year or until it has received 10,000 applications. The IRCC suggests that applicants should choose this program if their U.S. work visa is expiring soon. 

Note for Tech workers: Despite being a part of the Tech Talent Strategy, it seems that the new program is open to any H-1B visa holder, encompassing other professions outside of STEM. Yet, it also signals that tech workers without H-1B visa may still benefit through other pathways such as the Global Talent Stream (GTS), GSS, IMP, and the newly instated category-based Express Entry selections.

  1. What documents do you need to apply for the program?

There are two eligibility requirements for the program: you must have a valid H-1B specialty occupation visa, and currently live in the U.S.

The specific documents required for the application are as followed:

  • a copy of your current H-1B visa
  • Form I-797/I797B, Notice of Action (the letter from the U.S. government confirming your H-1B application was approved)
  • proof that you live in the U.S. (such as Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, a recent utility bill, an income tax report, or any document that proves you live in the U.S.)
  • Passport, valid for at least the next 3 years.
  • FBI Police Clearance Certificate
  • Your CV (Resume)
  • Digital Photos
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Degree Certificates
  1. How to advance from the OWP program to PR?

Since the program is a more open door to work permit, the pathway is relatively similar to how other work-permit holders may attain their PR. An option is that one can enter the Express Entry pool and wait until they receive an invitation to apply (ITA) based on their CRS score or on their eligibility to the STEM category for selection-based draw. Another option would be going through the Province Nominee Program (PNP) where applicants will upload a profile and wait to receive a Notification of Interest (NOI) from a specific province or territory inviting them to apply for PR. 

With many provinces looking for tech workers as well as the newly instated Express Entry category-based selection draws (targeting STEM professionals in one of the five categories) to receive ITAs for PR, the chance of getting a PR is higher for tech workers.