As a Canadian immigration lawyer, I am pleased to share the Government of Canada’s commitment to positioning Canada as a global leader in attracting and recruiting tech talent. This strategic approach aims to not only fulfill the current demand for skilled workers but also to attract individuals with the skills and business acumen to create future job opportunities.
Under the direction of the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, the government has outlined four key pillars to enhance the programs offered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
- Developing a new Innovation Stream under the International Mobility Program: In response to feedback from stakeholders in the tech industry, it has become evident that labor shortages persist in key tech occupations. To address this, the Government of Canada plans to introduce the Innovation Stream by the end of 2023. This new stream will exempt high-growth employers and talented workers from the labor market impact assessment process, aligning with Canada’s innovation priorities and high-tech industries. The proposed options include employer-specific work permits for up to five years, targeting companies contributing to industrial innovation goals, as well as open work permits for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations.
- Promoting Canada as a destination for digital nomads: Recognizing the increasing prevalence of digital nomads who can work remotely from anywhere, Canada aims to attract this group to its shores. Currently, digital nomads only require visitor status to relocate to Canada for up to six months while working remotely for a foreign employer. IRCC plans to collaborate with public and private partners to explore additional policies that would make Canada an appealing destination for digital nomads. Furthermore, it is anticipated that some digital nomads may choose to seek opportunities with Canadian employers, enabling them to apply for temporary work permits or even permanent residence.
- Improving labor mobility in North America for H-1B visa holders: Many workers in high-tech fields are employed by companies with significant operations in both Canada and the United States. To facilitate their mobility, as of July 16, 2023, H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the US, along with their immediate family members, will be eligible to apply to work in Canada. Approved applicants will receive open work permits for up to three years, granting them the freedom to work for any employer throughout Canada. Spouses and dependents will also have the opportunity to apply for temporary resident visas with work or study permits as needed. This measure will enhance the opportunities available to skilled workers in the high-tech sector and foster economic growth in North America. The program will remain in effect for one year or until IRCC receives 10,000 applications, with only principal applicants counting towards the application cap.
- Enhancing existing programs for high-skilled tech workers: The Government of Canada acknowledges the need to improve current immigration programs that cater to high-skilled tech occupations. Specifically, the Global Skills Strategy and the Start-up Visa Program will undergo enhancements to benefit workers in these fields.
a. Global Skills Strategy: Launched in 2017, the Global Skills Strategy aims to provide Canadian employers with quick access to highly skilled talent from around the world. Processing times for work permit applications under the Global Skills Strategy have been restored to pre-pandemic levels. Employment and Social Development Canada and IRCC are meeting the two-week processing standard for labor market impact assessments and work permit applications, respectively.
b. Start-up Visa Program: The Start-up Visa (SUV) Program offers a pathway to permanent residence for foreign entrepreneurs who secure support from designated Canadian venture capital funds, angel investor organizations, or business incubators. To address lengthy wait times for applicants, the SUV Program will receive increased allocations under the 2023–2025 multi-year levels plan.