Canada has set its ambitions on becoming a top choice for global tech talent by placing a renewed focus on attracting creative individuals from all corners of the globe. The country’s government, led by Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Sean Fraser, has unveiled a comprehensive strategy aimed at meeting current job market demands and shaping the future landscape of employment.
The Four Key Pillars
The government’s strategy is based on four key pillars: modifications and improvements to programs managed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
- Innovation Stream: Streamlining the Process
A major highlight of the government’s plan is the introduction of an Innovation Stream under the International Mobility Program. Anticipated to be operational by the end of 2023, this stream will exempt high-growth employers and talented workers in the tech sector from the labor market impact assessment process. This exemption aligns with Canada’s innovation objectives and addresses the ongoing labor shortages in key tech occupations. The exact list of occupations, which will receive LMIA exemptions, is yet to be published.
- Two Options for the Innovation Stream
Based on stakeholder feedback, the IRCC is considering two options for the Innovation Stream, which are not mutually exclusive. The first option involves employer-specific work permits for up to five years, targeting workers engaged with companies contributing to Canada’s industrial innovation goals. The second option offers open work permits for up to five years for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations.
- Positioning Canada as a Hub for Digital Nomads
Recognizing the rise of digital nomads—professionals who can work remotely from anywhere worldwide—the Canadian Government aims to position Canada as an attractive location for these individuals. Existing immigration rules already allow digital nomads to work remotely in Canada for up to six months on visitor status. However, the IRCC plans to explore additional policies in collaboration with public and private partners to attract digital nomads to Canada further.
- Streamlined Work Permit Application Process for H-1B Visa Holders
Starting July 16, 2023, H-1B speciality occupation visa holders in the United States will benefit from a streamlined work permit application process. Upon approval, they will receive an open work permit valid for up to three years. This provision aims to enhance opportunities for skilled workers to contribute to Canada’s high-tech sector and promote economic prosperity in North America. The provision will be in place for a year or until the IRCC receives 10,000 applications.
Improvements to Existing Programs
The Canadian Government is also committed to improving existing programs that cater to high-skilled tech occupations:
- Global Skills Strategy: Rapid Access to Talent
The Global Skills Strategy, introduced in 2017, facilitates Canadian employers’ access to highly skilled global talent. Work permit application processing times under this strategy have now recovered from pandemic-related delays, ensuring a more efficient and timely process for employers.
- Start-up Visa Program: Pathway to Permanent Residence
The Start-up Visa (SUV) Program will undergo significant changes aimed at foreign entrepreneurs supported by designated Canadian venture capital funds, angel investor organizations, or business incubators. The 2023–2025 multi-year levels plan has allocated more spots to the program, tripling the number of expected permanent residents in the Federal Business category compared to 2022. Additionally, the work permit associated with the SUV program will now be an open work permit valid for up to three years, benefiting each entrepreneurial team member.
With its innovative approaches, the Canadian Government seeks to capitalize on the country’s potential as a tech talent recruitment and attraction leader. By streamlining immigration processes, providing LMIA exemptions, and creating pathways for skilled workers and entrepreneurs, Canada is taking significant steps toward becoming a global tech powerhouse.