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BlogCanada goes all out to attract technology workers

27 June 2023

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The federal government will create new work permit categories and expedite permanent residency for select skilled workers

On June 27, 2023 the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Honourable Sean Fraser, announced the creation of a new and groundbreaking “Tech Talent Strategy” that is intended to attract technology workers to Canada. While similar initiatives such as the Global Skills Strategy have been created in the past, the Tech Talent Strategy differs from its predecessors because it takes a holistic approach to improving our current immigration system when it comes to Canada’s ability to attract and retain technology workers. Employers working in the technology sector will want to familiarize themselves with the details of the Tech Talent Strategy.

The Minister’s Tech Talent Strategy will aggressively attract technology workers to Canada by implementing several strategic pillars that feature new work permit options, faster processing times, and direct access to Canada’s immigration pathways under the Express Entry System:

Attracting US skilled workers

For years, our immigration law firm has been advising technology companies and their employees in the United States about bringing talent to Canada. Unfortunately, the options were always limited for non-American citizens, including technology workers from China and India who work in the United States under working visas.  As part of the Tech Talent Strategy, the Minister will create a new work permit category by mid-July 2023 to attract skilled workers who hold H1-B visas in the United States.

An H1-B visa is an American working visa that allows local employers to hire foreign workers in specialized occupations, including those in the technology field, that typically require a high degree of education and training. The H1-B visa is capped, meaning that there only limited visas issued per year, such that American employers often find it difficult to retain these workers on a long-term basis and, on the flip side, their technology workers are also left in a state of uncertainty about their ability to stay in the United States. By offering a new work permit stream targeting H-1B visa holders, Canada will be attracting technology workers from a pool of already vetted and highly qualified candidates.

According to the Minister’s June 27, 2023 announcement, the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will accept applications under this category for the next year or until 10,000 applications are received, whichever comes first, and open work permits valid for up to three years will be issued to eligible applicants. This is excellent news for Canadian employers working in technology industries who are in urgent need of workers.

Creation of an Innovation Stream

The Minister has also announced the creation of an “Innovation Stream” that will offer work permits valid for up to five years. Currently, most work permits are issued for only a three-year duration with the possibility of extensions, so the creation of a five-year work permit stream will be attractive to technology workers looking for stability for themselves and their family members.

The Innovation Stream will be launched by the end of the year will specifically create two categories of permits:

  1. An employer-specific (closed) work permit designed for workers who have job offers from a shortlist of companies that the Government of Canada will deem as essential to meeting our country’s innovation goals.
  2. An open work permit designed to attract highly skilled workers who have experience in select in-demand occupations.
Direct Access to Permanent Residency

As part of the Tech Talent Strategy, the Minister will expand the current Express Entry System by creating a new category of workers that will be issued invitations to apply for permanent residency. The new draw category will specifically apply to candidates with experience in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) occupations, but the Minister has not yet released details about exactly which occupations will fall under this category.

In addition to the key pillars reviewed above, the Tech Talent Strategy will aim to improve upon existing policies and programs, including the Global Skills Strategy and the Start-up Visa Program.

The Minister’s latest announcement represents an ambitious and thoughtful approach to achieving Canada’s goal of becoming a global leader in technology and innovation, as well as alleviating chronic skills shortages. Canadian employers will now have a much larger pool of technology workers to hire from with the creation of new work permit categories designed to attract and retain top talent from around the world. In addition, from our experience as immigration lawyers, we know that most workers will only consider working in Canada and relocating their families if there is a clear and predictable pathway towards obtaining Canadian permanent residency. With the announcement of the Tech Talent Strategy, technology workers who are interested in bringing their talents to Canada will have more confidence knowing that they can plan ahead to achieve their immigration goals.

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