Today, during the Collision 2023 Tech Conference, the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced Canada’s inaugural Tech Talent Strategy. This new strategy introduces fresh initiatives and enhancements to existing measures, aimed at fostering the growth and success of businesses in Canada amidst a competitive environment.
The Government of Canada is focusing on Canada’s growing position as a leader in global tech talent recruitment and attraction. The government aims to only to fill current in-demand jobs but also to attract skilled individuals and business talent to create future jobs.
The approach consists of four key pillars that involve enhancements to programs offered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
1) Developing a New Innovation Stream Under the International Mobility Program
The government plans to launch a new Innovation Stream by the end of 2023. This stream will create an exemption from the labour market impact assessment process, making it easier for high-growth employers and talented workers to contribute to Canada’s innovation goals and high-tech industries. Two options are being considered: employer-specific work permits for up to five years and open work permits for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations.
2) Promoting Canada as a Destination for Digital Nomads
The government aims to attract digital nomads who can work remotely from anywhere in the world. Currently, digital nomads can relocate to Canada with visitor status for up to six months while working remotely for a foreign employer. IRCC will collaborate with public and private partners to explore additional policies to attract digital nomads. Digital nomads who decide to seek opportunities with Canadian employers may apply for temporary work permits or permanent residence when they receive a job offer.
3) Improving Labour Mobility
To facilitate the mobility of workers in high-tech fields between Canada and the United States, a streamlined work permit will be created for H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the US. Starting from July 16, 2023, H-1B visa holders and their immediate family members can apply to come to Canada. Approved applicants will receive an open work permit of up to three years, allowing them to work for any employer in Canada. Spouses and dependents can also apply for temporary resident visas.
4) Enhancing Existing Programs for High-Skilled Tech Occupations
The government is improving immigration programs that benefit workers in high-skilled tech occupations. The Global Skills Strategy, launched in 2017, supports Canadian employers in quickly accessing highly skilled talent globally. Processing times for work permit applications under this program have improved. The Start-up Visa Program, which offers a path to permanent residence for foreign entrepreneurs with support from designated Canadian organizations, will see increased spots in the 2023–2025 multi-year levels plan. Additionally, the temporary work permit option for Start-up Visa applicants will be changed to an open work permit of up to three years, providing more flexibility and financial stability for founders and their families.
These changes are all very positive and will attract talented individuals to Canada. The Minister also indicated that work permits under the Global Skills Strategy would return to 2 week processing times. Let’s hope this in fact occurs.
The only concern we have is the introduction of the notion that those Start-up Visa applicants with capital contributions will be prioritized. The government continues to find ways to narrow the requirements of the Start-up Visa program. The worry is that those without significant capital contributions will have their applications sit and eventually potentially cancelled.