Canada Announces 6 New Initiatives to Attract Tech Talent

IRCC Minister Announces New Steps at Collision Conference

Canada is focused on attracting new-age workers and entrepreneurs to expand its economy. The government believes that the new-age industries will provide jobs for the future and it is working hard to ensure that they get the talent they need from anywhere in the world.

Today at Collision 2023, Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship launched Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy. There are new measures as well as improvements on the existing tech talent immigration programs like the Start-up Visa Program. There is also good news for US H1B visa holders who are looking for a more predictable visa and immigration regime north of the border.

The steps announced on 27 June 2023 include:

  • A new program for H1B Visa holders: the creation of an open work permit stream for H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the US to apply for a Canadian work permit. The stream will also provide for study and work permit options for their accompanying family members.
  • Innovations stream under the International Mobility Program: This new stream under the International Mobility Program is developed to attract highly talented individuals. Options under this stream include
    • employer-specific work permits for up to five years for workers destined to work for a company identified by the Government of Canada as contributing to its industrial innovation goals
    • open work permits for up to five years for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations
  • Work permits processed within 14 days: IRCC will aim to provide a 14-day service standard for work permits under the Global Skills Strategy
  • Digital Nomad Visa to work in Canada: Canada will promote itself as a destination for digital nomads whereby employees of international companies can come and work in Canada for a year for their company. During this time if they get a job offer from a Canadian company, they can convert their visa to a work permit from within Canada.
  • STEM-specific draws under Express Entry Program: the creation of a STEM-specific draw under category-based selection to issue additional invitations to apply under the Express Entry program
  • Improvements to the Start-up Visa Program
    • Increased spots under this program for 2023, with further increases planned for 2024 and 2025.
    • Applicants will be able to apply for a work permit that is up to three years in duration instead of one year.
    • Applicants can apply for an open work permit instead of one that limits them to work for their own start-up.
    • Three-year open work permit available to each member of the entrepreneurial team instead of only those who are essential and urgently needed in Canada.
    • Prioritizing applications that are supported by venture capital, angel investor groups and business incubators and have capital committed. Applications that are supported by business incubators that are members of Canada’s Tech Network will also be prioritized.

The Government of Canada is going all out to ensure that it emerges as a top destination for global tech talent. The government believes that as part of its immigration strategy it needs to get workers who are more attuned to the needs of the future industries and who themselves have the potential to create businesses in Canada.

“We’re enthusiastic about the ambitious goals we have set in immigration, because they aren’t just about numbers—they are strategic. With Canada’s first-ever immigration Tech Talent Strategy, we’re targeting newcomers that can help enshrine Canada as a world leader in a variety of emerging technologies. I’m grateful for the collaboration of the tech, start-up and business communities, who have provided valuable insight to develop this strategy. Having a fast and flexible approach, one that is broadly supported by Canadians, is truly Canada’s immigration advantage.”

– The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

More Details for H1B Work Permit Holders

The new H1-B specialty occupation visa holder work permit will be available from July 16, 2023. Approved applicants will receive an open work permit of up to three years in duration, which means they will be able to work for almost any employer anywhere in Canada. Their spouses and dependants will also be eligible to apply for a temporary resident visa, with a work or study permit, as needed.

This measure will remain in effect for one year, or until Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) receives 10,000 applications. Only principal applicants, and not their accompanying family members, will count toward the application cap. 

Other Details (Notes from IRCC website)

  • The Innovation Stream will be launched by the end of this year. Options being developed are informed by the feedback of stakeholders received throughout a number of consultations in recent months. 
  • The Global Skills Strategy, launched in 2017, features four policies designed to support Canadian employers seeking quick access to highly skilled talent from around the world. Employment and Social Development Canada is now meeting the two-week standard for processing Global Talent Stream labour market impact assessments for employers, and IRCC is now meeting the two-week standard for work permit applications.
  • Changes to the temporary work permit option for Start-up Visa Program applicants, as well as the new application prioritization plan, will be in place later this year.
  • Canada’s information and communications technology sector employed nearly 720,000 Canadians and accounted for more than 44% of all private research and development spending in Canada in 2021. The sector was responsible for more than 15% of Canada’s overall GDP growth between 2016 and 2021. (Source: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (PDF 0.76 MB))
  • In CBRE’s report on the concentration of tech talent for 2022, Canadian cities represented 11 of the top 62 markets in North America. The same report also ranked tech industry job growth between 2016 and 2021, with Canadian cities accounting for seven of the top ten.
  • Canada ranked number one as the most attractive destination for immigrant entrepreneurs in a 2023 report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (PDF 2.18 MB). The rankings were based on a wide variety of factors, including access to capital, corporate tax rates, skills of the workforce, strength of its universities and quality of life, as well as immigration policies for entrepreneurs and their families. Canadian cities continue to be at the top of the livability index worldwide.

It is interesting to note that even the private sector is gearing up to help the government meet its skills gap-bridging strategy. A startup called Passage recently raised $40Mn funding to help potential immigrants finance their move to Canada.

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