In a groundbreaking move, Canada has introduced a transformative immigration pathway specifically designed for tech professionals, known as the “Immigration Tech Talent Strategy.” What sets this strategy apart is that applicants will no longer require a job offer to migrate to Canada under this program. The Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, Honourable John Fraser, officially announced this historic initiative on June 27, 2023, during the prestigious Collision 2023 event.
Under the Immigration Tech Talent Strategy, Canada has introduced an innovative stream that offers open work permits for a duration of up to five years to highly skilled professionals in select high-demand occupations. Furthermore, the program encompasses employer-specific work permits for the same duration, benefiting individuals employed by companies that contribute to Canada’s industrial innovation objectives.
The timing of this strategy couldn’t be better, as a recent report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2023 reaffirmed Canada’s position as the top destination for immigrant entrepreneurs. These developments solidify Canada’s appeal as an enticing location for individuals seeking fresh opportunities and underscore the country’s commitment to nurturing emerging technologies.
In a move to further extend opportunities, Canada has also opened its doors to holders of the H-1B specialty occupation visa in the United States. Such individuals can now apply for Canadian work permits, as well as explore study or work permit options for their accompanying family members.
The work permit applications for H-1B visa holders will be accepted starting from July 16, 2023, and will remain open for one year or until Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada receive 10,000 applications. It is important to note that only principal applicants will be counted toward the application cap, not their accompanying family members.
Sean Fraser, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, expressed great enthusiasm for these immigration goals, highlighting their strategic significance beyond mere numerical targets. The objective is to attract newcomers who can contribute to Canada’s stature as a global leader in various emerging technologies.
Fraser acknowledged that the development of this strategy was a collaborative effort with input from the tech, start-up, and business communities, making it a result of Canada’s fast and flexible approach, widely supported by its citizens.
In addition to the tech talent strategy, Canada has made noteworthy enhancements to its start-up visa program to attract skilled foreign tech workers. These improvements include an increased number of program spots, the opportunity to apply for a three-year work permit (previously limited to one year), and the chance to obtain an open work permit, removing the restriction of working solely for one’s start-up. Furthermore, each member of an entrepreneurial team can now apply for an open work permit, expanding eligibility beyond essential and urgently needed individuals.
These progressive changes to Canada’s immigration policies align with similar developments in Germany, which recently modified its immigration laws to attract skilled foreign workers. They also come in response to the United Kingdom’s decision to restrict the ability of foreign students to bring their family members starting in 2024. In light of these circumstances, Canada has introduced faster temporary resident visa processing and more considerate application measures for dependents.
The Tech Talent Strategy represents a remarkable step forward. As of July 16, 2023, the new work permit for H-1B specialty occupation visa holders will be available, granting approved applicants an open work permit of up to three years.
This means they will have the freedom to work for almost any employer anywhere in Canada. Moreover, their spouses and dependents will also be eligible to apply for a temporary resident visa, along with a work or study permit as required.
This measure will remain in effect for one year or until Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) receive 10,000 applications. Only principal applicants, and not their accompanying family members, will be counted toward the application cap.
Canada is also promoting itself as a desirable destination for digital nomads and has implemented a STEM-specific draw under category-based selection to issue additional invitations to apply under the Express Entry program. These steps align with improvements made to the Start-up Visa Program, such as increased program spots, extended work permit durations, and expanded eligibility criteria.
The Government of Canada embraces its emerging role as a leader in global tech talent recruitment and attraction. By prioritizing the filling of in-demand jobs today and attracting the skills and business talent needed to create future jobs, Canada demonstrates its commitment to sustained technological advancement and economic growth.
About Tech Talent Strategy:
The new H1-B specialty occupation visa holder work permit will be available as of 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.
How long will it be open?
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.
Key points on Canada’s first-ever Tech Talent Strategy
- 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, and study or work permit options for their accompanying family members
- The development of an Innovation Stream under the International Mobility Program to attract highly talented individuals, options for which 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 our industrial innovation goals
- open work permits for up to five years for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations
- A return to the 14-day service standard for work permits under the Global Skills Strategy
- The promotion of Canada as a destination for digital nomads
- 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
- We allocated more spots to 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 will be able to apply for an open work permit instead of one that limits them to work for their own start-up.
- We’re making this 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.
- We’re prioritizing applications that are supported by venture capital, angel investor groups, and business incubators and have capital committed, along with applications that are supported by business incubators who are members of Canada’s Tech Network.
As part of Canada’s comprehensive Tech Talent Strategy, Minister Fraser unveiled several aggressive attraction measures, including the creation of an open work permit stream for H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the US, the development of an Innovation Stream under the International Mobility Program, and employer-specific work permits for up to five years for individuals employed by companies contributing to Canada’s industrial innovation goals. Additionally, open work permits for up to five years are available for highly skilled workers in select high-demand occupations.