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Canada unveils new immigration pathway to attract tech talent

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Canada’s high-growth industries will provide the jobs of the future, and companies need access to top talent that will fuel innovation, and drive emerging technologies forward.

Today at Collision 2023, the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship launched Canada’s first-ever Tech Talent Strategy. This new strategy includes new measures and improvements on existing measures to help businesses in Canada thrive in a competitive landscape. As part of Canada’s first-ever Tech Talent Strategy, Minister Fraser announced the following aggressive attraction measures:

  • 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 to 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 working 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.

The Government of Canada is embracing Canada’s emerging role as a leader in global tech talent recruitment and attraction to ensure Canada is not only filling in-demand jobs today but also attracting the skills and business talent to create the jobs of tomorrow.

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. Click To Tweet

For more details on each element of the Tech Talent Strategy, see the backgrounder.

“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

Quick facts

  • 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 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
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