Canada launches Tech Talent Strategy to attract skilled workers, help businesses thrive
Highly skilled tech workers who intend to move to Canada now have multiple immigration pathways to enable them to come to the country, as part of the first-ever Tech Talent Strategy to attract top talent.
Launched by Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the move includes measures and improvements on existing measures to help businesses in Canada thrive in a competitive landscape. The decision was announced at Collision 2023, a Toronto-based conference that brings together representatives from companies in the tech industry.
The strategy is part of the belief that 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.
The Tech Talent Strategy by Canada includes four key pillars involving modifications to programs offered by IRCC
Measures to attract top-level tech talent include 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 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.
Furthermore, Canada will develop an Innovation Stream under the International Mobility Program to attract highly talented individuals, which will enable immigrants to secure employer-specific work permits for up to five years, as well as open work permits for up to five years for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations. The Innovation Stream will be launched by the end of 2023.
As part of the Global Skills Strategy, work permits will also be once again serviced in 14 days, while the country will also actively be promoted as a destination for digital nomads. There will also be a STEM-specific draw under category-based selection to issue additional invitations to apply under the Express Entry program.
Improvements are also to be made to the Start-up Visa Program. More spots for the program have been allocated in 2023, with increases planned in 2024 and 2025. Applicants will also be able to apply for a three-year work permit, instead of one that lasts for only a single year. This applies to all members of the entrepreneurial team, not just those who are essential, and urgently required in Canada. They can also apply for an open work permit, instead of one that restricts them to work for only their own start-up.
Priority will be given to applications under the Start-up Visa Program that are supported by venture capital, angel investor groups, and business incubators that have capital committed, along with applications supported by business incubators who are members of Canada’s Tech Network.
“We’re enthusiastic about the ambitious goals we have set in immigration because they aren’t just about numbers—they are strategic,” said Minister Fraser. “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,” he added.
Canada’s information and communications technology sector employed nearly 720,000 Canadians and accounted for more than 44 percent 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.
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