Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy: Aiming to Attract the Best in Tech & Business

The country’s former Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, recently announced the launch of Canada’s inaugural Tech Talent Strategy, which included several measures aimed at bolstering the high-tech sector.

New Work Permit for H-1B Visa Holders:

One promising initiative which commenced July 16th, 2023, permitted H-1B visa holders in the United States, along with their immediate family members, to apply for a specialized work permit. Approved applicants were to receive an open work permit valid for up to three years, enabling them to work for any employer in Canada. This initiative aimed to expand employment prospects for skilled tech workers, contributing to the economic growth of North America. H1 B workers in the US qualify in that category because of their theoretical and practical knowledge of a discipline, and the attainment of a minimum bachelors degree. Clearly this was a bold initiative to attract  skilled labour but the Federal Government placed a cap of 10,000 visas on this category and the category was filled in a single day. One would hope that this program was renewed with a more realistic assessment of the demand by H1 B applicants and a greater volume of visas eligible for the program.

Innovation Stream for Highly Talented Individuals:

To further enhance Canada’s innovation priorities and high-tech industries, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) plans to establish an Innovation Stream under the International Mobility Program. This stream will exempt highly talented individuals from the Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process, making it easier for employers and skilled workers to contribute their expertise.

New Remote Work Scheme to Attract Digital Nomads:

Canada also aims to attract digital nomads, who are individuals capable of working remotely from anywhere in the world. The IRCC will collaborate with public and private partners to explore policies and initiatives that attract digital nomads to Canada, allowing them to bring their skills and talents to the country’s workforce.

Addressing STEM Labor Market Shortages:

To address shortages in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, the IRCC will introduce category-based Express Entry draws. These draws will give preference to candidates with strong French language proficiency or work experience in STEM professions. By prioritizing these candidates, Canada aims to bridge the skill gaps in its labor market and promote the growth of the high-tech sector.

Enhancements to Global Skills Strategy and SUV Programs:

Canada is also enhancing its existing programs to better support high-skill tech workers and entrepreneurs. The Global Skills Strategy enables Canadian employers to quickly access highly skilled talent from around the world. Additionally, the Start-Up Visa (SUV) program provides a path to permanent residence for foreign entrepreneurs who receive support from designated Canadian organizations. These programs will undergo improvements to streamline processes and meet the needs of tech professionals and entrepreneurs.

The scheme introduced for the Start-up Visa Program will include allocating more spots for 2023 and planning further increases for 2024 and 2025. Applicants can now apply for a three-year work permit instead of one year and can choose an open work permit instead of being limited to their own start-up. The three-year open work permit is available to each member of the entrepreneurial team. Priority will be given to applications supported by venture capital, angel investor groups, and business incubators with committed capital, as well as applications supported by business incubators in Canada’s Tech Network. Changes to the temporary work permit option and the new application prioritization plan will be implemented later this year.

All of these initiatives are targeting two salient facts: an aging demographic amongst the Canadian population, and the concurrent need to replenish the labour force to ensure economic growth.

For more information on Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy, or other immigration questions, please contact Bruce Harwood.