Breaking News: Canada’s IRCC Announces First-Ever Tech Talent Strategy

News RoomJune 29, 20230

Breaking News: Canada’s IRCC Announces First-Ever Tech Talent Strategy

At Brown Immigration Law, we strive to be your company’s partner in growth and innovation, on a global scale. We continue our commitment to demystifying the complex immigration laws of the United States and Canada to provide efficient and effective immigration and global mobility support. Please find the most recent breaking business immigration news below.

Canada’s IRCC Announces First-Ever Tech Talent Strategy – H-1B Holders Eligible for Canadian Work Permit, Among Other Opportunities

Today marks the final day of Canada’s Collision 2023 Conference, touted as North America’s top tech conference. On June 27, 2023, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Sean Fraser, announced a number of exciting new initiatives and renewed commitments to past ones as part of IRCC’s new Tech Talent Strategy. The Tech Talent Strategy is part of IRCC’s ongoing efforts to address labour market needs, compete for global talent, and attract more immigrants as part of Canada’s broader economic recovery plan. With the COVID-19 global pandemic in our collective rear view, Canada is joining countries around the globe in pressing ahead in pursuit of economic recovery and is taking steps to solidify its emerging role as a leader in the global tech space through the Tech Talent Strategy and this important new announcement.

Minister Fraser’s announcement contained many new and exciting pathways to attract tech talent, including various measures to enhance the IRCC’s overall offering to tech workers. Importantly, a portion of the announced pathways have existed previously as long-standing law and policy, now repackaged to invite more utilization. Please read below for a breakdown of what’s new, what’s been renewed, what’s pretty much the same, and finally, our firm’s initial observations and key takeaways as we continue to monitor for more updates from the IRCC.

New opportunities:

  • Between July 16, 2023, and July 16, 2024, IRCC will facilitate the issuance of up to 10,000 open work permits for H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the US without requiring a job offer from a Canadian employer. The work permits will be valid for up to three years and accompanying family members will also be eligible for status documents for the same duration.
  • By the end of 2023, IRCC will expand the existing International Mobility Program to include two new work permits categories:
    • An employer-specific work category where foreign nationals destined to work for companies identified by the Government of Canada as contributing to Canada’s innovation goals can obtain permits valid for up to five years.
    • An open work permit category where highly skilled workers in certain in-demand occupations will be eligible for such work permits valid for up to five years.
  • By the end of 2023, IRCC will make several improvements to the Start-Up Visa Program to allow individuals in high-skill tech occupations to expedite their entry into the Canadian labour market:
    • Applicants will no longer be required to demonstrate that their role is essential to the business to obtain a work permit.
    • Applicants will now be able to apply for open work permits – allowing them to also work for companies other than their own start-ups.
    • Allowing applicants to apply for a work permit that is valid for up to three years instead of one.
  • Announced earlier this week, temporary foreign workers in Canada who either held a valid work permit on or applied to extend their work permit on/prior to June 7, 2023, can now enroll in academic programs longer than six months and study on a full-time basis until their work permits expire or when the policy expires on June 27, 2026.

Repackaged Programs:

  • The Global Skills Strategy has existed since 2017. Prior to the pandemic, certain employer-specific work permits benefited from two-week priority processing, but the global pandemic led to significant processing delays. This week, the Minister announced that IRCC will return to faster processing times under the Global Skills Strategy for certain work permit applications.
  • Visitors to Canada continue to be authorized to work remotely for their employers based outside of Canada. IRCC will now promote Canada as a destination for digital nomads.
    • Canada will collaborate with private and public partners to determine whether additional policies can be established to attract digital nomads.

Maintained Initiatives:

  • In May 2023, IRCC announced that it would start holding category-based Express Entry invitation rounds alongside its general draws; the category-based draws invite individuals working in specific occupations to apply for permanent residence.
    • At the Collison conference this week, the Minister announced that IRCC would create a STEM-specific category-based Express Entry draw.
    • Yesterday, IRCC announced that the first STEM-specific category-based draw would be held on July 5, 2023, focusing on STEM candidates such as data scientists, software developers and programmers, mathematicians, statisticians, and actuaries, and electrical and electronics engineers.

Observations and Key Takeaways:

  • How will IRCC determine which companies contribute to Canada’s industrial innovation goals? For us, we have contemplated whether the criteria and selection process will resemble the referral process for ESDC’s Global Talent Stream Category “A” or whether it will resemble IRCC’s T-13 Special Projects stream. The former has clear guidance and instructions online, the latter less so.
  • Will H-1B visa holders benefit from faster processing times although they would not fall under the Global Skills Strategy (GSS)? Processing times outside of GSS often tend to be longer and will likely increase as the Government re-commits to actually processing GSS applications.
  • How will IRCC address the likely gaps between their policy intention and the negative outcomes that applicants face at visa offices and consular missions outside of Canada?
  • If the category-based draw held yesterday for healthcare workers is any indication, Express Entry candidates in STEM occupations will see a reduction in the CRS score required to apply for permanent residence. Yesterday, IRCC invited 500 health-workers with a CRS score of 476 or higher to apply for permanent residency via a targeted draw. The 476-cut-off score was 10 points lower than the general draw held the day prior.

We will continue to monitor IRCC announcements on these new programs. For more information about upcoming changes and how to implement these benefits for your workforce and employees, please contact your Brown Immigration Law attorney. 

Best Regards,
The Team at Brown Immigration Law

** This newsletter/memo is provided for informational and discussion purposes only. It does not act as a substitute for direct legal contact on an individual basis **


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