Canada Launches Tech Talent Strategy: What It Means To You & What You Should Do Next

Canada Launches Tech Talent Strategy: What It Means To You & What You Should Do Next

June 29, 2023

Canada’s thriving tech industry will be boosted with the launch of the country’s first-ever Tech Talent Strategy announced by Immigration Minister Sean Fraser. In this article, we will highlight the changes and improvements introduced by this new Strategy and share our preliminary thoughts on how they may affect you and what you should do next if you want to relocate to Canada. Stay tuned as we may need to update this article as more details on these changes are published by Immigration Canada.

New Tech Talent Immigration Strategy

The Strategy, unveiled by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Sean Fraser, aims to attract top talent and fuel innovation in high-growth industries. Announced at Collision 2023, North America’s premier tech conference, the Strategy introduces several aggressive attraction measures to help Canadian businesses compete in the global market:

  1. Open Work Permit for 10,000 H-1B Visa Holders and Their Families
  2. A new LMIA-exempt Innovation Stream by the end of 2023
  3. A 14-Day Service Standard for Work Permits
  4. Promotion of Canada as a Destination for Digital Nomads
  5. STEM-Specific Draw under Express Entry
  6. Improvements to the Start-up Visa Program


Canada Launches Tech Talent Strategy Graphic 1

6 Immigration Flexibilities, Policy Changes and Improvements


1 – Open Work Permit for 10,000 H-1B Visa Holders and Their Families

Canada has introduced an open work permit stream to leverage the skills and expertise of H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the United States. This new Stream allows H-1B visa holders scrambled in the US and their accompanying family members to apply for Canadian work permits, creating opportunities for seamless integration into the Canadian tech workforce. The Stream will be effective as of July 16, 2023.

  • What does it mean to you as an H-1B visa holder? Now, you and your family can start packing your luggage and getting ready to move to Canada by applying for an open work permit. A Canadian open work permit means that you don’t need to get a job offer from a Canadian employer to apply for it. When approved, you will receive an open work permit of up to 3 years and can work for any employer anywhere in Canada. Your spouse can also get an open work permit, and your children will be able to study in Canada with their study permits. Public schools in Canada are free, and your children can get world-class Canadian education for free. Your family can benefit from Canada’s free healthcare.
  • What should you do now? This new measure will be in effect for one year or until the Canadian immigration authorities receive 10,000 work permit applications.  Only your application (not your spouse’s or children’s) will be counted toward this application cap. It means Canada is willing to accept up to 10,000 families of H-1B visa holders. So, you should hurry and contact an experienced Global Mobility Specialist at Sobirovs Law Firm to discuss your application.
  • An important note: If you have all your documents ready, don’t delay and start your application as soon as possible. Waiting for the documents of your family members and delaying the process is not recommended. Your application must be submitted as soon as possible. Based on our experience dealing with immigration programs with caps, and considering more than 45,000 H-1B visa holders have been laid off in the US in recent months, the application cap set by Canada will be filled soon.

What does this new stream offer to Canadian employers? Employers in Canada can now tap into a bigger pool of excellent candidates to fill in open positions. If you are a Canada-based company looking for great talent, consider the H-1B visa holders in the US, too. Don’t hesitate to contact us for free guidance on bringing foreign workers to your Canadian operations. With the open work permit flexibility described above, Canadian employers will not need to obtain an LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) to hire such talent from the US. Your costs of hiring foreign workers with H-1B visas will be minimal.

H1B Visa Holders to Canada Open Work Permit Graphic

2 – A New LMIA-Exempt Innovation Stream by the End of 2023

The Innovation Stream will be an integral part of the Tech Talent Strategy, facilitating the attraction of highly talented individuals to Canada. This new Stream will be under the International Mobility Program and will include the following two possibilities:

  1. employer-specific work permits for up to 5 years for workers destined to work for a company identified as contributing to Canada’s industrial innovation goals, and
  2. open work permits for up to 5 years for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations.
  • What does Innovation Steam offer to Canadian companies? If your company contributes to Canada’s industrial innovation goals, it can hire and bring workers easily without obtaining an LMIA. Such workers will be about to work only at your company for up to 5 years.
  • What does Innovation Steam offer to foreign workers? It offers them an excellent opportunity to work in Canada for up to 5 years in in-demand occupations and relocate to Canada with their families. Subsequently, working in Canada can be a great way to become a permanent resident after gaining Canadian work experience and qualifying for Canada’s permanent residency.

3 – A 14-Day Service Standard for Work Permits Under the Global Talent Stream

Canada has reinstated the 14-day service standard for work permits on the ESDC and IRCC levels as part of the Global Skills Strategy. This expedited processing time allows Canadian employers to access highly skilled talent worldwide more efficiently, ensuring timely recruitment and reducing administrative burdens. Generally, with this service standard, a Canadian employer can bring the selected foreign talent in about 1 month, from start to finish.

  • As a Canadian employer, you should feel more comfortable recruiting talent from around the world and expect the hired talent to arrive in Canada quickly. Learn more on this page, where we discuss the Global Talent Stream in more detail.

Canada Launches Tech Talent Strategy Graphic 1

4 – Promotion of Canada as a Destination for Digital Nomads

Recognizing the changing work landscape, the Tech Talent Strategy highlights Canada as an attractive destination for digital nomads. With its exceptional quality of life, robust tech infrastructure, diverse and multicultural culture, and welcoming society, Canada offers an inviting environment for remote workers seeking a conducive work-life balance.

As of July 16, 2023, Canada’s new Digital Nomad Strategy allows foreign remote workers to come to Canada with a visitor status and work for a non-Canadian foreign employer(s). Foreign workers can live in Canada, spend in Canada and enjoy the Canadian culture for up to 6 months. Beyond 6 months, the digital nomads should obtain a work permit.

With these new changes and assuming that foreign remote workers are primarily engaged in knowledge-based tech jobs, getting an open work permit should not be very hard. However, if you want to stay in Canada for a more extended period, it is recommended that you consult an experienced Canadian immigration lawyer.

If you are from a visa-exempt country, you only need to get an electronic travel authorization (eTA) and travel to Canada. An excellent example of such digital nomads is the citizens of the US or US Green Card holders, citizens of EU countries, Japan, South Korea, Australia, the UK and many other countries exempt from the travel visa requirements. Recently, Canada added 13 more countries to the visa-exempt list (mainly from the Caribbean and South America, but also from Morocco, the Philippines, and Thailand).

If you are from a visa country and have a valid Canadian visitor visa, you can relocate to Canada for 6 months and work from Canada for your original employer.

Learn more about Canada’s Tech Visas.

5 – STEM-Specific Draw under Express Entry

A STEM-specific draw will be introduced under the Express Entry Program to further support the recruitment of skilled individuals. This draw, effective as of July 5, 2023, will select candidates with expertise in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Based on the current priorities set out by Canada, your chances of being invited to apply for permanent residence through Expres Entry will increase if you have the following:

  • strong French language proficiency or
  • work experience in the following fields:
    • healthcare
    • science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions
    • trades, such as carpenters, plumbers and contractors
    • transport
    • agriculture and agri-food

This new category-specific draw from the Express Entry pool could delay your chance of being invited if you don’t have the background above. However, other draws such as the Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Trades Worker, the Canadian Experience Class and the Provincial Nominee Program draws will continue to function.

On the day of writing this article (June 27, 2023), an Express Entry draw was held, resulting in 4,800 invitations to apply to those with a minimum CRS score of 486. No program under Express Entry was specified in that draw. However, in the future, we may see more category-specific draws, such as those aimed at healthcare workers.

Therefore, your strategy in this new reality should be focused on increasing your CRS score as much as possible. You can do so by getting a higher score on language tests and a job offer from a Canadian employer or by learning French to benefit from the recent changes to the Mobilite Francophone program.

6 – Improvements to the Start-up Visa Program

The Tech Talent Strategy also enhances the Start-up Visa Program, which facilitates the immigration of entrepreneurs to Canada. These improvements include longer open work permit durations for up to 3 years, broader eligibility for open work permits, and priority processing for applications supported by venture capital, angel investor groups, and business incubators.

In a nutshell, Canada is improving the SUV program by:

  • prioritizing applications from start-ups with committed capital. It could mean that those who got the support of a designated business incubator need to be ready to commit money to be prioritized. Previously, the founders who received the help of an incubator did not necessarily inject capital into their startups. They would mainly pay for the incubator’s programs. To quote Minister Fraser, the Government of Canada will look for the “skin in the game”. Those startups that received investment from angel investors or venture capitalists can demonstrate that a certain amount of capital has been committed to the startups. If there is no capital commitment, your startup must have been endorsed by a business incubator that is a member of Canada’s Tech Network for your application to be prioritized.
  • Inviting all start-up members to apply for an open work permit of up to 3 years. This change will allow all founders to get open work permits while their SUV permanent residence application is processed. It means the founders can earn additional income while in Canada on work permits. However, it is unclear if this relates only to the existing SUV application backlog or future applications.

Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy, launched at Collision 2023, heralds a new era of innovation and economic growth. By focusing on attracting top talent, Canada is taking strategic steps to solidify its position as a global leader in emerging technologies. The aggressive attraction measures introduced through the Tech Talent Strategy will give businesses the talent they need to thrive in a highly competitive landscape.

Improvements to the Start-up Visa Program Graphic

How an Experienced Team at Sobirovs Law Firm Can Help You

Whether you are foreign talent, a startup entrepreneur or a Canadian employer looking for talent, our team can help you!

Canada’s immigration rules and priorities change constantly. So should your immigration strategy. With more than 20 years of combined experience, a 93% approval rate in 2022 and a multilingual team of professionals, we offer hassle-free business immigration and techimmigration services to our clients.

Book your 1-hour paid Strategy Meeting with your senior lawyer today to discuss your immigration or foreign talent needs.