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Canadian Immigration’s Revised Focus on Innovation, Tech Talent, and Highly Skilled Foreign Workers

The government has announced fundamental changes to immigration policy. These changes are designed to attract highly skilled workers to Canada including innovative business ideas and the people behind them. The latest changes include the following new policy and program announcements:

  1. Global Skills Strategy Return to 2 Week Processing

The Global Skills Strategy is a 2017 policy designed to support employers seeking certain high-skilled employees in Canada. One facet of this policy allows for two (2) week processing of work permits for certain in-demand occupations, under the Global Talent Stream.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic related processing delays, applications under the Global Skills Strategy became increasingly protracted. Canada promises to return to the service standard of two (2) week processing for Labour Market Impact Assessments, and two (2) week processing for the work permits.

  1. New “Innovation-Stream” Work Permits

By the end of 2023, Canada plans to launch new Innovation-Stream of work permits.

This stream will allow for a Labour Market Impact Assessment exemption for designated employers, who the Government of Canada has designated as contributing to industry innovation goals. Workers for these employers will be eligible for up to five (5) year employer-specific work permits.

This stream will also allow workers in select high-demand occupations to obtain open work permits for up to five (5) years.

  1. New Digital Nomad Visa

IRCC has clarified that workers who are employed by foreign employers may work remotely in Canada as a visitor, for up to six months at a time. IRCC is now discussing additional policies to attract those working remotely for foreign employers to enter and remain in Canada.

  1. Work Permit for H-1B Visa Holders and Family

Beginning July 16, 2023, H-1B visa holders in the US will be eligible to obtain an open work permit for up to three years. Their spouses and children will also be eligible for work or study permits.

This measure will allow 10,000 H-1B visa holders to enter Canada.

  1. Work Permit Holders Can Now Study

A new, three-year measure will allow current work permit holders to enroll in study programs for the duration of their work permit.

Previously, work permit holders looking to study for a program greater than six (6) months needed to apply for a study permit, in addition to their work permit.

Now, anyone who has a valid work permit, or applied to renew their work permit prior to June 7, 2023, can study without a study permit.

Foreign workers undertaking full-time studies may damage their eligibility for permanent residence.  BARTLAW LLP recommends reviewing eligibility for permanent residence for foreign workers seeking full-time study whilst working full-time.

  1. Start-Up Visa Category

Start-Up Visa applicants will be able to apply for a work permit that is up to three years in duration instead of one year. They will be able to apply for a three-year open work permit instead of one that limits them to working for their own start-up.  The three-year open work permit will be available to each member of the entrepreneurial team instead of only those who are essential and urgently needed in Canada.

The government has committed to 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.

  1. Express Entry Permanent Residence for STEAM Applicants

The government will introduce the first STEM round of invitations for category-based selection the week of July 5, 2023. Candidates with STEM expertise includes data scientists, software developers and programmers, mathematicians, statisticians, actuaries, and electrical and electronics engineers.