To help address labor shortages in the tech sector, the Canadian Council of Innovators is calling on the federal government to pilot a new visa that would allow highly skilled tech workers to come to Canada without a job offer.
The ICC recently released its Talent and Skills Strategy, offering 13 key recommendations for decision makers to support Canada’s growing tech industry.
The proposed visa, called the High Potential Tech Visa, would target in-demand professions like software developers and data scientists. This would allow holders to work, change jobs and help them obtain permanent residence in Canada.
In his report titled Talent and skills strategy, CCI noted that most people applying for a work visa in Canada need a job offer to qualify. This requirement creates a barrier for highly skilled talent wishing to work in Canada. The report says that if software developers, data scientists and other professionals working in in-demand occupations were allowed to enter Canada to seek work, they would likely find it.
Additionally, the pandemic has made remote working increasingly common. Therefore, CCI says the Canadian government should consult with the private sector to set up a pilot project allowing highly skilled foreign workers to come to Canada for a fixed term without a job offer.
This proposal is loosely based on a scheme proposed in the UK, which would allow software developers, engineers or data scientists to enter the country without a job offer.
The proposed tech visa would complement the current Global Skills Strategy, which aims to process work permit applications in as little as two weeks for in-demand roles. The ICC, however, requests a visa processing time of 48 hours for this program.
“By creating an avenue for skilled tech workers to come to Canada on their own initiative, the government can increase the available supply of skilled workers who could be hired by Canadian companies, without forcing companies to proactively undertake the long and bureaucratic process involved. to sponsor a potential foreign worker,” the report said.
The CCI also wants the government to offer a concierge service to help businesses navigate the immigration system and thus ease the path to permanent residency through the Global Talent Stream, a work permit program that operates under of the Global Skills Strategy and is available to some employers. and select technology occupations in demand.
Some of CCI’s other recommendations around talent acquisition included launching a digital nomads strategy to make Canada a destination for remote workers and more regular revision of National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes to to better reflect the changing nature of technology jobs in Canada. They also want Canada to expand international and alternative credential recognition for Canadian visa applicants.
Two-Week Work Permit Processing for Tech Talent
Canada already offers immigration and work permit options for tech workers. Among the many pathways to permanent residency, Canada also offers the Global Talent Stream (GTS), which allows certain skilled workers to obtain a temporary work permit within two weeks of application. It is one of the pillars of from Canada Global Skills Strategy, which aims to help businesses grow by ensuring they can quickly access the highly skilled talent they need.
The GTS allows employers to obtain a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) without the advertising requirement. It is available for high-growth companies that can demonstrate a need to recruit unique specialist talent from overseas. Employers in this category must be referred to the Global Talent Stream by a designated referral partner.
The GTS is also available to employers looking to hire qualified talent for in-demand occupations on the Global Talent Occupations List.
Employers in both categories must meet conditions relating to the payment of skilled workers. Foreign workers hired through the GTS must be paid the prevailing wage or higher. The prevailing salary is defined as the greater of:
- the median salary for the profession on the Government of Canada Job Bank;
- the salary in the range that an employer pays current employees in the same position at the same location, with the same skills and experience;
- the minimum wage floor as defined in the Global Talent occupations list (if applicable).
There are also work permit exemptions under the Global Talent Stream. Highly skilled workers in NOC Type 0 or Level A occupations can enter Canada to work for 15 days in a six-month period or 30 days in a 12-month period without a work permit. Researchers working in publicly funded research institutions can come to Canada for 120 days a year without needing a work permit.
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