The Government of Canada expects to introduce priority processing times of two weeks for certain visas and work permits in low-risk, high-skilled occupations. This forms part of its Global Skills Strategy initiative, expected to be rolled out through 2017.
The Global Skills Strategy will:
At the beginning of November, 2016, the government released its Fall Economic Statement. The statement argued that “In too many cases, long processing times for work permits make it difficult for Canadian businesses to attract the talent they need to succeed.” The Global Skills Strategy is a direct response to this need for Canada to attract global talent.
Establishing Canada as a global player
Speaking at the announcement event on November 28, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, said, “Our government’s Global Skills Strategy will make it easier for Canadian companies to recruit highly trained people with in-demand skills.”
He voiced his strong support of the Global Skills Strategy, explaining that “tapping into a large pool of highly trained people – both in Canada, and abroad – will set this country up for success as a global innovation leader.”
Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, John McCallum, echoed these sentiments. “We have great talent in this country, but we need that global talent that is critical to our growth,” he said, adding that “high talent acquisition accelerates growth.”
Key industries in focus
The government states that after the Global Skills Strategy is fully implemented, “companies will soon be able to bring in the highly skilled experts they need to grow, flourish and provide good jobs for Canadians faster than ever before.” Consequently, Canada’s economy is expected to grow, resulting in further job creation and attracting further investment.
At this time, no specific sectors have been identified as potential in-demand occupations that would be eligible for priority visa and work permit processing. However, many stakeholders note that the technology sector in Canada would immediately benefit from such an initiative. Known for its fast pace and rapid change, a responsive and efficient work permit process is required in order for Canadian companies to attract top talent and remain responsive to global trends.
The technology sector is experiencing rapid growth across Canada. Worldwide, the Toronto-Waterloo corridor in Ontario is second only to Silicon Valley in California for number of start-up companies. As of November 2016, the professional, scientific, and technical services sector is the fifth-largest employer in Canada, employing more than 1.3 million people across the country.
The news of the Global Skills Strategy was greeted with enthusiasm by stakeholders in the technology sector. Stephen Lake, Co-founder and CEO of Thalmic Labs, a wearable technology developer in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, stated, “Our largest challenge has been the very slow lead times to process [work permits] — sometimes taking us nine months or longer to bring a candidate in. We need a streamlined way to bring in high-skill candidates in the tech sector within weeks. We were thrilled to hear about the Canadian government’s plans, which will allow tech companies to hire highly skilled immigrants for key roles through a very fast (two-week) immigration process.”
Permit-exempt short-term work
The plan also aims to abolish the work permit requirement for short-term work in low-risk fields. In the Fall Economic Statement, it was announced that “in addition to the Global Skills Strategy, the government will introduce a new work permit exemption for short-duration work terms.”
The proposed definition of ‘short-term’ is stays of 30 days or less, or brief academic stays. The goal is to “facilitate short-term, inter-company work exchanges, study exchanges, or the entrance of temporary expertise.”
A third aim of the Global Skills Strategy is to “Create a dedicated service channel for companies looking to make large, job-creating investments in Canada.” While this aim has not been elaborated at this time, it is a sign that the government is following through on its previously-stated intentions to encourage the employment of highly-skilled workers from around the world.
The transition to permanent residence
Many individuals who come to Canada on work permits establish themselves and take steps towards Canadian permanent residence. Several permanent immigration programs, including programs run by the provinces as well as the federal government, provide pathways for foreign workers to transition to permanent resident status. Canadian work experience is typically a highly valued factor in these programs.
In the Immigration Levels Plan for 2017, the government announced its intention to increase the number of economic immigrants coming to Canada through the Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC), Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC), and Canadian Experience Class (CEC) by 23 percent. In addition, the government aims for 51,000 new immigrants to come through the Provincial Nominee Programs. Individuals who come to Canada on a temporary work permit may find themselves in a position to apply for one of these programs.
Government continues to act on its promises
“The announcement of the Global Skills Strategy shows once again that the government is serious about its promises with regard to temporary residents and newcomers,” says Attorney David Cohen. “Stakeholders have been crying out for a more nimble system, and this strategy looks set to provide that.
“It simply makes sense that a growing economy like Canada’s needs to continue to attract the best talent from around the world. Not only will the economy benefit from new, young workers and families, but the ensuing growth will result in job creation for Canadians. This strategy is a clear example of how an open, progressive immigration policy leads to the benefit of all Canadians.”
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