Canada’s AI advantage: open immigration policies

Alexandra Miekus
Published: July 27, 2020

Anyone with experience in artificial intelligence and information technology may want to take a look at Canada, where immigration policies provide clear pathways to permanent residence and entry into the workforce.

A study released in June by the Center for Security and Emerging Technology examined how immigration policies help support the competitiveness of the AI sector in five countries: Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and France.

The study shows that, compared to the other four countries with which Canada competes, its immigration system appears to be the most versatile, flexible and particularly well-suited to support efforts to attract highly skilled foreign workers and, ultimately, to compete for AI talent.

Find out if you are eligible for any Canadian immigration programs

What makes Canada more accessible than other countries to new AI talent from abroad?

The study examines several key immigration policies that are significantly more advantageous than those of other countries and therefore place Canada in an excellent position to attract highly skilled workers and to earn a reputation as a world leader in artificial intelligence in the years to come.

First, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and France all have work visa duration limits ranging from three to six years and a cap on the number of renewals. In Canada, there is no limit on the length of stay of temporary foreign workers, as the duration of work permits is determined by the worker's employer.

Second, compared to the other four countries where processing times for work permits or temporary visas are typically several months, in Canada, the process generally takes between two and eight weeks, depending on the country from which the worker is applying and the position the worker wishes to hold. In addition, Canada issues work permits throughout the year, unlike, for example, the United States, where those applying for an H1-B visa must wait for the annual lottery.

Third, among the five countries analyzed, Canada is the only one that allows foreign workers who hold a visa or work permit to apply for permanent residence right away. In all other countries, the wait time is contingent on quotas and can vary between three and five years.

In addition, Canada offers a wide range of immigration pathways for highly skilled workers. The latest count conducted by CIC News found that there are now more than 100 such options.

Immigration policies pave the way for those who wish to settle in Canada on a permanent or temporary basis

The main route to permanent residence in Canada is to apply through Express Entry - a management system that is used to process applications for permanent residence from foreign workers. The process generally takes six to nine months and is based on a point system called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).

The system ranks workers based on factors such as age, work experience and education, among others.  Candidates applying through Express Entry do not need a job offer to apply for permanent residence in Canada.

Canadian immigration candidates can also seek permanent residence through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), which allows provinces to nominate workers with skills and qualifications specifically required in the province.

AI and tech experts who are considering their options in Canada could consider looking at provinces like Ontario, or British Columbia which have a focal point of Canada’s technology sector.

The Ontario Tech Pilot is for workers who have experience in one of six tech occupations. B.C.’s Tech Pilot invites immigration candidates with a job offer in one of 29 tech occupations to apply for a provincial nomination.

In 2017, Canada also created an immigration program called the Global Talent Stream which provides work visas for eligible international workers in as little as two weeks.

Canada is home to several of the world's most advanced AI organizations and companies, operating across the country from Montreal to Vancouver. These companies continue to push the boundaries of what can be accomplished by a country in the field of artificial intelligence, and help secure Canada's position as a leader in the industry.

Find out if you are eligible for any Canadian immigration programs

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