To help address labour shortages in the tech sector, the Council of Canadian Innovators is calling on the federal government to pilot a new visa that would allow high-skilled tech workers to come to Canada without a job offer.
The CCI recently released its Talent and Skills Strategy, offering 13 key recommendations for policymakers 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. It would allow holders to work, change jobs, and help them obtain Canadian permanent residency.
In its report titled the Talent and Skills Strategy, CCI noted that most people seeking work visas in Canada need a job offer to qualify. This requirement creates a barrier for highly skilled talent who want to work in Canada. The report says 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.
In addition, the pandemic has made remote work increasingly more common. As a result, CCI says the Canadian government should consult with the private sector to pilot allowing highly skilled foreign workers to come to Canada for a designated amount of time without a job offer.
This proposal is loosely based on a program being 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 existing Global Skills Strategy, which aims to process work permit applications in as little as two weeks for in-demand roles. The CCI, however, is calling for a 48-hour visa processing time 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 firms to proactively undertake the time-consuming and bureaucratic process involved in sponsoring a potential foreign worker,” the report says.
The CCI also wants the government to offer a concierge service to help companies navigate the immigration system, and thereby ease the pathway to permanent residency through the Global Talent Stream—a work permit program that operates under the Global Skills Strategy and is available to certain employers and select in-demand tech occupations.
Some of the CCI’s other recommendations relating to talent acquisition included launching a Digital Nomad Strategy to make Canada a destination for more remote workers, and reviewing the National Occupation Classification (NOC) codes more regularly to better reflect the shifting nature of technology jobs in Canada. They also want Canada to expand the recognition of international and alternative credentials for Canadian visa applicants.
Canada already offers some immigration and work permit options for tech workers. Among the many pathways to permanent residence, Canada also offers the Global Talent Stream (GTS), which allows certain skilled workers to get a temporary work permit within two weeks of applying. It is one of the pillars of Canada’s Global Skills Strategy, which aims to help companies grow by ensuring they can access the highly skilled talent they need quickly.
The GTS allows employers to get a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) without the advertising requirement. It is available to high-growth companies that can demonstrate a need to recruit unique specialized talent from abroad. 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 skilled talent for in-demand occupations found on the Global Talent Occupations List.
Employers in both categories have to meet conditions relating to the payment of skilled workers. Foreign workers hired through the GTS must be paid at the prevailing wage or higher. The prevailing wage is defined as the highest figure of either:
There are also some work permit exemptions under the Global Talent Stream. Highly-skilled workers in NOC skill type 0 or A-level occupations may 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 at publicly-funded research institutions may come to Canada for 120 days in a year without needing a work permit.
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