Immigrate to Canada as a tech worker from the U.S.
In March 2022, the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. reported an “employment-based green card backlog” of 1.4 million skilled immigrants in the U.S. (2021).
Accordingly, many foreign nationals in the U.S. are being confronted with the perils of extensive processing times, all the while being unaware that they have many employment-based Canadian immigration options at their disposal.
This means that international talent, such as tech workers, who are setting their sights on immigrating to the U.S. are missing out on an opportunity by not exploring the possibility of immigrating to Canada.
In fact, U.S. non-profit CompTIA’s “State of the Tech Workforce Canada” report indicates that “net tech employment in Canada reached an estimated 1.23 million workers at the end of 2021”, representing a nearly nine percent increase from 2019. This number is projected to grow by 1.5% by the end of 2022, meaning there is good reason for tech workers in the U.S. to begin considering Canada as a viable immigration option.
Five pathways for tech talent in the U.S. to come to Canada
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has many temporary and permanent resident pathways for U.S. tech workers looking to come to this country. These include, but are not limited to:
Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP): Global Talent Stream (GTS)
The GTS — part of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) — allows Canadian employers to bring specialized foreign tech talent to Canada in around two weeks, enabling international skilled workers to utilize their skills to help innovative Canadian companies grow.
Note: GTS applications come with a service standard of 10 business days, starting on the business day after the application has been received by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). ESDC notes that this service standard is expected to be met 80% of the time.
More information about the Global Talent Stream can be found here.
Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA): Intra-Company Transfers (ICTs)
CUSMA was enacted to replace NAFTA in 2020.
Through the ICT branch (one of four total branches) of this agreement, U.S. citizens working in tech can be temporarily transferred to work for the Canadian branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of their American employer.
More information about CUSMA can be found here.
Start-Up Visa Program
The Start-Up Visa program is a Canadian permanent residence program designed to “recruit innovative foreign national entrepreneurs who will create new jobs and drive economic growth” in Canada. Successful applicants through this program will be connected with IRCC-designated organizations that specialize in assisting (through funding, guidance, and expertise) foreign nationals with operating a business inside Canada.
More information about the Start-Up Visa program can be found here.
Becoming a Canadian permanent resident after working in Canada
U.S. tech workers could apply for permanent residence (PR) in Canada, assuming they meet the eligibility requirements, without first working in Canada.
However, the above-outlined pathways will make it significantly easier for U.S. tech workers because they allow foreign nationals to acquire Canadian work experience prior to applying for PR in this country. Work experience will have a particularly significant impact on eligibility for Express Entry and the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) — the two main pathways skilled workers can use to gain Canadian PR.
Provincial Nominee Programs
PNPs are regional immigration initiatives that are operated in 11 of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. Each of these 11 programs allows the governments in those regions to hand-select immigration candidates that are best suited to help address specific labour gaps based on the particular needs of the local economy. This allows Canada to better spread the benefits of immigration across the country rather than seeing the rewards of immigration concentrated in traditionally popular areas such as Ontario and British Columbia. PNPs are the leading admissions category for economic-class immigrants coming to Canada.
Many of these programs include streams that cater to skilled workers in the tech industry, and every PNP has at least one stream that is aligned with Express Entry (but more on that later).
More information about the PNPs available across Canada can be found here.
The Express Entry application management system contains three programs — — all of which score and rank applicants according to their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores. Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for Canadian PR are then given out in Express Entry draws that take place roughly every two weeks to a group of people that are above the cut-off CRS score for that draw.
Note: ICT workers, as covered above, are among the top recipients of Express Entry ITAs and U.S. ICTs are among the top 5 ITA recipients
Under the CRS scoring system, a U.S. tech worker without Canadian work experience could possibly miss out on 53 CRS points.
Imagine you are a single, 38-year-old software engineer from Maine. You have a valid LMIA-supported Canadian job offer in a TEER 1 occupation, but you don’t have a sibling in Canada, a PNP offer, or a certificate of qualification. You completed a bachelor’s degree and a master's in the U.S., and you’ve had both credentials evaluated with an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). You have not obtained any education in Canada.
In this case, you would have a CRS score of 475, which has been below recent cut-off CRS scores.
However, with two years of Canadian work experience through one of the above immigration pathways, your CRS score would rise to 528 CRS points. This is above the recent cut-off scores for Express Entry draws. In other words, if you had gotten Canadian work experience before the latest Express Entry draw, you would have been selected and received an ITA for PR in Canada.
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