Canada has unveiled its inaugural tech talent strategy, introducing fresh immigration pathways to entice foreign tech experts into the country’s thriving digital landscape.

The announcement was made by Sean Fraser, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, during the Collision 2023 event held on Tuesday.

As part of the strategy, the Canadian government has introduced an “innovation stream,” offering open work permits for up to five years to highly skilled professionals in select high-demand occupations. Additionally, the program includes employer-specific work permits for the same duration, benefiting talents employed by companies that contribute to Canada’s industrial innovation objectives.

According to a 2023 report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada ranked as the top destination for immigrant entrepreneurs, reaffirming its status as an appealing location for individuals seeking new opportunities.

The new pathways also extend opportunities to holders of the H-1B speciality occupation visa in the United States. They can now apply for Canadian work permits, as well as study or work permit options for their accompanying family members.

The Canadian work permit for H-1B visa holders will be available starting from July 16 and will remain open for one year or until Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada receives 10,000 applications. It’s worth noting that only principal applicants will count towards the application cap, not their accompanying family members.

Fraser expressed enthusiasm for the immigration goals, emphasising their strategic nature beyond mere numbers.

The aim is to attract newcomers who can help solidify Canada’s position as a global leader in various emerging technologies. The strategy’s development involved collaboration with the tech, start-up, and business communities, which provided valuable insights. Fraser credited Canada’s fast and flexible approach, widely supported by Canadians, as the country’s immigration advantage.

“We’re enthusiastic about the ambitious goals we have set in immigration because they aren’t just about numbers — they are strategic.

“With Canada’s first-ever immigration tech talent strategy, we’re targeting newcomers that can help enshrine Canada as a world leader in a variety of emerging technologies.

“I’m grateful for the collaboration of the tech, start-up and business communities, who have provided valuable insight to develop this strategy. Having a fast and flexible approach, one that is broadly supported by Canadians is truly Canada’s immigration advantage,” Fraser said.

In addition to the tech talent strategy, Canada has revised its start-up visa program to attract skilled foreign tech workers. The improvements include increased allocation of program spots, the opportunity to apply for a three-year work permit (previously one year), and the chance to obtain an open work permit instead of being limited to working for their start-up. Moreover, each member of an entrepreneurial team can now apply for an open work permit, expanding the eligibility beyond essential and urgently needed individuals.

This development comes shortly after Germany announced modifications to its immigration laws aimed at attracting skilled foreign workers. Canada’s move also follows the United Kingdom’s decision to restrict the ability of foreign students to bring their family members from 2024, prompting Canada to introduce faster temporary resident visa processing and more considerate application measures for dependents.

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