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Immigration Pathways for Highly-skilled Tech Workers

Canada offers some key immigration and work permit options for highly-skilled tech workers.

Highly-skilled tech workers, with their education and experience, do better in many of Canada’s leading broad economic immigration programs, both at the federal and provincial or territorial levels.

These levels of government have developed innovative and specific programs to draw and retain tech workers, such as the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), and a host of other provincial programs. Let’s examine some more of these programs across Canada.

Federal Express Entry

If one considers the programs managed under Federal Express Entry, the importance of highly skilled tech workers is clear. These programs have no explicit preference for tech workers, although certain provincial programs aligned with Express Entry do have such preferences.

But in the latest Express Entry Annual Report, the three most common occupations of candidates who obtained invitations to apply (ITA) under Express Entry were all technology occupations.

Global Talent Stream

Canada offers many temporary resident pathways for tech workers who either do not want to permanently stay in Canada or want a quicker pathway into the country before lodging a permanent residence application.

In fact, working in Canada temporarily can boost your chances of getting permanent residence since many immigration programs such as the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) are meant to facilitate and support this process.

One of the more common temporary visa options is the Global Talent Stream.

It enables Canadian employers to employ tech talent anywhere in the world and bring them to Canada in about four weeks. The Global Talent Stream is one component of Canada’s Global Skills Strategy which has facilitated the coming of over 40,000 technology workers to the country since 2017.

CUSMA Professionals

U.S citizens or Mexican nationals with job offers in certain occupations may be qualified for a work permit under the Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). This is a fast-track program for Canadian employers who hire foreign tech workers, as they do not need a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

There are Sixty-three (63) occupations that are eligible under the CUSMA Professional work permit. Eligible occupations in the technology field include computer engineers, computer systems analysts, graphic designers, and technical publications writers.

Intra-Company Transfer

Intra-Company Transfer is for workers who are employed with a company that has a subsidiary, parent, affiliate, or branch in Canada. The employers in Canada do not need an LMIA to get workers under this work permit program.

The foreign tech worker must have been hired at that company for at least one year. There is no list of eligible occupations under this program, but workers must hold a managerial position, or else prove that they have specialized knowledge of the company or its products.

This may include computer engineers who have designed specific programs for the company’s internal use, or developers and programmers who have designed a company’s software products.

Other Provincial Immigration Pathways

British Columbia

British Columbia province launched its Tech Pilot program in May 2017. It is very similar to the federal Express Entry system. The main difference is that the BC Tech Pilot processes only tech workers, whereas Express Entry manages all applications for Federal Skilled Immigration.

The BC Tech Pilot identifies twenty-nine (29) specific technology occupations that are eligible. Every week, the program sent out invitations to candidates who qualify.

A candidate must qualify for at least one of the five allied existing streams, and have a job offer in one of the twenty-nine (29) identified fields. The benefits of this pilot program include priority processing over other immigration application; weekly draws; and dedicated concierge service to guide employers.

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan province does not have a dedicated highly-skilled tech workers immigration pathway as such. But, the province, like others, can opt to restrict a specific round of invitations for a provincial nomination to a specific occupation thereof.

Saskatchewan has done exactly this. Last September, it sent out invitations to apply to 621 technology workers who had applied to either the Occupation-in-Demand or Express Entry streams of the province’s International Skilled Workers category. Saskatchewan focused its invitations on workers who had work experience in three tech occupations.

Ontario

Ontario province operates a special technology talent recruitment system that runs in tandem with existing immigration programs. The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) has pointed out work experience in specific technology occupations as being qualified for periodic tech-only draws.

Applications selected in such tech draws benefit from fast treatments and enhanced service. In 2020 alone, Ontario rolled out no fewer than 4,385 invitations via this program.

Quebec

Recently, Quebec announced a dedicated new immigration pathway for tech workers in the artificial intelligence, visual effects, and information technologies sectors. The annual intake for this entire pilot program is set at 550 applicants.