Recently, Canada launched a new Open Work Permit stream exclusively for U.S. H-1B visa holders. This significant development comes as Canada aims to attract skilled professionals and bolster its workforce.
On June 27, Canada’s Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, unveiled the measure, which intends to increase labor mobility in North America. By this new development, numerous high-tech employees, as well as the members of their immediate families, may be impacted, both in Canada and the United States.
An open work visa valid for three years will be given to those who are accepted. Holders of H-1B visas are eligible to apply for employment and residency permits. This also applies to their spouses and dependents, who are free to request the necessary work or study permits.
According to IRCC, this measure will endure for a year or until the maximum of 10,000 applicants is reached. Additionally, it is applicable to primary applicants and not family members.
Understanding the Open Work Permit Stream
The Open Work Permit stream is a new initiative by the Canadian government, offering U.S. H-1B visa holders the chance to work and live in Canada with greater flexibility. Unlike other work permits, it allows them to work for any employer in the country, presenting exciting career prospects for skilled individuals.
The key eligibility requirements include a valid U.S. H-1B specialty occupation Visa, the applicant’s temporary residence in the U.S., an Intention to Work in Canada, and no Criminal Convictions
Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy: Targeting STEM Occupations and Filling Job Vacancies in Canada
On June 28, IRCC announced the first Express Entry draw for candidates with work experience in STEM occupations (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). This draw is part of the new category-based selection criteria introduced by the Minister on May 31. On July 5, the department invited 500 candidates from the Express Entry pool who had work experience in STEM. These candidates may also be eligible for the new H-1B open work permit. The move is seen as a significant step towards Canada’s commitment to attracting top global talent and leading in research, development, and innovation.
Canada is adopting a tech talent attraction strategy, which involves introducing a 3-year open work permit for H-1B visa holders. Furthermore, they are working on creating an Innovation Stream under the International Mobility Program, which is scheduled to be launched later this year. This stream’s options are being shaped by stakeholder feedback from recent consultations. However, two possibilities are being considered: employer-specific work permits for up to five years for workers in companies contributing to Canada’s industrial innovation goal, and open work permits for up to five years for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations.
The country is also improving the Global Skills Strategy by reverting to a 14-day service standard for work permits. Moreover, Canada aims to become a destination for digital nomads and is enhancing the Start-up Visa Program by allocating more spots and extending work permit lengths from one to three years. These initiatives reflect Canada’s commitment to attracting tech talent and fostering innovation.
As of April, Canada had 42,900 job vacancies in professional, scientific, and technical services, with a decline from the peak in April 2022. Ontario and Quebec have the highest number of vacancies. To address the shortage, Ontario removed the Canadian work experience requirement for engineering licensure for newcomers. Additionally, the province aims to expedite registration decisions for internationally trained newcomers in regulated professions, especially in STEM fields, to help fill job vacancies and bridge the skills gap.