Today, individuals holding a United States H-1B speciality occupation visa may now have the opportunity to apply for employment and residency in Canada, according to an announcement made by Canada’s Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, on June 27.
The objective of this initiative is to enhance labour mobility in North America, potentially affecting numerous professionals in the high-tech industries of both Canada and the United States, as well as their immediate family members.
Successful applicants will be granted an open work permit that remains valid for a maximum of three years. With an open work permit, they will have the flexibility to work for almost any employer in Canada. This provision also extends to their spouses and dependents, who can seek work or study permits as required.
The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has specified that this program will remain in effect for either one year or until the application limit of 10,000 principal applicants is reached. It’s important to note that this cap applies only to the primary applicants and does not include family members.
To be eligible for Canada’s open work permit as an H-1B visa holder, the following criteria must be met:
1. Possess a valid H-1B speciality occupation visa.
2. Currently reside in the United States.
To apply for the open work permit, the following documents are required:
1. A copy of your current H-1B visa.
2. Form I-797/I797B, Notice of Action, which serves as the official confirmation from the U.S. government that your H-1B application was approved.
3. Proof of residency in the United States, which can be demonstrated through documents such as Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, a recent utility bill, an income tax report, or any other relevant documentation that verifies your U.S. residency.
The first Express Entry draw targeting individuals with work experience in Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Engineering (STEM) occupations was announced by IRCC on June 28. This draw falls under the category-based selection criteria introduced by the Minister on May 31.
On July 5, the department proceeded with the draw and extended invitations to 500 candidates who possessed work experience in STEM fields. Many of these candidates may also qualify for the newly introduced H-1B open work permit. It is important to note that the invited candidates were already part of the Express Entry application pool.
The Express Entry system now includes five new categories specifically designed for individuals with work experience in specific occupational fields, along with a sixth category catering to those with strong French language proficiency. These categories were determined through research and consultations with various IRCC partners, stakeholders, as well as provincial and territorial governments who possess in-depth knowledge of local labour shortages.
IRCC considers the invitation of candidates through the Express Entry STEM category as a significant step towards Canada’s commitment to attracting top global talent and maintaining its position at the forefront of global research, development, and innovation.
As an example, in Budget 2023, the Canadian government announced a $20 billion investment to support the construction of major clean electricity and infrastructure projects. A significant portion of these endeavours will require the expertise and skills of STEM professionals.
IRCC is not only introducing a 3-year open work permit for H-1B visa holders but also working towards establishing an Innovation Stream within the International Mobility Program (IMP). Minister Fraser has stated that the Innovation Stream is expected to be launched by the end of this year.
The development of the stream’s options is based on feedback received from stakeholders during various consultations conducted in recent months.
Two potential options are currently being considered:
1. Employer-specific work permits that can extend up to five years for individuals intended to work for companies identified by the Government of Canada as contributors to the country’s industrial innovation objective.
2. Open work permits that can extend up to five years for highly skilled workers in specific in-demand occupations.
Additionally, Minister Fraser has announced the restoration of the 14-day service standard for work permits under the Global Skills Strategy. The Canadian government is also actively promoting Canada as an attractive destination for digital nomads. Furthermore, improvements are being made to the Start-up Visa Program, including an increase in available spots and an extension of the work permit duration from one year to three years.
According to the latest job vacancy data released by Statistics Canada, there were 42,900 job openings in the professional, scientific, and technical services sectors in April. This figure represents a decrease of 7,700 (-15.2%) compared to March and a significant decline of 30,600 (-41.6%) from the peak of 73,600 job vacancies recorded in April 2022.
Ontario and Quebec remain the provinces with the highest number of job vacancies across the country. In an effort to address these vacancies, particularly in the STEM sector, Ontario recently eliminated the requirement for Canadian work experience for newcomers seeking licensure in engineering.
On June 30, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development in Ontario announced a new regulation stating that regulated professions in the province must make registration decisions and communicate them to internationally trained newcomers within a period of six months. This measure aims to streamline the registration process and facilitate the filling of job vacancies, particularly in licensed professions within the STEM fields, thereby reducing the skills gap.