It has been widely recognized that Canadian employers, particularly high-growth companies, need a faster and more predictable process for attracting top global talent in order to increase economic growth, create more jobs and facilitate the transfer of skills and knowledge to Canadians. With this in mind and in order to support its Innovation and Skills Plan, the Government of Canada launched the Global Skills Strategy on June 12, 2017 (the “Strategy”). The Strategy recently came into effect in Quebec on September 11, 2017.
The Strategy is a highly anticipated initiative which aims to stimulate the Canadian economy by helping employers attract foreign talent and reducing work permit and visa processing times.
The Strategy has four pillars:
1) Work permit exemptions for short-term work or research
Foreign workers whose jobs are listed under the skill type 0 (executive, managerial role) or level A (professional) of the National Occupational Classification (“NOC”) are now authorized to perform one short-term work assignment of 15 consecutive days or less once every 6 months or of 30 consecutive days or less once every 12 months, without securing a work permit.
Similarly, foreign researchers invited by a publicly-funded degree granting Canadian post-secondary institution or affiliated research institution are now authorized to take part in one short-term research project of 120 consecutive days or less once every 12 months, without securing a work permit.
2) Two-week processing times for certain work permit applications
As part of the Strategy, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) is committed to improving the International Mobility Program by reducing to 2 weeks the processing times of work permit applications submitted online by foreign workers at visa offices outside of Canada. In order to benefit from the 2-week processing times, the foreign worker must:
- apply online from outside of Canada for an employer-specific work permit to work in an occupation listed under the NOC skill type 0 (executive, managerial role) or level A (professional);
- be exempted from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) requirement; and
- include evidence that the employer has submitted an offer of employment by using the Employer Portal and paid the prescribed compliance fee of $230 CAD.
3) Dedicated service channel for companies bringing significant investments
IRCC offers a dedicated service channel to assist selected employers making a significant investment in Canada. The objective is to assist eligible employers by assessing their particular immigration needs, answering questions and providing guidance.
4) Expedited LMIAs under the Global Talent Stream
The Global Talent Stream, which falls under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (“TFWP”), is a two-year pilot program available to employers with particular needs or wishing to hire highly-skilled foreign workers in occupations experiencing labour shortages. Employment and Social Development Canada (“ESDC”) is committed to reduce to 2 weeks the processing times of LMIA applications filed under the Global Talent Stream.
Employers can file an expedited LMIA application under the Global Talent Stream by using one of the following categories:
- Category A: available to employers who have been referred to the Global Talent Stream by one of ESDC’s designated referral partners who need to hire unique and specialized talent in order to grow. In accordance with the relevant guidelines, ESDC considers the following elements to be indicators of “unique and specialized talent”: (i) advanced industry knowledge; (ii) advanced degree in an area of specialization of interest to the employer and/or at least five years of experience in the field of specialized experience; and (iii) a highly paid position with a salary of usually $80,000 CAD or more. The current ESDC designated partners located in Quebec can be found here.
- Category B: available to employers wishing to hire highly-skilled foreign workers in occupations found on ESDC’s Global Talent Occupations List where there is insufficient domestic labour supply.
Contrary to the High-wage Stream of the TFWP, employers using the Global Talent Stream are not required to submit a transition plan. However, they are required to work with ESDC to develop a labour market benefit plan. This labour market benefit plan is aimed to demonstrate the employer’s commitment to certain prescribed activities that will have lasting and positive impacts on the Canadian economy and labour market.
Employers that qualify for the Global Talent Stream do not have to meet a minimum recruitment requirement but will be asked, as part of the application process, to describe their recruitment efforts to hire Canadians.
Similar to the application process in Quebec for other streams of the TFWP, employers hiring in Quebec need to submit their LMIA applications and all required documentation simultaneously to ESDC and to Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion.
A promising initiative
While many employers welcome the objectives of the government and have already identified growth and development opportunities with the Strategy, the implementation of some procedures of the Strategy, including the scope of the labour market benefit plan in the context of LMIA applications and the role of the designated referral partners, still remain somewhat unclear and ambiguous.
We look forward to seeing how ESDC and IRCC will continue their efforts to manage these fast-tracked LMIA and work permit applications, and reduce administrative barriers for Canadian employers wishing to hire global talent.