Canadian gov’t’s fast-track visa program officially launches today

Canada’s long-awaited fast-track visa officially launched today, with Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains marking the occasion with a visit to Toronto’s OneEleven for a tech town hall.

“The Global Skills Strategy will allow Canadian employers, who are investing in people and skills here in Canada, to continue to grow by attracting top talent from around the world,” said Bains. “Whether it’s developing a new product line or leading a new sales team, bringing in the best and the brightest from around the world will result in more good-quality, middle-class jobs for Canadians.”

The fast-track visa — officially called the Global Talent Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program — promises a process time of 10 days to two weeks for high-skills talent. It’s been long-awaited by Canada’s startup community since it was announced in November 2016 during the Canadian government’s budget update.

The Global Talent Stream will function as a $7.8 million, 24-month pilot program. “The current outdated system has taken upwards of 12 months to process a work permit for a unique and highly-skilled worker who has the ability to transform a company from a small to medium business to a global giant; this is just too long for a company hungry for talent and detrimental for economic growth in Canada,” said Benjamin Bergen, executive director at the Council of Canadian Innovators.

In an update on the program in March, the government said it was developing a Global Talent List of high-demand occupations eligible for the program in consultation with labour market experts and stakeholders.

The Global Talent Stream is open to foreign workers with executive and managerial experience, and the two-week processing standard also applies to immediate family members accompanying the workers to Canada.

Since its initial announcement in November last year, the government has been soliciting opinions from the Canadian business community on the best way to implement the program; Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu convened with Vancouver business leaders at Unbounce’s office just two weeks ago.

“We are excited by the Global Talent Stream which we think is fantastic for Canada’s technology sector. It will ensure companies have the ability to attract, hire, and retain top global technical talent quickly and efficiently,” said Sascha Williams, COO at Unbounce. “As a longtime advocate for driving more growth and competition in Canada’s technology space, Unbounce is thrilled by today’s announcement and grateful to have been part of the dialogue along with several other Canadian technology leaders.”

The Global Talent Stream is part of the government’s Global Skills Strategy, which has an overall mission to help Canadian businesses attract global talent.

That strategy also called for the creation of a Short Duration Work Permit exemption, which will apply to work terms of fewer than 30 days in a year, or brief academic stays.

Researchers coming to Canada will be permitted one 120-day stay every 12 months without requiring a work permit when they are working on a research project at a publicly-funded degree-granting institution or affiliated research institution.

Startups interested in a Global Skills work permit have to apply through a government service channel, and present a Labour Market Benefits Plan. In turn, companies receive a set number of permits and flexible recruitment requirements.

The government also said that it is looking for referral partners across the country with “significant insight and knowledge” to refer appropriate companies to the Global Talent Stream service channel.