Government unveils Global Skills Strategy with fast-track visa process

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During the Canadian government’s fall economic update, it was revealed that the government is proposing a fast-track visa and work permit as part of a newly unveiled Global Skills Strategy. The strategy is meant to help Canadian businesses attract global talent.

The Strategy is setting a standard of 10 days to two weeks for processing Global Skills work permit visas for “low-risk, high-skill talent.” Companies will apply for a certain number of permits, based on labour market benefits that they demonstrate, such as knowledge transfer and creating jobs for Canadians.

“In a world where some believe that tightening borders is the right thing to do, Canada stands out for its inclusion.”

This process will be run by a dedicated team that will work with the companies to complete applications quickly. Once a company has its set number of work permits, they will have two weeks to issue them to employees. This process will apply to all types of jobs — such as business and technical — and there are no education requirements or limitations to the way companies use the permits.

The Strategy also includes creating a Short Duration Work Permit exemption, which will apply to work terms of fewer than 30 days in a year, or brief academic stays.

The government says it is targeting high-growth Canadian companies that need access to global talent to accelerate growth and investment, as well as global companies that are making large investments in Canada, relocating to Canada, and establishing production in Canada.

“I’m excited that the Global Skills permit is going to address the turn-around times that are relevant to fast-growing companies like Sortable, while acknowledging that there is a wide range of roles companies need to grow,” said Chris Reid, founder of Sortable. “Putting the onus on the company to demonstrate overall market benefits versus arguing around points for a given candidate makes much more sense.”

Global companies that want to take advantage of the Global Skills work permit will have to do so through the government’s newly-created Invest in Canada office. Canadian companies will work with Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC).

“We need to hone our competitive edge. We have what it takes to succeed. That’s the story potential investors don’t hear often enough around the world. We’re creating a new institution, the Invest in Canada hub, whose job it will be to sell Canada to the world,” said Morneau. “In a world where some believe that tightening borders is the right thing to do, Canada stands out as a place to be followed in terms of inclusion. We have an educated and ingenious population, and investing in Canada will allow us to redouble our efforts and create jobs by attracting global investment. We want to support Canadian companies by ensuring that they have access to top talent and allow them to scale up, create good Canadian jobs, and thrive here.”

Canadian entrepreneurs have been vocal about the need for a reformed immigration system that takes into account the needs of nimble startups. In the past, entrepreneurs have had to go through extensive red tape to employ a foreign national, and even then, they’re waiting up to six months to find out if they can bring in talent.

Related: CanCon Podcast Ep. 16: Startups get political on the Hill

For a fast-growing startup competing for strong talent globally, this is time entrepreneurs say that they don’t have. Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, who has been touring across Canada getting feedback on the government’s innovation strategy, has said many times that access to senior talent has been one of the top concerns brought to him.

While the government had previously launched a Startup Visa program, it has faced criticism; as of February 2016, the program had only accepted 100 people through the program.

“This announcement means that Canadian companies will be able to attract the best talent in the world, allowing them to scale their companies here, creating many more Canadian jobs,” said Chris Plunkett, director of external relations at Communitech.

The proposed Fast Track Visa will hopefully put Canada on the same competitive field as economies like Ireland, which has increased the number of ICT permits, and have a standard processing time for Visas at six-eight weeks.

“Today’s announcement puts Canadian technology firms on better footing in the battle for specialized and heavily sought after pool of global tech talent. CEOs from Canada’s fastest growing scale-ups have been united under the Council of Canadian Innovators’ banner in their advocacy for a Fast Track Visa program for highly skilled tech talent and management,” said Benjamin Bergen, executive director of the Canadian Council of Innovators. Throughout September, CCI hosted roundtables with Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum and Canadian CEOs to discuss the need for a Fast Track Visa.

“This news is a reflection of the collaboration between Minister McCallum, the Federal Government and CCI’s CEOs and we would like to thank him for his leadership. In order for Canada to successfully transition our economy into the 21st century, this type of collaboration and leadership must continue between domestic technology CEOs and the government,” said Bergen.

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Freelance tech writer. Former BetaKit News Editor.

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