As Canadian tech stakeholders continue to petition for the removal of a section of the Global Talent Stream visa process, the minister responsible says it’s an “essential” aspect of the program.
Six months ago, tech talent sourcing network VanHack launched a petition to remove the Labour Market Benefits Plan from the Global Talent Stream fast-track visa. It’s an aspect of the program that VanHack, and others in the Canadian startup community, see as a barrier built into a program meant to streamline hiring talent from abroad.
The almost 250 signatories to the petition include employees from Hopper, SkipTheDishes, Dapper Labs, Trulioo, and Neo Financial. While VanHack founder and CEO Ilya Brotzky framed the Plan as a barrier for startups rather than large companies with additional resources, the petition also garnered interest from employees at larger organizations like Telus and Amazon.
“The truth is no other country in the world has such a requirement and this needless process only slows down an already slower-than-promised skilled immigration system.”
After months of waiting for a response to the petition, Brotzky told BetaKit he had not received a federal response, eventually taking his frustrations to Twitter.
In response to questions from BetaKit, the office of Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion—who is responsible for the program—stated it is aware of the petition from VanHack but did not indicate an openness to discussing the proposed changes.
“Alongside priority processing for GTS [Global Talent Stream] employers, the Labour Market Benefits Plan is essential in demonstrating that employers commit to activities that will have lasting, positive impacts on the Canadian labour market, including creating jobs and increasing skills and training investments for Canadians,” a spokesperson for the office of Minister Qualtrough said.
They added that department officials at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) have consulted with VanHack on updates to the Global Talent Stream in the past.
In response, Brotzky said he does not recall formally speaking with anyone from the ESDC about the Global Talent Stream, adding that “the market strongly disagrees” with the statement that the Plan is essential.
“The truth is no other country in the world has such a requirement and this needless process only slows down an already slower-than-promised skilled immigration system,” Brotzky told BetaKit.
The Plan requires participating companies in the Global Talent Stream to demonstrate how their hiring of international talent is having “positive impacts” on the local labour market.
The Plan requires companies that hire people through the Global Talent Stream to make several commitments, some of which are mandatory. The requirements differ depending on the type of hiring performed by companies, but span commitments to create jobs for Canadians and permanent residents as well as skills training for locals.
“Any company that hires from abroad is already doing these investments by bringing global talent to Canada who in turn train and develop local talent and create jobs,” said Brotzky. “Also, oftentimes [the commitments] become a burden to small businesses who already have enough work on their plate to deal with running their business and don’t see the value in filling in more paperwork.”
The intention of the Plan is to track and quantify the impact of hiring people through the Global Talent Stream. As the Government of Canada writes on its website, the Plan is meant to show a company’s “commitment to activities that will have lasting, positive impacts on the Canadian labour market.”
Speaking on the BetaKit Podcast last year, Brotzky called the Plan “too cumbersome, confusing, and unnecessary.” He argued this is especially true “for early-stage small Canadian startups who find the process very bureaucratic.”
Brotzky noted that hosting training programs at local universities, for example, is much more accessible and easy to accomplish for large companies with a plethora of resources. This is less true for early-stage companies with less financial freedom and fewer employees, he argued.
As a company that helps other companies hire and bring international talent to Canada, VanHack has heard from a number of its customers that the Plan is too complicated and costly.
“It’s a little bit unfair and it’s hurting the smaller startups’ ability to attract talent,” said Brotzky on the podcast.
Another concern for companies using the Global Talent Stream is the processing time to get international employees hired.
When the program first launched, the processing time was meant to be around four weeks. Speaking on the BetaKit Podcast last year, Brotzky argued that companies are now seeing process times of five months on average.
In response to questions about processing times, Minister Qualtrough’s office directed to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (headed up by Minister Simon Fraser, the other minister responsible for the Global Talent Stream). They noted that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is responsible for permit processing times, and also pointed to an online federal portal that claims the average processing times for Plan applications received its 10 days as of Janurary.
The fast-track visa was initially launched in June 2017 as part of the Global Skills Strategy. The Global Talent Stream is the responsibility of Minister Qualtrough as well as Minister Fraser.
In response to questions about VanHack’s petition from BetaKit, the office of Minister Fraser stated that the Plan portion of the program is the responsibility of Minister Qualtrough.
Despite concerns about the process, the Global Talent Stream has been highly used in recent years. As reported by The Logic, employers were approved to fill 6,059 positions through the program between January and September 2022 – more than twice the number compared to the same period the year prior.
As for the petition, Brotzky called the 250 signatories just a small representation of those concerned about the Plan. The VanHack CEO noted that the ability to sign up for the petition was only left open for a few weeks when it launched last year and garnered all its current signatures in that time.
“We stopped because our goal was to get around 200 [signatures]… and we got that within a week,” said Brotzky. “We could probably easily get 1,000 or 2,000 companies and people to sign.”
“The benefit of immigrants is every person who comes here, they create five new jobs and they pay a lot of taxes and contribute to the economy,” he added. “And we’re competing against the US, Europe, Australia, and many other countries who are also looking to bring these people and skilled workers to their countries. So it’s a very important thing that government should pay attention to.”
Feature image courtesy Pexels. Photo by Lara Jameson.