Details are beginning to emerge on exactly how Canada’s new fast-track visa program will work.
The visa, originally planned in response to feedback from the technology sector, could be expanded to include all firms with a need to bring in high-skilled workers quickly.
The federal government is considering inserting a minimum wage requirement, instead of limiting access to the visa by profession, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said.
Bains told Bloomberg View the government is currently developing how the visa will work, with an announcement planned for early 2017. All companies are expected to require prior government approval to access the program.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled the plan in November, aimed at making it easier for growing firms and major companies to get access to the highly skilled foreign talent they need that is not available in Canada.
Canadian technology giants Shopify and Hootsuite were among those lining up to praise the government’s initiative, which comes after hearing months of feedback saying the current system was inadequate.
The new plan is to allow companies that qualify to get visas and work permits approved inside two weeks as standard – under the current system the minimum processing time is six months.
Planned changes will also see the creation of a 30-day work permit that can be spread across a year, meaning companies can bring in workers for short stints without the need to apply for new paperwork each time.
Although Morneau made the announcement in his capacity as finance chief, Immigration Minister John McCallum has been on the receiving end of most of the feedback from technology firms and other Canadian companies.
The firms say they too often lose important hires to competitors in other countries because of the drawn-out process for obtaining a visa. Some have moved to employ talent from overseas to circumnavigate the visa issue.
The issue centres around the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), a tool designed to assess if a Canadian is available to fill the required position.
Under the new rules, companies will be able to qualify for the fast-track visa by proving they need highly-qualified foreign talent for investments, to create jobs or to transfer knowledge to Canadians. Multinationals making big investments will also be able to access the new system.
Jayson Hilchie, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, summed up the current situation in a blog for the Huffington Post recently.
He wrote: “What Canada needs is efficient access to the best and brightest from abroad to help technology industries transform and grow here in Canada and to add value to an economy that is languishing while transitioning from resources to innovation.”
Meanwhile, clothing giant Lululemon has threatened to move its operations out of Canada if the immigration process is not streamlined.
The Information and Communications Technology Council predicts a shortfall of 200,000 workers in the field come 2020.
This is down to the high global demand for talent that Canada is currently unable to compete with. The new visa and work permit rules are aimed at changing that, with a full roll out expect in the spring.
McCallum presented his immigration plan recently, with a target of 300,000 for 2017, the same as 2016.
Under the plan, 12,000 additional economic immigrants will be welcomed in 2017 as the number of refugees falls, creating room for the high-skilled technology workers targeted by the new fast-track visa.
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