Canadian tech firms want shorter visa wait times for foreign talent

Another file to watch in terms of how the government makes any changes to Express Entry and the requirement for labour market impact assessments (LMIAs):

Canada’s emerging tech sector is stepping up pressure on the federal government to speed up the immigration process so firms can more readily recruit top foreign talent.

The Council of Canadian Innovators – a lobby group that represents about 50 fast-growing Canadian tech firms – met last Friday with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains at the Toronto headquarters of Wattpad, an online publishing-platform firm.

The group pressed its case for shortening visa approval times for in-demand foreign tech programming and executive talent to as little as three weeks from what is now a drawn-out, bureaucratic process typically lasting six months to a year.

“CCI is advocating a made-for-Canada fast-track visa program for tech, ideally in a less than two-month time frame to keep Canada’s technology scale-ups competitive with other countries” that have such programs, including Britain, Australia and Ireland, CCI executive director Benjamin Bergen said. The CCI is set to deliver a similar message to Immigration Minister John McCallum during two round tables in September.

Several of the roughly three dozen attendees said they were pleased with the reception from Mr. Bains. “I have not seen this much note taking in a meeting with a federal cabinet minister listening to CEOs before, so that was quite encouraging,” said J. Paul Haynes, CEO of digital-security firm eSentire Inc., based in Cambridge, Ont.

“It was a very constructive and meaningful dialogue,” Wattpad CEO Allen Lau said. “I’m very positive that our voice will be heard and the government would be able to understand the challenges we are facing.”

In an e-mailed statement, Mr. Bains called the conversation “very candid and thoughtful.” He discussed immigration and other concerns raised by the group, including their difficulties in getting government contracts, “in depth with the goal of how we can best work together to address them.” In an interview with The Globe and Mail last week, Mr. Bains indicated that changes to immigration policy favouring domestic tech employers were coming. “To make Canada a global centre for innovation, immigration will be key,” he said.

Mr. McCallum’s department is reviewing what is known as the “express entry” system, which has been plagued with delays. Under current rules, employers must show, when seeking to hire a foreign worker, that they have first made every effort to fill the job with Canadians. Many tech employers say this is a waste of time, money and effort when those they are looking to hire come from a very small pool of experienced global talent.

“We are acutely concerned about our ability to attract the best and the brightest around the world,” Mr. McCallum said recently. “Those are the people we want to attract.”

Source: Canadian tech firms want shorter visa wait times for foreign talent – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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