Tech group wants new visa for skilled workers to enter country without a job offer

Of note. Not clear why Canadian companies also cannot hire people to work remotely:

A group representing 150 of Canada’s fastest growing and most promising technology companies wants the federal government to pilot a new visa stream allowing high-skilled tech workers to enter the country without a job offer.

The visa proposed Thursday by the Council of Canadian Innovators would target in-demand professions like software developers and data scientists, allow recipients to work, switch jobs or employers and help them extend their stay and attain permanent residency without needing to switch into another visa category.

The idea is one of 13 the council included in a new report aimed at addressing the country’s critical shortage of skilled tech talent and helping startups compete against Silicon Valley giants and multinationals.

“There’s over 200,000 positions in the tech space that are not being filled in Canada,” said Benjamin Bergen, the council’s president.

“At the onset of COVID, borders basically collapsed and the problem that we were seeing in terms of lack of skilled workers in the country was only exacerbated by the fact that foreign firms can now come into Canada and hire people to work remotely, increasing the pressures … on the general labour market.”

On Tuesday, Facebook owner Meta announced it would hire 2,500 Canadians over the next five years with many working remotely.

They’re joined by Microsoft, DoorDash, Amazon, Google, Wayfair, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and Netflix, which revealed Canadian hiring plans during the pandemic, causing homegrown startups to fret about how they’ll compete with these companies’ big names and salaries.

“If you’re an Amazon or you’re Facebook or you’re Google, you’ve already set up in Canada…you’re able to bring in technology talent through some of the immigration streams that already exist…because they’re doing it at such a massive scale,” said Arif Khimani, the president and chief operating officer at MobSquad, a Calgary company helping businesses with recruitment and visas.

Many companies he works with are looking to hire a small number of people to work from Canada, and trying to figure out immigration rules, tax policies, payroll, benefits, office space, and remittances can be difficult for them.

Khimani feels they would be helped by more policies targeting immigration and giving workers better pathways to permanent residency, which the council’s report advocates for.

The council also wants to see programs better reflect emerging talent needs. Khimani notices the most in-demand job roles right now are full-stack and software engineers and developers, and jobs related to artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“Given how quick tech innovation changes, looking for a salesperson who has experience on X, Y or Z product, that happens to only reside in a specific jurisdiction often doesn’t apply for some of those programs, so we’re really pushing for an expanding (of current policies),” Bergen said.

Immigration changes could be accompanied by a “digital nomad strategy,” which the council envisions including clarity around taxes and length of stay for Canadians working remotely and internationally and foreigners who locate to Canada for part of the year.

The council also recommended the country target talent retention with a 12-month student loan repayment grace period for new graduates who work for Canadian firms and tax-advantaged loan repayment benefits for employers who make contributions towards their employees’ outstanding student debt.

Finally, the council wants to see talent generation prioritized. It asked the government to consider funding for Canadian businesses developing up-skilling or retraining programs and incentives to encourage post-secondary institutions to offer more experiential learning opportunities like longer co-op placements.

Source: Tech group wants new visa for skilled workers to enter country without a job offer

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