Canada’s tech startup sector wants easier access to hire top foreign talent

Yet some more expected tweaks to Express Entry:

After winning a big concession in the budget on taxing stock options, Canada’s tech startup sector is braced for its next battle: urging Ottawa to fix immigration rules that limit its ability to hire top foreign talent.

The Express Entry system brought in by the last government in 2015 “is fundamentally too rigid” and leaves employers waiting up to six months to discover if they can bring skilled foreign talent to Canada, said Tobi Lutke, CEO of Ottawa-based software firm Shopify Inc. “That puts us at a huge disadvantage for recruiting internationally.”

Under policy changes enacted by the Conservatives, employers now must validate a job offer by getting government approval for a “Labour Market Impact Assessment” – showing it couldn’t find Canadians to do the job. While that approach targeted abusers of the temporary foreign worker program, it meant fast-growing tech firms searching for the best employees globally had to submit to the same drawn-out process, only to be told in many cases by Ottawa that they should just hire a Canadian.

“It was a misguided approach,” said Sarah Anson-Cartwright, director of skills and immigration policy for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Immigration Minister John McCallum wasn’t available to comment. But a department spokesman said the government plans to review the Express Entry program “to see how it can be improved for potential immigrants such as top-level foreign executives. The review will include, likely among other things, the LMIA requirement.”

Tech startup leaders say the rules not only add delays but that the process lacks transparency and consistency, imposes needless bureaucracy and lacks an appeals process. In many cases, would-be recruits choose other offers rather than waiting. Foreign students awaiting government approval for their job offers sometimes must leave Canada when their study visas expire.

Six out of 10 employers surveyed by the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC) last year said the immigration changes under the Tories had hindered their strategy planning and recruiting. One out of six opted to create the jobs abroad instead.

Curious to know the relative competitiveness of Canada vis-a-vis the US, given my understanding of the problems Silicon Valley has in hiring global talent.

Source: Canada’s tech startup sector wants easier access to hire top foreign talent – The Globe and Mail

Canada’s hardest-hit economies need immigration to thrive again: Moffat

Mike Moffat on the need to remove the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment for graduates of Canadian universities in Express Entry point scoring (another issue is to restored pre-Permanent Resident credit towards citizenship residency requirements for international students as was done prior to the 2014 changes in the Citizenship Act):

So how can London, Windsor, St. Catharines et. al. increase their population of talented twentysomethings? The region does an excellent job of importing talent as our institutes of higher education are worldwide magnets for young achievers. In London, Western and Fanshawe bring in some of the most gifted students in the world, teach them skills highly in demand in the region while they become familiar with Canadian culture. We then allow these graduates to stay in the country for a period of up to three years via Canada’sPost-Graduation Work Permit Program(PGWPP); tech companies Darren Meister, Kadie Ward and I interviewed in London told me how incredibly valuable these workers are.

They also told us that, despite these workers having graduated in Canada and being in the country around seven years, the Federal government makes it difficult (and some cases impossible) to keep them in the country. They are sent back home, and London has fewer talented young workers.

The issue stems, in part, from year-old changes to Canada’s express entry system which makes it impossible for someone in the PGWPP program to gain express entry without a Labour Market Impact Assessment, as chronicled by Nicholas Keung:

“The problem, which the federal government denies, lies in the significance given to a certificate called the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). It is issued by Ottawa to ensure a candidate’s skills are sufficiently in demand to warrant hiring an immigrant.

Ottawa says applicants for Express Entry, such as international graduates, do not need an LMIA to qualify. But Express Entry acceptance is based on a point system and it’s not possible to earn enough points without an LMIA, immigration experts say.

“The new system is flawed,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Shoshana Green. “We want people who went to school and have work experience in Canada. These people are already fully integrated. And now we are ignoring them. It is just bizarre.””

The process to obtain a LMIA is arduous for smaller growth companies, and navigating it can be difficult, as immigration lawyerRonalee Carey describes:

“Last month I sent a young woman back to Japan. She’d come to Canada as an international student first to finish high school, then to attend Sheridan College in their Animation Program. Her employer consulted me after their Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), because her position was denied. They had been paying her the median wage for Ontario, as opposed to Ottawa, which was slightly higher. Meanwhile, they had no idea there were median wages specific to Ottawa. They offered her a raise and resubmitted the LMIA application.”

But it was too late.

The young woman had been working on a post-graduate work permit. It had expired, and she’d applied for an extension. However, a positive LMIA was required for the extension. Ultimately, her work permit application was denied, because the new LMIA application had not yet been processed.

And so on the plane she went.

These stories are all too common according to the tech firms I have spoken to. In order to obtain an LMIA, one must prove to the federal government that “there is a need for the foreign worker to fill the job you are offering and that there is no Canadian worker available to do the job.” Not only does this place a large burden on growth companies to convince a bureaucrat about the lack of Canadians for the position, it is also completely counterproductive for communities where there is a desperate need for young talent. Furthermore, it may be impossible for these companies to prove this point to the government’s satisfaction. As immigration lawyer Evan Green asked the Globe and Mail, “…how do you prove for someone with [little] work experience that there is no Canadian to do the job?”

Southwestern Ontario is desperate for economic growth from startups. Startups are desperate for these talented workers. These workers are desperate to stay in Canada. Yet we are kicking them out. It makes absolutely no sense. If the federal government truly wants to help London and the rest of southwestern Ontario, the place to start is to recognize the region needs talented young people and to reform the Express Entry system to allow us to keep more of our graduates.

Source: Canada’s hardest-hit economies need immigration to thrive again