A component of Canada’s inaugural Tech Talent Strategy program aimed at STEM talent with H-1B visas from the US reached its limit of 10,000 applicants in under 48 hours. Separately, US Customs and Immigration Services Workers held a second selection lottery for H-1B visas, providing another chance for applicants who weren’t selected in an initial lottery in March.

Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy

Sean Fraser, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, on June 27 announced the launch of Canada’s Tech Talent Strategy, which includes new measures — and improvements on existing measures — to help businesses compete for talent.

The program created an open work permit stream for H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the US to apply for a Canadian work permit. Approved applicants will receive an open work permit of up to three years in duration, which means they will be able to work for almost any employer anywhere in Canada. Their spouses and dependents will also be eligible to apply for a temporary resident visa with a work or study permit as needed.

However, the quota was quickly filled after applications started being accepted on July 16.

“You can no longer apply. We reached the cap of 10,000 applications for this initiative on July 17, 2023,” a message on the website states.

The response, which analysts consider overwhelming, is likely a warning sign to US policymakers that many highly sought foreign-born scientists and engineers in the US are dissatisfied with the US immigration system and seeking other options, Forbes reported. Canada may reopen the program and accept more applications if it finds not all applicants are approved and entered the country to work.

USCIS holds second lottery for H-1B workers in order to reach cap

US Customs and Immigration Services announced Monday that it completed a second random-selection lottery for H-1B visas for the 2024 federal fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

H-1B visas allow US employers to hire highly skilled workers, such as IT and healthcare professionals, from outside the country; however, the visas are capped at 65,000 with an additional 20,000 available for workers who have a master’s degree or higher from a US university.

“It’s a positive that this is happening,” Elissa Taub, a partner with law firm Siskind Susser, told SIA. “It means more people will get the jobs they want and more employers will be able to hire the people they want.”

Taub said she has already heard about multiple candidates being chosen during the second lottery, and those workers could be on the job by the start of the federal fiscal year on Oct. 1.

The USCIS said it needed to select additional registrations to reach the visa cap for the upcoming federal fiscal year.

Workers may have accepted multiple job offers from multiple employers, perhaps spurring the need for a second lottery, Taub said. A worker, for example, could receive five job offers from five different companies. If each of the five employers registers the same candidate electronically, the candidate could be chosen multiple times in the lottery; however, the candidate typically only accepts one offer — and that employer would go on to file for an H-1B visa.

“I think that’s a lot of what happened this year,” said Taub, who works with healthcare staffing firms to bring in workers on H-1B visas.

Employers seeking H-1B workers must electronically register potential workers with the USCIS. Because the number of registrations typically exceeds the number of available visas, the agency then holds a lottery, and for those workers chosen, employers can then file H-1B petitions.

Taub said there’s no prohibition on candidates accepting more than one job offer, although companies themselves cannot submit duplicate candidates through the H-1B process.

Most healthcare employers require workers to sign employment agreements, so the workers won’t be applying for multiple companies, Taub said. However, not all firms require employment agreements, and companies may not know if a particular worker has been accepted for employment at other companies.