Canada is making a push to increase its pool of STEM talent with a newly announced tech talent strategy. Separately, The Globe and Mail reports that two decades of temporary foreign worker data has been revised downward significantly.

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 first-ever Tech Talent Strategy includes the following measures:

  • Create an open work permit stream for H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the US to apply for a Canadian work permit, which will be available July 16. 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.
  • Develop an innovation stream under the International Mobility Program to attract highly talented individuals. Launching by the end of this year, options include employer-specific work permits for up to five years for workers destined to work for a company identified by the government of Canada as contributing to industrial innovation goals as well as open work permits for up to five years for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations.
  • Return to the 14-day service standard for work permits under the Global Skills Strategy.
  • Promote Canada as a destination for digital nomads.
  • Create a STEM-specific draw under category-based selection to issue additional invitations to apply under the Express Entry program.

The Tech Talent Strategy also includes changes to Canada’s Start-up Visa Program. These include more allocated spots to this program for 2023, with further increases planned for 2024 and 2025. Applicants will be able to apply for a work permit that is up to three years in duration instead of one year and will be able to apply for an open work permit instead of one that limits them to working for their own start-up. In addition, the three-year open work permit will be available to each member of the entrepreneurial team instead of only those who are essential and urgently needed in Canada.

“We’re enthusiastic about the ambitious goals we have set in immigration because they aren’t just about numbers — they are strategic,” Fraser said. “With Canada’s first-ever immigration Tech Talent Strategy, we’re targeting newcomers that can help enshrine Canada as a world leader in a variety of emerging technologies.”

TFW Data Revised

The Canadian government has revised more than two decades of immigration data, citing “technical difficulties” as the cause of the bloated figures for a subset of temporary foreign workers, The Globe and Mail reported.

According to figures published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in February, slightly more than 1 million people held work permits through the International Mobility Program at the end of 2022, an increase of 48% from 2021. However, the IRCC has updated the numbers, showing roughly 675,000 people held IMP work permits at the end of 2022, a decline of about 340,000 from the earlier dataset. In addition, the figures were reduced for all previous years dating back to 2000.

The federal immigration department did not publish the new figures or an explanation for the changes.

The revisions are raising concerns about IRCC’s management of immigration data, according to The Globe and Mail, whose journalists recently discovered the revisions.

The Canadian government is intentionally courting immigrants to fill labor shortages; it is also moving toward a two-step immigration process in which people arrive to the country as temporary students or workers and then later apply for permanent residency, according to The Globe and Mail.