Digital nomads will soon be able to come to Canada for up to six months and work remotely in tech roles as the country seizes what Immigration Minister Sean Fraser is calling a generational opportunity for economic growth.
“We’re actually creating a pool of talent of people who will be able to stay in Canada in the long term,” said Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.
“When I think about the 10, 20 and even 30-year horizon, rather than the next few months or even the next election cycle, there’s no question in my mind that having more talent for tech entrepreneurs and professionals in this country is going to be a very good thing half a generation from now.”
Through its Tech Talent Strategy to lure temporary workers in the tech sector in the United States north of the border to fill jobs going begging for a want of qualified employees, Canada is also reaching out to digital nomads the world over.
Digital nomads, defined as people who travel freely while working remotely using technology and the internet, are a hot commodity for both tech companies and traditional companies’ tech departments.
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Canada is already a top destination for digital nomads.
Last year, United Kingdom-based Circle Loop, a provider of a cloud-based VoIP solution which provides phone systems accessible via desktop and mobile devices, published its Digital Nomad Index and ranked Canada as the number one destination for digital nomads.
Building on Canada’s popularity with digital nomads, the immigration minister announced in June that Canada will be launching a digital nomad strategy that will allow these highly-skilled foreign workers to come to the country and work remotely.
“(That digital nomad strategy) will allow people who have a foreign employer to come live in Canada for up to six months, live and spend money in communities in this country and, should they receive a job offer while they’re here, we’re going to allow them to continue to stay and work in Canada,” Fraser said at the Collision Conference in Toronto in June.
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That digital nomad strategy will reportedly not cap the number of people who can come, live and work in Canada.
Through immigration, Canada is hoping to boost its tech sector.
“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.”
Developed in collaboration with Canada’s tech, start-up and business communities, the Tech Talent Strategy will lead to the creation by July 16 of an open work permit stream specifically targeted for those foreign nationals working in the United States with H-1B specialty occupation visas, a visa widely used by Silicon Valley companies to bring in highly-skilled immigrants.
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That stream will also provide work and study permit options for the workers’ family members.
This measure is to remain in effect for one year, or until Canada’s immigration department receives 10,000 applications, with only principal applicants and not their accompanying family members counting towards the application cap.
Under the Tech Talent Strategy, an Innovation Stream is to be developed under the International Mobility Program (IMP) to attract even more highly-talented foreign nationals to Canada.
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That Innovation Stream, which is to be launched by the end of this year, is to include:
- employer-specific work permits for up to five years for workers destined to work for a company identified by the federal government in Canada as contributing to the country’s industrial innovation goals, and;
- open work permits for up to five years for highly-skilled workers in select in-demand occupations.
The Tech Talent Strategy also promises a return to the 14-day service standard for work permits under the Global Skills Strategy.
The federal government intends to also create a STEM-specific draw under a category-based selection to issue additional Invitations To Apply (ITA) through the Express Entry system.
Since many immigrant entrepreneurs set up tech-related companies, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is also tweaking the Start-Up Visa (SUV) program with even more spots for foreign nationals who want to immigrate to Canada under this program every year through 2025.
Under the changes being made to the SUV, applicants will be able to apply for work permits of up to three years sometime later this year. They currently can only get one-year work permits. And the new open work permits for SUV applicants will also be available to each member of the entrepreneurial team.
“We’re prioritizing applications that are supported by venture capital, angel investor groups and business incubators and have capital committed, along with applications that are supported by business incubators who are members of Canada’s Tech Network,” notes the IRCC on its website.
In Canada, the information and communications technology sector employed nearly 720,000 Canadians and accounted for more than 44 per cent of all private research and development spending in 2021. The IT sector was responsible for more than 15 per cent of Canada’s overall economic growth between 2016 and 2021.