Canada's New Global Skills Strategy

Already bolstered by the uncertain political landscape south of the border, Canadian companies are set to benefit further with the Government of Canada's newly launched Global Skills Strategy ("GSS") on June 12, 2017. First announced in the fall of 2016, the GSS aims to promote growth and global investment in Canada by facilitating the faster and more predictable entry of highly skilled workers to Canada.

Global Talent Stream

The previous process saw companies waiting upwards of a year to have certain temporary foreign worker applications processed. Through the new Global Talent Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the government claims that companies will have access to a streamlined process which aims to process eligible applications within 10 business days.

To be eligible for the Global Talent Stream, a company must fall within one of the following two categories:

1. Category A: The company has been specifically referred by one of Employment and Social Development Canada's ("ESDC") designated partners and is looking to hire "unique and specialized" talent (which is indicated by advanced knowledge of the industry and an advanced degree in an area of specialization of interest to the employer and/or a minimum of 5 years of experience in the field of specialized experience and a position that pays a salary of usually $80,000 or more). As of June 12, 2017, ESDC's designated referral partners include:

  • Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
  • BC Tech Association
  • Business Development Bank of Canada
  • Communitech Corporation
  • Council of Canadian Innovators
  • Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
  • Global Affairs Canada's Trade Commissioner Service
  • ICT Manitoba (ICTAM)
  • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada - Accelerated Growth Service
  • MaRS Discovery District
  • National Research Council - Industrial Research Assistance Program
  • Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth
  • VENN Innovation

OR

2. Category B: The company is looking to hire highly skilled workers to fill positions found in the Global Talent occupations list. The occupations currently on the Global Talent occupations list are focused primarily on computer and information system positions; electrical and electronics engineering technologist and technician occupations; and digital media designers. As of June 12, 2017, a list of these eligible occupations include:

    • NOC Code 0213 — Computer and information systems managers
    • NOC Code 2147 — Computer engineers (except software engineers and designers)
    • NOC Code 2171 — Information systems analysts and consultants
    • NOC Code 2172 — Database analysts and data administrators
    • NOC Code 2173 — Software engineers and designers
    • NOC Code 2174 — Computer programmers and interactive media developers
    • NOC Code 2175 — Web designers and developers
    • NOC Code 2241 — Electrical and electronics engineering technologists and technicians (minimum annual salary $81,000 / $38.94 hourly or higher prevailing wage)
    • NOC Code 2283 — Information systems testing technicians (minimum annual salary $78,000 / $37.50 or higher prevailing wage)
    • NOC Code 5241 — Digital media designers where the position requires a minimum of 5 years industry experience and specific skills requirements (minimum annual salary $80,000 / $38.46 hourly or higher prevailing wage)

Companies will be required to pay a processing fee of $1,000 for each position requested, and will also be expected to work with the ESDC to develop a Labour Market Benefits Plan which commits to a number of mandatory and complementary benefits (the nature of which will depend on whether the company falls under Category A or B).

Two-Week Work Permit Processing

Under the GSS, certain individuals applying from overseas will now qualify for two-week processing of their work permits, provided that one of the following two eligibility criteria are met:

  1. The individual has applied through the International Mobility Program, is exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment ("LMIA") process, the job is classified as either NOC "0" (managerial) or "A" (professional), the work permit will be employer-specific, and the employer has submitted an offer of employment using the employer portal; OR
  2. The individual is applying for an employer-specific work permit and the employer already has a positive LMIA under the Global Talent Stream.

The two-week priority processing time will also apply to immediate family members accompanying the individual.

Despite the government's promotion of the potential two-week processing period for work permits, this estimated processing time does not seem to take into account the time that may be required to secure a positive LMIA first through ESDC under the Global Talent Stream. Employers and practitioners are aware that ESDC has struggled to maintain its ten business day service standard for other program streams eligible for expedited processing before this newest program was even introduced. As a result, the actual time period to obtain a work permit if an LMIA is also required may be significantly longer than two weeks.

New Work Permit Exemptions

Though the GSS, two new work permit exemptions have also been introduced for short-term work assignments and for short-term researchers:

1. Short-Term Work Assignments:

A work permit is no longer required for highly-skilled workers coming to Canada, provided that certain criteria are met. Specifically, individuals with NOC "0" or "A" classified jobs will be allowed to work up to 15 consecutive days every 6 months without a permit, or up to 30 consecutive days every year without a permit.

2. Short-Term Researchers:

A work permit is no longer required for individuals who come to Canada to work as a researcher for up to 120 days. To be eligible for this exemption, the individual must work as a researcher at a public degree-granting institution or affiliated institution, and cannot have worked in Canada under this exemption in the last 12 months.

Latest Changes to the Express Entry System

Starting June 6, 2017, Express Entry candidates will have new ways to earn some additional points under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). Candidates with a sibling in Canada will now earn 15 points, provided that the sibling is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident living in Canada, is 18 years of age or older, and the candidate and the sibling share either a mother or a father. Candidates with strong French language skills will be able to earn up to 30 additional points, depending on French (NLC) and English (CLB) test results.

Other changes that took effect on June 6, 2017 included the following:

  • Candidates are no longer required to register with the Job Bank. Registration is now voluntary for all Express Entry candidates, and candidates who meet the minimum criteria will automatically be placed into the pool and become immediately eligible for invitation rounds.
  • In the event of a tied CRS score between Express Entry candidates, candidates will now be ranked based on the date and time that they submitted their profile. Previously, all candidates with a tied CRS score would be invited to apply during an invitation round.

The changes with respect to the Job Bank registration may be a welcome relief for some candidates who were confused over this requirement in the past and experienced difficulties in the Express Entry application system by failing to register properly.

Increased Age for a Dependent Child

Earlier this year, the Government of Canada introduced amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations which will see the maximum age of a dependent child increase from under 19 years of age to under 22 years of age. The new age limit will take effect on October 24, 2017 and will apply to all new applications submitted on or after this date under the various immigration programs administered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Children who are 22 years of age or older and who are unable to be financially self-supporting due to a physical or mental condition will continue to be considered dependent children.

This return to an increased age for the definition of dependent child should make Canada a more attractive destination for highly skilled foreign workers with older children and accords with the current government's emphasis on family reunification.