As in most industries in the 21st century, information technology companies face the challenge of looking to the global talent pool to find the resources to make their organizations successful. Bringing in a foreign national hire into Canada can be very time consuming and complex. Accordingly, any employer wishing to bring in non-Canadian employees should ideally get a handle on the Canadian immigration system. Canadian employers need to clearly understand how to efficiently hire or transfer a resource to Canada, given the shortened timelines companies frequently face in assigning resources to begin work on a project in Canada, and the logistics of navigating the immigration bureaucracy.

McCarthy Tétrault Notes:

Under normal circumstances, a foreign worker who wishes to work in Canada requires a work permit from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and a positive labour market opinion from a local Service Canada office. If the Service Canada office determines that no Canadian citizens or permanent residents are available to fill the position, or that the impact of the foreign national in Canada would have a positive effect on the Canadian labour market, the positive labour market opinion would be issued. The worker could then apply for a work permit for admission to Canada either through a Canadian Embassy or Consulate abroad, or in some cases, where eligible, at the border or port of entry. One of the problems with pursuing the labour market opinion process as opposed to applying directly to CIC is that it can add an additional three to 12 weeks to the processing time for the work permit, depending on the province in which the labour market opinion is processed.

In response to Canadian employers’ need to fill critical shortages in the software industry, CIC collaborated with then Human Resources Development Canada (now called Service Canada), Industry Canada and the Software Human Resource Council (SHRC) to develop the IT Pilot Project. This project streamlines the entry of those workers whose skills are in high demand in the software industry and whose entry into the Canadian labour market would have no negative impact on Canadian job seekers and workers.

With the IT Pilot Project, Canadian employers no longer need to obtain pre-approval from Service Canada before an IT worker can become eligible for a work permit. To qualify for this expedited process, the offered job must fit within one of seven job descriptions: Senior Animation Effects Editor, Embedded Systems Software Designer, MIS Software Designer, Multimedia Software Developer, Software Developer-Services, Software Products Developer and Telecommunications Software Designer.

Each of the seven categories requires that the applicant possess a minimum level of education, along with at least two years’ work experience in the appropriate field and proficiency in specific programming languages, platforms and other types of computer-related technology. Under the IT Pilot Project, foreign nationals can apply for a work permit at a Canadian Consulate or Embassy outside Canada, or at the border/port of entry if he or she does not also require a temporary resident visa or an immigration medical. Unlike the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), this category is open to nationals of all countries.

Candidates who do not qualify may still be able to apply for a Canadian work permit as an intra-company transfer or as a computer systems analyst under NAFTA, under certain circumstances. Alternatively, the employer may need to pursue the labour market opinion process with Service Canada.

For foreign national employees who qualify, the IT Pilot Project has proven to be a very helpful tool to enable Canadian employers to expedite the process of relocating these employees to Canada and permitting them to enter the Canadian labour market, where they can make a positive contribution to their new company.