On June 12, 2017, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) rolled out its Global Skills Strategy (GSS). The objective of this program is to promote the growth of Canadian companies and universities through the recruitment of highly-trained workers with skills that are in demand in Canada.

There are three components of the program that are relevant for employers: (i) a work permit exemption for certain workers; (ii) fast processing of certain work permit applications; and (iii) the Global Talent Stream managed by Service Canada.

i. Work Permit Exemption

Canada will now facilitate the temporary entry of highly-skilled foreign workers (NOC 0 and A) who are on short-term assignments of either 15 days per 6 month period or 30 days per year with a local employer. The initiative also covers foreign researchers taking part in research projects in Canada. The permitted length of stay in Canada increases to 120 days per year for foreign workers who come to Canada to work on a research project led by a Canadian university or its affiliated research institution.

ii. Fast Processing

The government will now provide fast processing (within ten business days) for many work permit applications for foreign workers and their accompanying dependent family members (spouse or common-law partner and children) submitted at Canadian visa offices outside Canada. Expedited processing will be available for (i) work permits that are exempt from a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and that meet certain conditions, and (ii) permits for workers who have a positive LMIA issued under the Global Talent Stream.

For LMIA-exempt permits, the job offer in Canada must be for a highly-skilled managerial or professional position for which a university degree is generally required. The work permit issued will be tied to a specific employer, and that employer must have submitted the offer of employment through the IRCC employer portal and paid the $230 compliance fee.

As is the case for most other work permit applications, the worker must meet the academic and occupational requirements of the position offered. Where applicable, the worker must also provide biometrics and undergo a medical examination. These steps must be completed before filing the application in order to benefit from fast processing.

iii. Global Talent Stream

This component of the program includes two categories that enable employers to hire specialized foreign workers.

  • Category A is for companies in Canada that have been referred to the program by a partner designated by Service Canada, specifically because of their innovative character or their ability to demonstrate a need for specialized temporary foreign workers to expand their business.
  • Category B is for companies in Canada that need to hire highly-skilled foreign workers to fill positions found on a defined list of occupations in fields where Service Canada has determined that there is a skills shortage in Canada. To date, that list includes certain computer and information systems managers; testing technicians, analysts, and engineers; database analysts and data administrators; software engineers; interactive media developers; web designers; electrical and electronics engineering technologists; and digital media designers.

These are highly-paid occupations ($80,000 or higher) that generally require a minimum of 5 years' experience and a specialized degree relating to the field of employment. The wage offered must correspond to the median wage for the occupation in Canada, depending on the foreign worker's profile and years of experience.

Canadian employers who use the Global Talent Stream must prepare a Labour Market Benefits Plan, which contains measurable commitments by the employer to generate lasting positive impacts on the labour market. The commitments will vary, depending on which of Category A and Category B of the Global Talent Stream is used. Benefits are divided into mandatory and complementary benefits.

In a Category A application, the employer must commit to creating jobs, either directly or indirectly, for Canadians and permanent residents, as the mandatory benefit. In Category B, the Canadian employer must commit to increasing skills and training investments for Canadians and permanent residents, again as the mandatory benefit.

In addition, there will be a minimum of two separate activities assessed as complementary benefits in the Benefits Plan. These activities must aim, for example, to create jobs, invest in skills and training, transfer knowledge to Canadians and permanent residents, enhance company performance, or implement best practices and policies as an employer for its workforce.

This program has no minimum recruitment requirement, but employers are encouraged to make reasonable efforts to recruit Canadians or permanent residents before offering the position to a foreign worker and are asked to describe those efforts in their application. As is the case for other work permit applications, the employer is still subject to the employer compliance obligation relating to compliance with the terms of employment offered in the application, with non-compliance being subject to penalties based on the severity of the violation.