Canada Launches Open Work Permit Stream For U.S. H-1B Visa Holders

Canada Launches Open Work Permit

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As of now, United States H-1B visa holders may be eligible to apply for work and residence in Canada. This initiative, announced by Canada’s Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, on June 27, aims to enhance labor mobility in North America and can potentially affect thousands of workers in high-tech industries in both countries, along with their immediate family members.

Approved applicants will receive an open work permit valid for up to three years. An open work permit allows them to work for almost any employer in Canada. 

This provision also extends to their spouses and dependents, who can apply for work or study permits as required.

The measure, implemented by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), will remain in effect for one year or until the cap of 10,000 principal applicants is reached. This cap does not include family members.

Eligibility Criteria for Canada’s H-1B Visa Holder Open Work Permit

To be eligible for Canada’s H-1B visa holder open work permit, you must:

  • Hold a valid H-1B specialty occupation visa.
  • Currently reside in the United States.

To apply for the open work permit, you will need:

  • A copy of your current H-1B visa.
  • Form I-797/I797B, Notice of Action (the letter confirming the U.S. government’s approval of your H-1B application).
  • Proof of U.S. residency (e.g., Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, a recent utility bill, an income tax report, or any document demonstrating your U.S. residency).

IRCC Focus on STEM Occupations

On June 28, IRCC announced the first Express Entry draw for candidates with work experience in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) occupations. This draw aligns with the category-based selection criteria revealed by the Minister on May 31.

In a subsequent draw on July 5, 500 candidates with STEM work experience were invited from the existing Express Entry application pool. Many individuals may also be eligible for the new H-1B open work permit. 

The selection of categories was based on research, consultations with stakeholders, and provincial/territorial governments, which possess knowledge of local labor shortages.

IRCC considers this invitation of candidates through the Express Entry STEM category a significant step toward attracting top global talent and maintaining leadership in international research, development, and innovation. 

The Canadian government has announced a $20 billion investment in significant clean electricity and growth infrastructure projects in Budget 2023, which will necessitate the skills and expertise of STEM professionals.

Canada’s Tech Talent Attraction Strategy

In addition to the three-year open work permit for H-1B visa holders, IRCC is developing an Innovation Stream under the International Mobility Program (IMP). Minister Fraser anticipates launching the Innovation Stream by the end of this year.

Two options are under consideration for the stream:

  1. Employer-specific work permits for up to five years, targeting workers destined to contribute to Canada’s industrial innovation goals.
  2. Open work permits for up to five years, designed for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations.

Moreover, the minister has announced a return to the 14-day service standard for work permits under the Global Skills Strategy, the promotion of Canada as an appealing destination for digital nomads, and improvements to the Start-up Visa Program. These improvements include increasing available spots and extending the work permit duration from one to three years.

STEM Job Vacancies in Canada

Statistics Canada’s latest job vacancy data reveals 42,900 job vacancies in professional, scientific, and technical services in April. This number reflects a decrease of 7,700 (-15.2%) from March and a decline of 30,600 (-41.6%) from the peak in April 2022, which was 73,600.

Ontario and Quebec have the highest number of job vacancies in the country. To address these vacancies, particularly in the STEM sector, Ontario has removed the Canadian work experience requirement for newcomers seeking licensure in engineering.

Furthermore, on June 30, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development announced that regulated professions in Ontario must communicate registration decisions on applications from internationally trained newcomers within six months. 

This measure aims to facilitate the process for skilled newcomers, particularly those in licensed professions, including many in the STEM fields, to fill job vacancies and bridge the skills gap.
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