Canada has announced an open work-permit stream directly recruiting U.S. foreign national H-1B visa holders to relocate to Canada.

Quick Hits

  • Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship recently unveiled the Tech Talent Strategy—an open work-permit stream that will allow H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the United States to apply for Canadian work permits.
  • Effective July 16, 2023, these individuals will be eligible to apply for an open work permit of up to three years in duration.
  • The new approach is designed to attract “highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations” and further position Canada as “a world leader in a variety of emerging technologies.”

On June 27, 2023, Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser announced aggressive attraction measures as part of Canada’s first-ever Tech Talent Strategy, one of which is the creation of an open work-permit stream enabling 10,000 American H-1B visa holders to live and work in Canada with applications available as early as July 16, 2023. This stream allows specialty occupation visa holders in the United States to apply for Canadian work permits and provides study or work permit options for their accompanying family members.

As a reminder, an H-1B visa is a work permit that is rigorously location and employer specific.

The rollout of this broader initiative has four guideposts:

  • simplifying work authorization through open work permits;
  • targeting highly skilled workers through technology and innovation initiatives;
  • promoting Canada as a destination for highly skilled talent; and
  • bolstering existing technology-minded immigration programs already within Canada.

As it stands, the H-1B visa program poses challenges and uncertainties for workers on a per-country basis from countries such as India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines. Additional hurdles include the temporary nature of work visas, restrictions on spousal employment, travel and reentry impediments, and a limited number of available visas each year.

While Canada rolls out its offering of work flexibility and secure long-term employment prospects, it is a competitive play for the highly skilled labor market on a global scale. Canada’s initiative may also have the collateral effect of focusing attention on policy areas in need of reassessment and revision in the H-1B program in the United States.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor developments and provide updates on the firm’s Cross-Border and Immigration blogs as additional information becomes available.

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