On June 27, the Government of Canada announced significant additions and enhancements to its immigration programs as part of Canada’s first-ever Tech Talent Strategy. 

These measures aim to address labour shortages, promote innovation, and support economic growth in Canada’s thriving tech sector by attracting highly skilled workers and start-up founders. The key enhancements made to immigration programs, as announced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), are highlighted below. 

New innovation stream under the International Mobility Program

As part of Canada's new Tech Talent Strategy, IRCC is developing a new innovation stream under the International Mobility Program. This stream is specifically designed to attract highly talented individuals in the tech sector and is expected to launch by the end of 2023. IRCC plans to introduce a new exemption from the labour market impact assessment (LMIA) process in order to facilitate the entry of skilled workers to help high-growth employers and to contribute to Canada's innovation priorities. 

IRCC is currently considering two options for this new stream: 

  • Employer-specific work permits for up to five years for workers destined to work for a company identified by the Government of Canada as contributing to the country’s industrial innovation goals
  • Open work permits for up to five years for highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations

Attracting digital nomads to Canada

With the increasing popularity of remote work, the Canadian government is aiming to attract digital nomads. While current Canadian immigration rules allow digital nomads to stay in Canada under visitor status for up to six months, IRCC is collaborating with public and private partners to explore additional policies. These measures will help provide opportunities for digital nomads to transition to temporary work permits or even permanent residence if they receive job offers from Canadian employers. 

Streamlining work permits for H-1B visa holders in the US

To facilitate labour mobility in North America and expand opportunities for skilled workers in the high-tech sector, a streamlined work permit process for H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the United States will be implemented. 

Effective July 16, 2023, H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the United States will be eligible to apply for an open work permit. This work permit will be valid for up to three years, which will enable approved applicants to work for any employer throughout Canada, and their accompanying immediate family members will also be eligible to apply for a work or study permit. Please note that for the moment, this measure will remain in effect for one year, or until IRCC receives a total of 10,000 applications if sooner. 

Enhancements to current tech-focused immigration programs

As part of the Tech Talent Strategy, certain existing immigration programs catering to workers in high-skilled tech occupations such as the Global Skills Strategy and the Start-up Visa (SUV) will be improved. 

The Global Skills Strategy

The Global Skills Strategy has undergone streamlining measures to facilitate expedited access to highly skilled talent from around the world. Both Employment and Social Development Canada and IRCC will return to a 14-day service standard for processing Global Talent Stream LMIA and work permit applications.

The Start-up Visa Program 

Furthermore, the SUV Program, which provides a path to permanent residence for foreign entrepreneurs who gain the support of a designated Canadian venture capital fund, an angel investor organization or a business incubator for their start-up has received increased allocations in 2023 to address lengthy processing times. Additional allocations are expected for the next two years. 

IRCC has also revised the temporary work permit option under this program to allow every member of the entrepreneurial team to apply for an open work permit, which can be valid for up to three years. Before this revised measure, only a one-year work permit restricted to their own start-up could be issued to the members of the entrepreneurial team who were identified as essential and urgently needed in Canada.

The Canadian government also announced it will prioritize the applications supported by committed capital or endorsed by a business incubator that is also a member of Canada’s Tech Network. This measure is aimed at helping the success of start-ups and to provide a return on investments by venture capital funds and angel investors groups. 


IRCC is expecting to announce additional measures later in 2023 to improve tech-focused immigration programs and their processing times. As these programs undergo updates and revisions, staying informed will help employers in the tech industry hire highly skilled workers more efficiently. 

More details about these measures are available through this backgrounder from the Government of Canada.

The authors wish to thank Émilie Murakami, student at  law, for her help in preparing this legal update.


Senior Partner

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