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Canadian Recruiting

Canada Welcomes Foreign Tech Talent with Global Skills Strategy

The global hiring landscape is becoming increasingly competitive as businesses refocus hiring efforts to attract the best talent from a worldwide pool. To remain competitive, the government of Canada recently launched the Global Skills Strategy (GSS) which allows Canadian employers to access highly skilled foreign nationals that meet Canada’s prevailing wage requirements (and obtain work permits for them) in a speedier and more predictable manner.

If you’re a recruiter for a Canada-based company, this is great news for you. The impetus behind the GSS is to enable Canadian companies to thrive and grow via streamlined processes for attracting global talent. Now that your talent pool just got a whole lot bigger, it’s important to know the ins and outs of who you can go after and how you can get them in. Here’s an overview of the various work permit options made more accessible via the GSS.

Canada Global Skills Strategy

Work Permit Options

The GSS ultimately serves to streamline the various immigration avenues available to skilled workers wishing to join Canada’s tech-industry, which are as follows:

  1. Intra-Company Transfers: Foreign nationals that have been working for a foreign entity affiliated with a Canadian entity, and are in senior managerial positions or possess advanced skills and specialized knowledge may qualify for a Canadian work permit. A senior manager may be entitled to work in Canada for 7 consecutive years, and a skilled worker with advanced skills and specialized knowledge may be entitled to work in Canada for 5 consecutive years. The maximum duration of the initial work permit is 3 years, and then extensions can be issued until the foreign national reaches the cap. Foreign nationals that come from visa-exempt countries can apply for work permits at the Canadian port of entry (and can be issued work permits instantly), and those coming from visa-required countries must apply through a Canadian Consulate.  For those applying though a Canadian consulate and in an occupation contemplated by the GSS, the processing time for work permits can be as little as 2 weeks, whereas previously they were much longer. If the occupation is not contemplated by the GSS, processing times vary for each country. Work permit extensions can be applied for through the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alberta, or at the port of entry for visa-exempt foreign nationals.
  1. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional Work Permits: NAFTA is a free trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico that allows for the movement of skilled labour between the countries provided the foreign workers fall into an designated occupation. Only citizens of the United States and Mexico are eligible for a NAFTA-based work permit. There is no limit to how many consecutive years a NAFTA professional may work in Canada, however the initial work permit can only be issued for a maximum of three years, and extensions can be issued indeterminately. NAFTA-based work permits and extensions can be applied for at the Canadian port of entry (and issued instantaneously), and extensions can also be applied for through the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alberta.
  1. Labour Market Impact Assessments: I often refer to the LMIA as the last resort because it entails a lengthier process and has various moving parts which leaves more room for a refusal. Typically, the LMIA entails a four week advertising process on designated job boards. Upon completion of the advertising process, an application is submitted to ESDC/Service Canada where “the case is made” so to speak that no other applicants possess the skills and qualifications to fill the position in the same manner as the foreign national. Upon issuance of a positive LMIA (which could take approximately two months), the foreign national can then apply for a work permit based on the positive LMIA, which is subject to the above-captioned timelines for issuance of a work permit.  With the implementation of Canada’s GSS, however, there are two circumstances in which a tech-company can speed up the LMIA process by claiming an exemption from the one month “advertising/recruiting” component as well as reduced, 10 day, processing times.  This is commonly referred to as the Global Talent Stream (GTS), and the eligibility criteria is as follows:

Category A: High-growth companies with a demonstrated need for the in-demand talent of foreign nationals in order to generate growth. Companies that fall into Category A must first be recommended to the GTS by a designated partner, which needs to identify the company as “high-growth”.

Category B: Companies requiring high-skilled foreign nationals for occupations per the above-captioned enumerated list.

In some cases if an applicant does not meet the criteria for the GTS, a ten day speed of service processing option is also available to a different enumerated list of skilled trades that meets prevailing wage requirements, or to those that earn the top ten percent of wages in their profession and location. However, under these categories, the employer is not exempt from the one month advertising/recruiting process.

Employers should be aware that that the GSS allows for foreign workers in Canada who are working in a managerial or professional occupation contemplated by the GSS for 15 consecutive days or less every 6 months, or 16-30 days every year, without having to obtain a work permit.  For those coming to Canada as Business Visitors, or coming to Canada to work remotely (i.e. long distance work by telephone or internet) – and the employer is outside of Canada and remunerated outside of Canada – they will also be work permit exempt.

These immigration avenues are non-exhaustive, and there are other options that may be pursued to bring skilled labour into Canada based on specific circumstances. For instance, if the applicant has family in Canada, there may be an option to bring the worker to Canada through a family-based sponsorship application. Or, if the applicant is married and his/her spouse better fits the eligibility criteria, the applicant may be entitled to a Spousal Open Work Permit based on his/her spouse’s work permit.


Canada’s implementation of the GSS significantly reduces processing times for work permits in the tech-industry and makes it easier for Canadian employers to attract talented foreign nationals to Canada. Depending on the foreign national’s duties, responsibilities and job description the processing times can range from approximately 10 days to approximately two weeks.

Since various options are available to bring skilled tech-labour into Canada and the policies are ever-changing, it’s recommended that employers consult with an immigration professional before pursuing a work permit for a prospective employee.